Like it or not, half of the college football season is over. Alabama, Clemson and Penn State have cemented their positions as the best teams in the country, but a lot of football needs to be played. Alabama still has to play the Iron bowl at #10 Auburn and a possible SEC Championship game against #4 Georgia, in Atlanta. Clemson still has to play a rolling #20 NC State and a possible ACC Championship game against Miami. Penn State needs to go through the gauntlet of #17 Michigan, at #9 Ohio State and after last week, at #21 Michigan State. Here are the teams by conference that still have a chance.
The Tigers are the defending conference champs and the favorite to win the ACC. The rest of their schedule is favorable with their toughest opponent being NC State and a possibility of playing Miami in the ACC Conference game. Clemson will not need to win out and should make the playoffs even if they don’t win the ACC Championship and only lose one game.
NC State has been rolling. Their chances would be higher if they had not lost to South Carolina in the first game of the season. But don’t count them out just yet. Last year, Ohio State didn’t even make it into the Big 10 Championship game and still made it to the playoffs. NC State definitely will have a hard time as they still have to play #16 Notre Dame and #2 Clemson in back to back weeks. If the Wolfpack continues to roll behind a superb performance of QB Ryan Finley and win at home against Clemson and then win then win the ACC, they have a chance.
Miami has shined this year. The Hurricanes currently sit undefeated at the top of the Coastal Division. Miami has 4 home games left, but two of those games come against #15 Virginia Tech and #16 Notre Dame. If the Canes win out and beat Clemson or NC State in the ACC Championship, they would most certainly make the playoffs.
Outcome: Clemson wins the ACC and holds their position at #2 in the country.
Saquon Barkley is easily the best player in college football. Barkley is the Heisman favorite. Paired with him is Trace McSorley, who has just dominated as the QB for the Nittany Lions. Barkley has 1044 all-purpose yards with 8 TDs and McSorely has thrown for 1600 yards and 13 TDs and ran in for 4 more scores. Penn State has a bye this week, which gives them ample time to prepare for the gauntlet of Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State. If the Lions win all 3 games, just pencil them in for #1 in the country. At that point only a loss to #7 Wisconsin in the B1G Championship would cost them a playoff berth.
Michigan has a tougher chance to make the CFP. Last weeks loss to little brother Michigan State has severely hurt their chances. Michigan still has to play Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Michigan is has not been very strong, especially in their quarterback play. With Wilton Speight out for the season with a broken back, John O’Korn doesn’t have the skills to push Michigan into the CFP.
Ohio State, even with a loss to then #5 Oklahoma, has a solid chance to make the CFP. Since the loss, has outscored opponents 210 – 42 and scored more than 50 points a game for the last 3 weeks. tOSU still has to play Penn State, Michigan State and then at Kinnick against Iowa and at the Big House against Michigan to close out the season. If they win out AND win the B1G Championship, the Buckeyes have a solid chance to return to the playoffs.
Unlike the Big 10 East, Wisconsin doesn’t have to play a tough schedule. Although ranked #7 in the country, the Badgers only away games are at Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota. The B1G West is a cupcake division and Wisconsin should not have a hard time making it to the B1G Championship. Even if the Badgers win out, they may not make the CFP. The weak SOS will hurt when the CFP committee decides the final rankings.
I’m only including the Spartans because of the poll inertia that they generated after beating Michigan at the Big House last week. State was at the bottom of the Big 10 last year and a rise to the playoffs seems unlikely, but would need to dominate Ohio State and Penn State to even have a chance.
Outcome: In November, the Big 10 teams will all beat up on themselves. Some how Michigan State will win out and beat Wisconsin in the championship and a 1 loss Penn State will make it to the playoffs.
TCU is definitely the dark horse this year. They are my sneaky pick to the make the playoffs out of the Big 12. The Horned Frogs have rallied to beat then #6 Oklahoma State in Stillwater and beat #23 West Virginia at home last week. TCU will continue to dominate in the next 2 weeks until they play the upset minded Cyclones in Ames, IA. The biggest matchup, however will be (hopefully at top 10) matchup against #12 Oklahoma on 11/11 in Norman. TCU does have 4 away games in the next 6 weeks. Can they finish the season undefeated?
