The Path to the College Football Playoff: It’s still possible. They have to roll through the rest of their schedule – including a win over Penn State – and they need Wisconsin to lose twice. That’s not asking for the world – the Badgers have several brutal late games. Do that, beat Ohio State – or anyone in the Big Ten title game – and get in.
What Will Happen: It might be a bit more realistic than it seems, but … Iowa isn’t going to win at Penn State.
The Path to the College Football Playoff: Win out, and it’ll get in. The opening week road loss to Notre Dame is now totally and completely acceptable, and if it finishes on a 12-game winning streak, it’ll have beaten Wisconsin, at Michigan State, Penn State, at Ohio State, and then – probably – Wisconsin again … in.
What Will Happen: It’ll be very, very good, and it’ll get by Wisconsin and potentially Penn State at home, but there are too many landmines. Michigan has to be perfect, and it won’t be.
Ohio State (5-0)
The Path to the College Football Playoff: Go 13-0, and be no worse than the No. 2 seed in the College Football Playoff. But can it go 12-1 and make it in? If it wins the Big Ten Championship, yeah. It’ll get the nod over a one-loss ACC, Big 12, and/or Pac-12 champ. Would it get in over a 12-0 Notre Dame or a 12-1 SEC Championship loser? It would be a great debate, but assume yes.
What Will Happen: The Buckeyes will be stunned once along the way, but will win the East, win the Big Ten title, and get in at 11-1.
Penn State (4-1)
The Path to the College Football Playoff: This might be more interesting than it appears. If the Nittany Lions rip through the rest of their schedule, on a four-best-team theory, they might get into the discussion as long as the other Power Five championship games implode. Otherwise, they need to win out, and Ohio State has to lose twice.
What Will Happen: They’re going to the Rose Bowl. They’ll lose once more along the way against Michigan State, Iowa, at Michigan, or Wisconsin, but they’ll end up in a New Year’s Six game in Pasadena.
The Path to the College Football Playoff: Win out, and it’s in. The BYU loss is brutal, but if the Badgers run the table, they’ll have won at Iowa, at Michigan, at Northwestern, at Penn State, at Purdue, and will have beaten – likely – Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship. It gets in over a one-loss Big 12 or Pac-12 champ.
What Will Happen: They’ll get to the Big Ten Championship, but they’ll also lose at least once more along the way to screw up the CFP dream.