11. Indiana Hoosiers (4-1)
CFP Week 1 Ranking: 12
Remaining Schedule: at Wisconsin, Purdue
Path To The Playoff: It’s actually possible, but it would require some help.
Jack Tuttle will have to step in for Michael Penix at quarterback and be great as Indiana rolls by Wisconsin on the road, and the blows out Purdue to go 6-1 with the only loss coming in the thriller at Ohio State. And here’s where it gets ugly – the Hoosiers would need coronavirus issues to keep the Buckeyes out of the Big Ten Championship.
If IU gets there and rolls Northwestern, the College Football Playoff Committee might like the branding of beating Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and the Big Ten West champ, to go along with the acceptable loss at Ohio State, It might deep the one-loss Big Ten champion worthy, as long as a slew of other key things happen.
10. Miami Hurricanes (7-1)
CFP Week 1 Ranking: 10
Remaining Schedule: North Carolina, Georgia Tech
Path To The Playoff: There’s one very easy path, but it’s not likely – it starts with Clemson losing to Virginia Tech. If that happens, and if Miami wins its last two games, it’s playing Notre Dame for the ACC title,. Iff it wins that to finish 10-1, it’s off to the College Football Playoff.
If Clemson beats the Hokies, the problem will be the theoretical argument. For this to work, Clemson has to win the ACC Championship and the CFP might have to decide on three teams getting in. Miami doesn’t have a great win, but it’s only loss is at Clemson 42-17, so in the same way Texas A&M can claim it’s one loss is at Alabama – no shame there – the Canes might have a beef.
Realistically, they’ll need Ohio State to not win the Big Ten title, Alabama to destroy Florida, and for Notre Dame to lose once before the ACC Championship.
9. Northwestern Wildcats (5-1)
CFP Week 1 Ranking: 8
Remaining Schedule: Illinois, Big Ten Championship vs. Ohio State or Indiana
Path To The Playoff: There’s a cleaner path than you might think – even if it’s not likely.
If Ohio State can get to the Big Ten Championship, Northwestern is in the College Football Playoff if it pulls off the upset after getting by Illinois in the regular season finale. However, if Northwestern plays Indiana – if Ohio State isn’t eligible to get into the Big Ten title game – then nah.
8. Ohio State Buckeyes (4-0)
CFP Week 1 Ranking: 4
Remaining Schedule: at Michigan State, Michigan
Path To The Playoff: One MASSIVE caveat here. If the Buckeyes are able to play their last two games against Michigan State and Michigan, put them No. 1 on this list.
If they can be healthy enough to play, and win both, they’ll go to the Big Ten Championship to face Northwestern and be no worse than the College Football Playoff two-seed – assuming they win out – playing in the Rose Bowl.
However, if the Buckeyes can’t play one of its last two games and is ineligible for the Big Ten title, then it’s going to take a whole lot of path-clearing to get there.
At 4-0 or 5-0 with no Big Ten title, the Buckeyes could use a Texas A&M loss, a one-loss Pac-12 champion, a Clemson loss to Notre Dame, and an Alabama win over Florida. That’s all possible, but basically, the Buckeyes will need a ton of help if they don’t win the Big Ten title.
However, there is one other X factor – a Champions Week game. If the Buckeyes can’t get to the Big Ten Championship, but they blow away Wisconsin or Iowa on December 19th – if that happens – that changes the dynamic.
7. Washington Huskies (3-0)
CFP Week 1 Ranking: Not Ranked
Remaining Schedule: Stanford, at Oregon
Path To The Playoff: The Huskies might not have the sizzle, but if they can get to the Pac-12 Championship unbeaten, and if they can get by an unbeaten Colorado or Washington to be 6-0 with a Power Five Championship, they’ll have a shot.
6. USC Trojans (3-0)
CFP Week 1 Ranking: 18
Remaining Schedule: Washington State, at UCLA
Path To The Playoff: The Trojans HAVE to look great in their final two games and get to the Pac-12 Championship – Colorado has to be out of the mix somehow. They also might need Washington to get there unbeaten, but no matter what, if they go 6-0 with a Power Five championship, they’ll likely have the leg up over Ohio State if it doesn’t win the Big Ten title.
5. Texas A&M Aggies (6-1)
CFP Week 1 Ranking: 5
Remaining Schedule: at Auburn, at Tennessee
Path To The Playoff: Looks are going to matter here. If Texas A&M rolls past Auburn and Tennessee, and Florida – who the Aggies beat 41-38 – looks great over the final three games, it could slip in if Bama beats the Gators handily in the SEC Championship.
It would be a huge help if Clemson lost once more and/or Ohio State doesn’t play in or win the Big Ten Championship. A&M needs to be the most attractive one-loss non-champion on the board, and there’s still a shot if Florida beats Alabama – three SEC teams could certainly get in.