The Sooners dropped 9 spots to #12 after losing to Iowa State last week. This was a tough look for Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma. They roll into a another home game against Texas in the Red River show down this week and then play 3 ranked teams, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and TCU in a row. If they win, they would easily make the Big 12 Championship. The game against TCU will make it or break it. If they win, there is a chance the two teams meet again for the Big 12 Championship. The Sooners are in full control of their own destiny.
Mason Rudolph has thrown for 1900 yards and 16 TDs already. The Cowboys have their only loss to then #16 TCU. There still is a chance for the Cowboys, but it looks gloomy. Mike Gundy can coach as well as he wants, but it is unlikely for Oklahoma State to make the playoffs unless they are the Big 12 Champions.
Outcome: The Big 12 beats up on itself. TCU is rolling, but the magic will stop soon. Oklahoma will lose at least one more time and a 2 loss team will be the champion of the Big 12. Nobody from the Big 12 will make the playoffs.
Washington has been dominant and to be honest, I have yet to watch Washington play this year. But they are undefeated and are ranked #5 in the AP poll and #4 in the Coaches poll. The problem with the Huskies record is that they have yet to be tested and have not played a ranked team yet. The rest of the season is pretty easy for the Huskies with their first ranked game coming against #23 Stanford in Week 11, a game in which the Cardinal may not even be ranked. Their last game is against #8 Washington State, which will make it or break their chances for the playoffs.
Washington State is my #1 pick to win the Pac 12 and have a chance at making the playoffs. The Cougars already have a signature win on the season against then #5 USC. They stunned the Trojans in a sellout prime time game in Pullman 2 weeks ago. Last week they rolled past Oregon and they should coast until they play #23 Stanford and at #5 Washington to end the season.
Sam Darnold came into the season as a Heisman favorite. He has yet to have a defining performance. Although he has 1700 yards and 12 TD’s, he has thrown 9 interceptions, often in high pressure situations. Their only ranked matchup remaining is at Notre Dame in 2 weeks. The Trojans should make the Pac 12 Championship against Washington or Wazzu. If the Trojans drop 1 game, their playoff hopes are done.
Outcome: The winner of Washington/Washington State makes it to the Pac-12 Championship against USC, but the lack of ranked matchups keeps the Pac-12 out of the playoffs.
Nick Chubb and freshman Jake Fromm have the Bulldogs rolling. SEC bias will play into the chances for Georgia to make the playoffs, even if the rest of the schedule looks easy. The Bulldogs have a straight shot to the SEC championship game against Alabama. The winner of which will retain the #1 seed in the playoffs. Georgia plays #10 Auburn on 11/11, but with the way the defense is playing right now, the Tigers will be nothing more than a speed bump.
Alabama has a bias. This is the only reason they hold the #1 position. But as always the Tide has definitely confirmed the bias and just rolled past teams this year. Bama is a write-in for the playoffs, with the only difference being the #1 or #2 spot. I don’t like this bias, but you have to give credit where credit is due. The only way Bama is left out of a spot in the playoffs is if they lose the Iron bowl and the SEC Championship.
Notre Dame is a curious one. Their schedule is as follows:
- 10/21 – vs #13 USC, 5-1
- 10/28 – vs #20 NC State, 5-1
- 11/4 – vs Wake Forest (don’t let their 4-2 record fool you, the Demon Deacons have looked excellent this year)
- 11/11 – @ #11 Miami, 4-0
- 11/18 – vs #25 Navy, 5-0
- 11/25 – @ #23 Stanford, 4-2
Notre Dame, as an independent team, benefits from not having a championship game to play in. By the time they play Miami, the Canes could be 8-0 and in the top 10. Navy could be 8-0 and in the top 15. If Notre Dame wins out, Notre Dame will be dancing. They have the toughest schedule this year with a win at now #21 Michigan State and their only loss being against now #4 Georgia.
#1 Alabama vs. #4 Notre Dame
#2 Clemson vs. #3 Penn State