Path To The Playoff: 20 Teams In The College Football Playoff Hunt. Who Will Make It?

Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Path To The Playoff: 20 Teams In The College Football Playoff Hunt. Who Will Make It?

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Path To The Playoff: 20 Teams In The College Football Playoff Hunt. Who Will Make It?

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Going into Thanksgiving week, what 20 teams still have a shot at getting into the 2020-2021 College Football Playoff? Who will make the CFP?


Right about now in most college football seasons, we all have a handle on the teams realistically in the national championship and the College Football Playoff chase. This year it’s a whole lot more complicated.

The Pac-12 is just getting going – and yet, its season is almost over.

The SEC is winding down, the Big Ten is in the heart of its slate, and without the normal array of non-conference games, there are more Group of Five programs than ever with a crazy dream of slipping into the top four.

What 20 teams still have a path to the playoff?

A few ground rules here the apply to everyone on this list.

1. Talk COVID out of the equation. Any one of these programs could take a severe hit with an outbreak, and to be gross, several teams on this list only have a realistic shot if others aren’t able to go. But for now, for the sake of fun, let’s just assume – and hope, and pray – that everyone is safe and this all goes off without a hitch.

2. Even in this crazy year, let’s just stick with the norms. Go unbeaten and win your Power Five conference, and you’re a mortal lock to be in. This year, though, that’s not a sure thing for the Pac-12 champion. More on that in a bit.

3. No two-loss team has ever made it into the top four. Let’s assume that it’s not happening this year, either, which wipes out the Big 12. Also, any one loss team from a Group of Five conference – a team from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt – realistically has no chance, either.

4. Realistically, no MAC team has any shot, either. This year it’s an all-MAC slate, so with no non-conference wins to go by, unbeaten Buffalo, Kent State, and Western Michigan teams were eliminated before the season even started.

Ranked by who has the lowest chance to make the College Football Playoff to who has the most realistic shot of getting in, here’s the path to the playoff for 20 teams still in the hunt.

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Path To The Playoff 
Teams that will be told they can make the CFP (but really can’t)
Teams that can make the CFP … with a LOT of help
Teams that can make the CFP … with a little help
Teams that control their CFP destiny
4 most likely teams to make the CFP

Path To The Playoff: The desperate long shots

20. Washington State Cougars (1-1)

This is crazy-town, but …

– Get healthy. The Cougars already missed one game and the Apple Cup against Washington is off.

– Schedule a few non-conference games to fit in. Playing anyone to get a win would be good, playing – and beating – someone like BYU would be a huge help.

– Win at USC in convincing fashion, rock Cal, and hope for Oregon and Washington to each lose twice.

– Somehow, through all of the madness, get to the Pac-12 Championship and win in a blowout.

– There have to be several multi-loss Power Five conference champions, and Wazzu has to be beyond amazing down the stretch.

Will Washington State Make The College Football Playoff? If this happens, that means we’ll have experienced the most insane next month of college football ever. (So, to answer the question, very, very no.)

19. Maryland Terrapins (2-1)

Even with the 43-3 loss at Northwestern, the Terps still technically have a shot … sort of.

– Get healthy. The Terps can’t miss another game, or it won’t be eligible for the Big Ten Championship.

– Blowout Indiana in Bloomington, and then blowout Michigan and Rutgers.

– Ohio State has to lose two of its last three games – at Illinois, at Michigan State, Michigan – or (sorry, but breaking one of the rules here) it has to miss two more games and not be eligible to play in the Big Ten Championship.

– The Terps have to get to and win the Big Ten Championship – impressively. So …

Will Maryland Make The College Football Playoff? Hard no.

Path To The Playoff 
Teams that will be told they can make the CFP (but really can’t)
Teams that can make the CFP … with a LOT of help
Teams that can make the CFP … with a little help
Teams that control their CFP destiny
4 most likely teams to make the CFP

NEXT: Path To The Playoff: Teams that will be told they can make the College Football Playoff (but really can’t)

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