The Path to the College Football Playoff: Win out, get in as long as there aren’t two teams from the SEC ready to roll. The Hoosiers lost to Michigan State, but if they win at Ohio State and Michigan, take down Penn State, and beat – most likely, Wisconsin …
What Will Happen: No. It’s going to be a fight to get two more wins for a bowl spot.
The Path to the College Football Playoff: The Hawkeyes need to win out and hope Wisconsin loses twice. They don’t get resume-building games against Ohio State, Michigan or Michigan State, but they play five of their last eight on the road, go to Penn State, and would have to beat – likely Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship to get in.
What Will Happen: It’s actually not that horrendous of a path if they catch Penn State on the right day. They’ll be favored in every game the rest of the way outside of that date in Happy Valley, but they’ll lose there to end the dream.
The Path to the College Football Playoff: Win out, get in. Forget about that loss to Temple, and blow off whatever a second SEC team might do. If Maryland wins at Michigan, at Iowa, at Penn State, and beats Ohio State and Michigan State at home along with that win over Texas to boast about … in.
What Will Happen: No chance. The Terps will get bowling, but it’ll be a fight. They’ll be underdogs to everyone but Illinois and Rutgers.
The Path to the College Football Playoff: Win out, get in. The Notre Dame loss in Week One is totally acceptable, especially if the team is getting better and better as the season goes on. Beat Wisconsin, beat Penn State, and get wins over Michigan State and Ohio State on the road. Then beat Wisconsin again for the Big Ten title, and yup … in. No matter what.
What Will Happen: You honestly think Michigan is going to beat both Michigan State and Ohio State on the road?
Michigan State (3-1)
The Path to the College Football Playoff: The Spartans might be underwhelming, but even with that totally acceptable close loss at Arizona State, there’s still a path. Win at Penn State in two weeks, and take down Michigan and Ohio State while winning out in the regular season, and then beat – likely – Wisconsin for the Big Ten title, and they’ll get in.
What Will Happen: Have you seen this team? It could lose to Northwestern, or Purdue, or – if it plays down to the competition like it seems to enjoy doing – Rutgers, much less Ohio State or Penn State. It’s not running the table.
The Path to the College Football Playoff: Coming off a blowout loss to Maryland the Gophers have to win out, with road dates at Ohio State and Wisconsin to help make the problem against the Terps go away. Get to the Big Ten Championship, win that, go 12-1, and …
What Will Happen: Not even the uber-optimistic and peppy PJ Fleck can try selling that.
Ohio State (5-0)
The Path to the College Football Playoff: Win out, get in at no worse than the No. 3 overall seed. Lose once, and as long as it’s not in the Big Ten Championship, the Buckeyes should be fine. Even if they’re 12-0 and lose the title to, say, Wisconsin, they might still get in on the Four Best Team theory that Alabama slipped in with last year.
11-1 without taking down the B1G probably won’t cut it considering all of the other solid teams in the mix.
What Will Happen: The Buckeyes will destroy everything through their path over the next month – Indiana, Minnesota, at Purdue, Nebraska – and the survive the trip to Michigan State and the showdown with Michigan on the way to 13-0 and a place in the CFP.
Penn State (4-1)
The Path to the College Football Playoff: The Nittany Lions need to 1) win out, 2) hope for two Ohio State losses and/or 3) the SEC Championship loser to have two losses and/or 4) at least two of the Power Five champions to have two losses or more and/or 5) Notre Dame to lose. It’s actually not asking the world for any of those – other than the Buckeyes losing twice.
Win at Michigan, beat Wisconsin, and take down Michigan State and Iowa, and at the very least, the Nittany Lions can shoot for the Rose Bowl.
What Will Happen: They’re going to the Rose Bowl. Ohio State will get into the College Football Playoff, and Penn State will be the Big Ten representative in Pasadena.
The Path to the College Football Playoff: Win out, get in. Last year, the beef was about the light and breezy schedule. But even with the BYU gaffe, if the Badgers go 12-1 with wins at Michigan and Penn State, and they beat one of them again, or Ohio State, in the Big Ten Championship … in.
What Will Happen: They’ll split with Michigan and Penn State on the way to going to the Big Ten Championship for the third year in a row, and for the third year in a row they’re going to lose.