5. Alabama Crimson Tide (7-1)
The only reason Alabama isn’t No. 2 on this list is because it can’t lose.
Michigan and Michigan State can potentially drop a game and be fine if one of them wins the Big Ten title. It’s tougher for Wake Forest to absorb a loss, only because its strength of schedule won’t be great.
The path for the Tide is an easy one, though. Win the rest of the games, and all is good.
Alabama is eight wins away from yet another national championship, but a loss – even a close overtime thriller in the SEC Championship to an unbeaten Georgia – won’t get it done.
4. Oklahoma Sooners (8-0)
The ranking is based on ease of path to get into the College Football Playoff, but Oklahoma is 3 because if it wins out, and if Michigan or Michigan State win out and goes unbeaten, the Big Ten champ would get in easier and be the higher seed.
It’s also a problem because Oklahoma might not be able to afford a loss.
A one-loss Big Ten champion is almost certainly in. The same goes for a one-loss Oregon if it wins the Pac-12 title, A one-loss ACC champion has concerns, and a one-loss Big 12 champ might need a little help – and could really use a Cincinnati loss.
However, as the lone remaining unbeaten Big 12 team, this is relatively easy. Win the rest of the games, be no worse than the 2/3 seed – likely in the Cotton Bowl.
3. Michigan State Spartans (7-0)
The Spartans are in the College Football Playoff by winning out, and they’ll almost certainly be a lock with one loss and a Big Ten Championship.
Two problems – before and after.
Before – Michigan State has yet to beat a team that’s likely to go bowling. WKU might be the lone exception. Whatever.
After – Michigan, at Purdue, Maryland, at Ohio State, Penn State. It’s a path, but it’s a challenging one.
However, in terms of the clearest path, win out, be no worse than the No. 2 seed. That also goes for …
2. Michigan Wolverines (7-0)
Road games at Michigan State, Penn State, and Maryland – okay, not Maryland – over the next four weeks will set everything up. If the Wolverines can finally get by Ohio State and get to the Big Ten Championship at 12-0, they might have a shot to get in even if they lose.
But if they really do roll through the next month and are 11-0 going into Ohio State, and as long as they don’t get blown out, they might still have a shot at getting in if the Buckeyes win the Big Ten title in a blowout and there’s a whole lot of help elsewhere.
1. Georgia Bulldogs (7-0)
There’s no one in a better position overall when it comes the path to the College Football Playoff, and the schedule.
It’s not a breeze, but Florida, Missouri, at Tennessee, Charleston Southern, at Georgia Tech isn’t a thing compared to what others have to do.
Georgia is the unquestioned No. 1 seed if it wins out. It could lose to Florida – or someone else – win the SEC Championship, and be just fine.
It could go 12-0, lose to Alabama in the SEC Championship, and be a lock as the 3 or 4 seed, as long as it’s not an annihilation.
Just assume Georgia is in the College Football Playoff and go from there.