College Football Playoff Chase: Ranking The 15 Teams Still Alive After Week 9

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

College Football Playoff Chase: Ranking The 15 Teams Still Alive After Week 9

College Football Playoff Rankings

College Football Playoff Chase: Ranking The 15 Teams Still Alive After Week 9

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Who’s still alive in the chase to get into the 2021-2022 College Football Playoff? After Week 9, here’s our ranking of the 15 teams still in the mix.


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Six teams tapped out of the chase among those with a realistic shot of getting into the College Football Playoff.

There’s always something crazy that could happen, but you’re almost certainly not getting in if you’re a Power Five program with multiple losses, or a Group of Five team with one loss. It might not seem fair, and this needs to change with an expanded playoff, but that’s the deal.

Pitt, Iowa, Kentucky, Ole Miss, San Diego State, and SMU – thanks. The New Year’s Six bowls are still on the table by winning out and catching a break, but the College Football Playoff? Nah.

So now we’re down to 15 teams out of 130 who are are still alive for this thing. We rank their chances of getting in from the ones who need the most help, to the ones who still control their own respective destinies.

This isn’t a College Football Playoff ranking projection – that’s this. This is all based on likelihood of getting in and the clearest paths. Starting with the dreamiest of the dreamy …

15. UTSA Roadrunners (8-0)

It’s not happening, but with San Diego State losing to Fresno State and SMU dropping a thriller to Houston, there’s Cincinnati, there’s UTSA, and that’s it for the unbeatens among the Group of Five programs.

UTSA would need to win out against at UTEP, Southern Miss, UAB, and at North Texas – and then win the Conference USA Championship – doing it with the types of blowouts that Cincinnati isn’t getting against its weak slate. It would also need the entire Power Five conference world to melt down.

Again, it’s not happening, but getting a New Year’s Six bowl could be on the table no matter what Cincinnati does.

14. Texas A&M Aggies (6-2)

No, a two-loss team has never made it into the College Football Playoff. However, A&M has the win over Alabama – that’s the key to the dream of getting in.

Win out against Auburn, at Ole Miss, Prairie View A&M, and at LSU, and hope for one stunning defeat by Alabama somewhere – maybe against LSU on the wrong day, or Arkansas, or at Auburn – and it’s off to the SEC Championship. Win that, and no way, no how, no chance is the team that Alabama, and Georgia will be left out.

But, again, it only works with an Alabama loss somewhere.

13. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-1)

This one is totally not fair, but Notre Dame has a rock-hard Cincinnati ceiling it might not be able to bust through.

Remember, these rankings are based on who has the clearest paths and who controls their own destiny.

The Irish will be a top ten team in the College Football Playoff rankings and will move up to around the top five, but even if Cincinnati loses once, that 24-13 home loss is a killer.

Notre Dame would need to win out – Navy, at Virginia, Georgia Tech, at Stanford – and hope for a whole bunch of multi-loss Power Five champions.

Again, this about being in control, and Notre Dame isn’t as long as Cincinnati keeps winning. However, it’s the same deal for …

12. Cincinnati Bearcats (8-0)

Cincinnati is going to be in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings at some point, if not be up there in the first batch that comes out on Tuesday, November 2nd.

Here’s the problem.

Once the entire regular season is over – including the conference championship – the College Football Playoff committee has the unwritten rule of starting with this one big question.

“Did you win your Power Five conference championship?”

That’s followed up by, “did you win going unbeaten or finish 12-1?”

DO NOT ASSUME that Cincinnati being in the top four means it’s going to stay there. It needs Wake Forest to lose – probably twice – and it will. It needs Oregon to lose – it probably will – and it can’t have Alabama winning the SEC Championship and be 12-1 along with Georgia finishing 12-1.

It can’t have an unbeaten or one-loss Big Ten champion or an unbeaten or one-loss Big 12 champion to go along with two other viable options. A whole lot of things have to go right for a 13-0 Cincinnati to get in.

For what it’s worth, we think it’ll happen, but Cincinnati doesn’t control its path, and for now, neither does …

11. Michigan Wolverines (7-1)

There’s a funky scenario that hasn’t been discussed and almost certainly won’t happen, but it’s worth a theoretical hypothetical – if that can be such a thing.

Michigan State wins out and goes 13-0, and Michigan wins out by beating Indiana, at Penn State, at Maryland, Ohio State. Because that 37-33 loss on the road to the Spartans was such a close fight – unlike, say, Texas A&M’s only loss at Alabama last year a 52-24 blowout – would both brothers get in?

That’s almost certainly not going to happen on any level. Here’s the more likely scenario, if you can buy into the idea that Michigan can beat Ohio State.

Either 1) Michigan State loses twice – with the remaining Spartans’ schedule, that’s possible; more on that in a moment – or 2) Ohio State beats Michigan State and Michigan wins out, which would then likely help the Wolverines because the win over Wisconsin would potentially be the difference in the Big Ten East tie-breaker world …

Again, more on that in a bit.

NEXT: Top 10 College Football Playoff Chase Rankings

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