More than half of the college football regular season has been played and the playoff picture is starting to take shape. Only a few teams control their own destiny, with most others relying on other teams to lose for them to have a chance.
Clemson – After a slow start, the Tigers have been really impressive the last few weeks. Their path to the playoff is pretty simple: Win out and they’re in. Aside from a trip to Tallahassee this weekend to take on Florida State, they don’t have much left on their schedule that will challenge them. Barring an unforeseen upset, Clemson will be in.
Michigan – The loss to Notre Dame in week one doesn’t look as bad as it did when it happened and they’ve beaten two top 25 teams by double digits in consecutive weeks. This is another team that controls their own destiny because the committee won’t leave out a 12-1 conference champ that hasn’t lost since week one. After the bye week they’re currently on, they’ve got Penn State at home which will be a test, and they finish the year at Ohio State which will be the biggest game of the Jim Harbaugh era. If the Wolverines can finally get over that hump, they’ll be in the playoff.
Ohio State– Ohio State controlled its own destiny until Saturday when they got blown out by Purdue. This is still one of the most talented teams in the country but they haven’t shown an ability to run the ball this year and their defense hasn’t been consistent. If they win the rest of their games, they would probably still make it but best case scenario is whoever wins the Big 12 has two losses and they get in without a doubt.
Texas – After an embarrassing loss to Maryland in week one, Texas has won six in a row and has a legitimate chance to make the playoff. They have a very tough schedule coming up where they are on the road to Oklahoma State, then home for Will Grier and West Virginia. If they get by those two and then win out they would still need some help. If Notre Dame is undefeated with a 12-1 Big Ten champion, Texas would probably draw the short end of the stick because of who beat them.
West Virginia – Theoretically, they could still make the playoff if they win out as a 12-1 Big Twelve champion but the back end of their schedule is brutal. They finish the year with Baylor, Texas, TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Can you see them running the table with those 5 teams? Yeah, neither can I.
Oklahoma – The first five weeks of the season the Sooners looked like a lock for the playoff, then they couldn’t outscore Texas and now they need some help to get in. They will be big favorites in every game they play this year except for the last week of the regular season when they’re on the road against West Virginia. If they can win that game and the Big Twelve championship then they still probably need a loss from the Big Ten champion or Notre Dame to get in.
Alabama– This is pretty easy. They win out and they are the #1 team in the playoff. After their bye they are at LSU and I think they probably still get in if they lose that game and finish 11-1 with their impressive play this year.
Georgia – After a surprising blowout loss to LSU, the Bulldogs are stuck needing to win out with Florida, Kentucky, Auburn still on their schedule. That would potentially set them up for a showdown against Alabama in the SEC championship. If they do that, then they would certainly get in but there is no margin for error anymore.
LSU– The Tigers have more quality wins than anybody else in college football this year with victories over Miami, Auburn, Georgia, and Mississippi State but after their loss to Florida there is no breathing room. They finish the year with Alabama, Arkansas, Rice, and Texas A&M. If they lose any of those, they’re out.
Florida– They have exceeded expectations in year one under Dan Mullen with an impressive win over LSU and their loss to Kentucky no longer looking bad. They would have to win out to get in which I don’t see them doing. They finish the year with Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina, Idaho, and Florida State.
UCF– This will be a long shot even if they go undefeated like we saw last year. Everybody would have to lose at least once for them to even get considered. In their conference, they just aren’t going to get into a 4 team playoff. I hope they expand the playoff to 8 teams so they could have a shot at Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, etc. They wouldn’t win but it might finally shut their fans up on Twitter.
Notre Dame – Ohio State’s loss made a way that even if they lose one of their remaining games against Navy, Northwestern, FSU, Syracuse, and Southern Cal they could still get in. Say Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Michigan wins out but Notre Dame loses one game, the committee has to put them in over Michigan because they beat them. If they win out obviously they’re in but Ohio State’s loss gave them some breathing room.
Washington State – This is a major dark horse. Even if they win out, they don’t get in without a lot of help. They would need everybody to lose at least once and multiple teams lose twice because they aren’t getting in over a one loss Big Ten champ, one loss Notre Dame, or a one loss Big Twelve champ. They also have the toughest part of their schedule coming up with Stanford, Cal, Colorado, Arizona, and Washington, plus the Pac-12 Championship if they were to win all those. This won’t happen, but America deserves Mike Leach in the playoff based off his press conference alone.
Prediction: Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Oklahoma
If I missed anybody or there’s a scenario that wasn’t brought up, feel free to let me know on Twitter @jacksonfields15.