Which top teams have the best chance of getting into the College Football Playoff after Week 8?
As always, here’s how we know the unwritten College Football Playoff rules (sort of) work …
1) Win your Power Five championship and finish 13-0, and you’re in. There can only be four of those this year with all of the Pac-12 teams with at least one loss. There’s no argument … go 13-0 with a P5 title, and you’re in …
2) Win your Power Five championship and finish 12-1, and you’re probably in. Ohio State was the first to miss out last year after doing this, partly because it got blown away by Purdue, and totally because Notre Dame was 12-0.
3) Go 11-1 in the SEC or Big Ten with that one loss coming to a conference champion who’s off to the College Football Playoff. That’s how Alabama got in on the way to a title in 2017. Or, be dominant and have one loss that was by crazy circumstances, like Ohio State did to get in despite losing to Penn State in 2016.
There might be some crazy ways that a two-loss Michigan might be in the mix, but … nah. Here are the 16 teams that are realistically in the College Football Playoff hunt, ranked by most likely to get in to least likely.
This is done on projections and NOT how this would be at the immediate moment. Also, this isn’t a ranking of how good the teams appear to be.
16. Notre Dame Fighting Irish 6-1 (Independent)
Remaining Schedule: at Michigan, Virginia Tech, at Duke, Navy, Boston College, at Stanford
Three problems. 1) No conference championship, 2) the resumé is no big whoop even if it wins out and 3) the loss to Georgia. 11-1 is a whole lot different than the 12-0 of last year. However, get to 11-1, hope for several multi-loss Power Five conference champs, and hope for chaos.
15. Baylor Bears 7-0 (Big 12)
Remaining Schedule: West Virginia, at TCU, Oklahoma, Texas, at Kansas
The Bears do get the Sooners and Longhorns at home, but good luck beating OU twice. In the whole College Football Playoff mix – considering the possibility of an 11-1 LSU-Alabama loser being considered for a spot – 12-1 with a Big 12 title might not be enough this year, unlike being a 12-1 champion in the Big Ten, like …
14. Minnesota Golden Gophers 7-0 (Big Ten)
Remaining Schedule: Maryland, Penn State, at Iowa, at Northwestern, Wisconsin
Thanks to the Wisconsin loss to Illinois – and with the Badgers going to Ohio State – it’s possible the Gophers could split the two big games against Penn State and UW, nail down the games against Maryland, Iowa and Northwestern, and then have a one game shot for the stars against – most likely – Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship.
13. Auburn Tigers 6-1 (Pac-12)
Remaining Schedule: at LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia, Samford, Alabama
On talent, Auburn it probably one of the six best teams in college football. But the Tigers already have a loss, and they still have at LSU, Georgia, and Alabama to go. Even if they can get through all of that, then it’s either Florida or Georgia again. Good luck with that.
12. Wake Forest Demon Deacons 6-1 (ACC)
Remaining Schedule: NC State, at Virginia Tech, at Clemson, Duke, at Syracuse
This is probably the worst of the 16 teams on this list, and it’s coming off a loss to Louisville, but it has one of the easiest paths. There are four very, very winnable games left to play … sort of. Pull off the shocker at Clemson on a day when everything breaks right – because that’s so easy – and it’ll be deep in the hunt.
11. Georgia Bulldogs 6-1 (SEC)
Remaining Schedule: Florida, Missouri, at Auburn, Texas A&M, at Georgia Tech
At Auburn. That’s the problem. The South Carolina loss only matters in that it can’t afford another slip, but it’s not a barrier to keep it from getting to the CFP. However, Missouri and Texas A&M won’t be picnics, and the Florida and Auburn games are brutal. If they can win ALL of those rough SEC showdowns, they still have to get by Alabama or LSU in the SEC Championship. They’re good enough to do it, but only Ohio State has as rough a finishing kick.
10. Wisconsin Badgers 6-1 (Big Ten)
Remaining Schedule: at Ohio State, Iowa, at Nebraska, Purdue, at Minnesota
Does 12-1 with a Big Ten championship mean an automatic in? Not really. Losing to Illinois isn’t like Georgia losing to South Carolina in overtime – a 12-1 SEC Champion is absolutely in the College Football Playoff. A 12-1 B1G champ? Yeah, if the Badgers beat Ohio State – most likely – twice, to go along with a win at Minnesota, and with wins over Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa, they’re in if it happens. Again, though … beat Ohio State twice.
9. Utah Utes 6-1 (Pac-12)
Remaining Schedule: Cal, at Washington, UCLA, at Arizona, Colorado
For good and for bad, the schedule is incredibly manageable. For good, Utah is way better than everyone else on the schedule and should get to the Pac-12 Championship at 11-1. For bad, the really good win will be over … Arizona State? Washington? Yeah, actually, and then a win over Oregon will make it an interesting argument at 12-1. Does the committee blow off the loss to USC? Yeah, it was only a 30-23 loss, and it’s not like losing to Illinois.
8. Penn State Nittany Lions 7-0 (Big Ten)
Remaining Schedule: at Michigan State, at Minnesota, Indiana, at Ohio State, Rutgers
The team is great, it’s rising into something special with so many young stars, but it has three road games in the next four – at Michigan State, at Minnesota, at Ohio State. The Nittany Lions are good enough to win two of those three, but not all of them. Beat Ohio State, get to the Big Ten Championship at 11-1, and it’ll have a one game shot at the College Football Playoff. Lose to OSU, though, and no, an 11-1 Big Ten team isn’t going to get in … maybe.
7. Florida Gators 7-1 (SEC)
Remaining Schedule: Georgia, Vanderbilt, at Missouri, Florida State
Florida might be a whole lot closer to doing this than you might think. Does it have Georgia’s talent across the board? Close, but not quite – but it’s playing better. Win in Jacksonville, and Vanderbilt and Florida State won’t be an issue. At Missouri? It’s a landmine, but it’s not too bad. It’s all about getting the chance, and getting to the SEC Championship at 11-1 does just that for the Gators, and for Georgia, too.
6. Oregon Ducks 6-1 (Pac-12)
Remaining Schedule: Washington State, at USC, Arizona, at Arizona State, Oregon State
Going to Arizona State isn’t easy, and USC is playing well at home, but if Oregon is the College Football Playoff-caliber team it’s supposed to be, it needs to blow through the rest of the regular season without breathing hard. Do that, beat – most likely – Utah in the Pac-12 Championship, and it’ll have a decent body of work considering the conference is stronger overall this season. However, it’ll need Oklahoma or Clemson to lose. No matter who those two lose to – if one or both of them drop a game – it’ll be worse than the Ducks loss to Auburn.