Each week, I will highlight the least convoluted path a team can take to get into the playoff. Granted, many alternate scenarios could result in the same outcome for a given team. In the interest of keeping this concise and easy to follow, I’ll only give the clearest scenario and whether or not the team can afford a loss and still make the field of 4.
Alabama: Win out, win SEC CG. Can lose once before the SEC championship game, but probably needs to win the conference.
Ohio State: Win out. No longer needs to win conference due to so many other contenders with losses.
Clemson: Win out, win ACC CG.
Louisville: Win out.
Michigan: Win out, win Big Ten CG.
Penn State: Win out AND Michigan loses to Ohio State AND win Big Ten CG AND one of Clemson or Louisville loses again.
Wisconsin: Win out, win Big Ten CG AND one of Clemson or Louisville loses again.
Washington: Win out, win PAC12 CG AND two of Clemson, Louisville, and winner of Michigan/Ohio State loses again.
Colorado: Win out, win PAC12 CG AND two of Clemson, Louisville, and winner of Michigan/Ohio State loses again AND winner of Oklahoma/West Virginia game loses again.
Oklahoma: Win out AND PAC12 champion has two losses AND two of Clemson, Louisville, and winner of Michigan/Ohio State loses again.
West Virginia: Win out AND PAC12 champion has two losses AND two of Clemson, Louisville, and winner of Michigan/Ohio State loses again.
Despite an absolutely crazy Saturday at the top of college football, only Auburn removed themselves from playoff contention. Some paths got easier, some got much tougher, and Alabama is the only team that can lose a game going forward and still make the playoff.
The Big Ten and ACC suddenly find themselves with a chance to send two teams to the playoff. The ACC has the inside track if both Clemson and Louisville win out; the Big Ten can only get two in if one of these ACC teams lose. This means that if the Big Ten championship game is Penn St vs Wisconsin, 1-loss Ohio State will be in the playoff and the 2-loss conference champion will be out. If the most likely scenarios play out, the playoff will consist of Alabama, Clemson, winner of Michigan/Ohio State, and Louisville. However, this could all be disrupted if absolute chaos occurs.
The following scenarios would leave the entire Power 5 with no teams with fewer than 2 losses. It would open the door for many possibilities not outlined above.
- Alabama loses to Auburn and loses SEC championship game
- Clemson loses ACC championship game
- Michigan loses at Ohio State or in the Big Ten championship game
- Ohio State loses to Michigan or (if Penn State loses again) in the Big Ten championship game
- Washington loses at Washington State or in PAC12 championship game
- Louisville loses at Houston
- West Virginia loses to Oklahoma
Even if ALL of these occurred and Western Michigan goes 13-0, they still wouldn’t reach the playoff due to their low initial CFP ranking and lack of opportunities to move up with marquee wins. Fans of future playoff field expansion: the 7 items above are your wish-list.