College Football Playoff Picture: Week 8

Upsets covered college football on Saturday as many teams saw their College Football Playoff chances diminish and others saw their chances increase dramatically. Here’s a look at the AP Top 25, everyone’s playoff hopes, and what each team has to have happen for a bid to the real postseason.

1. Alabama (SEC, 7-0)

Rundown: Alabama is still the best team in the country regardless if Tua Tagovailoa is ready to go against Tennessee. Jalen Hurts should start this week, giving Tua some rest before facing #5 LSU.

Can they afford a loss? Possibly. At this point in the season, Alabama can afford a loss and still remain in decent position to make the CFP. However, this team doesn’t look like they will lose anytime soon. A one-loss Alabama can probably remain ranked ahead of any Big XII or Pac-12 team.

Worst Case Scenario: Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Clemson all finish the season undefeated with a one-loss team winning the SEC. If the eye-test truly matters, the Selection Committee would have a lot to think about.

2. Ohio State (Big Ten, 7-0)

Rundown: The Buckeyes didn’t look as dominant on Saturday against Minnesota as they have in the past, but quarterback Dwayne Haskins still looks in control of every game. They should be able to handle Purdue and Nebraska in the coming weeks. They will be without DE Nick Bosa for the rest of the season as he prepares for the NFL Draft after a core muscle injury.

Can they afford a loss? Possibly. If Ohio State wins the Big Ten with one loss, they would be in position as long as that loss is viable (Michigan, Michigan State). However, they would need help if they don’t play in the Big Ten Championship game due to a Michigan loss.

Worst Case Scenario: Alabama, Notre Dame, and Clemson all remain undefeated and Michigan wins out. Ohio State would be left out of the CFP in a heartbeat.

3. Clemson (ACC, 6-0)

Rundown: The Tigers had their fun (and a bye week), but now the true test comes in their upcoming game against undefeated #16 NC State. Trevor Lawrence will be healthy for what looks like an elimination game.

Can they afford a loss? If they can, it better not be now. An ACC team that doesn’t win the conference will not make the CFP. If Clemson falters against the Wolfpack they’ll be left out of the ACC Championship (barring a NC State late-season meltdown).

Worst Case Scenario: Alabama, Ohio State, and Notre Dame remain undefeated and Clemson wins the ACC with one loss. A one-loss champ from any conference would have a case against a one-loss champ from the ACC.

4. Notre Dame (Independent, 7-0)

Rundown: The Irish get a bye after a close win against Pitt at home. The schedule is favorable, but Northwestern, Florida State, and USC are all dark horses in November.

Can they afford a loss? Eh. There are a lot of one-loss teams in Power Five conferences still remaining and all of them would have a better resume than Notre Dame if the Irish lose with their remaining schedule.

Worst Case Scenario: They lose. Every one-loss team will have a case against Notre Dame come selection time if the Irish lose; their schedule just isn’t strong enough down the stretch.

5. LSU (SEC, 6-1)

Rundown: LSU surged into the top 5 this week after beating #8 Georgia. They control their own destiny with #1 Alabama in two weeks.

Can they afford a loss? No. The rest of their own conference is too strong to allow LSU to make the CFP with two losses, let alone the rest of the country.

Best Case Scenario: Beat Bama and you’re in, baby. The Tigers are the only one-loss team that controls their own fate.

6. Michigan (Big Ten, 6-1)

Rundown: Michigan is back in the top 10 after romping #23 Wisconsin. The Wolverines have to play #24 Michigan State on Saturday with #18 Penn State and #2 Ohio State on deck in November.

Worst Case Scenario: Michigan wins out and wins the Big Ten… but Clemson and Notre Dame remain unbeaten and Alabama’s only loss is to SEC Champion LSU, Georgia, Florida, or Kentucky (all of which have one loss). It would be hard to keep Michigan out, who would have a win against #2 Ohio State. The Committee would have to see Alabama as unequivocally better than the Wolverines in this scenario. This will probably be the craziest scenario as Michigan’s only loss is to Notre Dame.

7. Texas (Big XII, 6-1)

Rundown: Texas is in control of the Big XII right now but has yet to look like a playoff team. They still have #13 West Virginia and a potential rematch in the Big XII Championship with #9 Oklahoma.

Best Case Scenario: If Notre Dame loses and the other three conferences (SEC, Big Ten, ACC) show to only have one dominant team, Texas can make a semifinal. It’s crazy to think that with half of a season left to go, the #7 Longhorns could possibly not move up in the rankings even with teams ahead of them playing each other.

8. Georgia (SEC, 6-1)

Rundown: Georgia is fortunate enough to still be in control of their own destiny in the SEC. They get a bye week before facing #11 Florida and #14 Kentucky in crucial SEC East games.

Best Case Scenario: Georgia wins out and wins the SEC. They’d be beating a top 5 opponent in either Alabama or LSU and have a better case than any team not being an undefeated conference champion or Notre Dame.

9. Oklahoma (Big XII, 5-1)

Rundown: Oklahoma can win out and their schedule is not too challenging outside of #13 West Virginia at the end of the season. They can get another shot at a top 10 Texas team during championship week.

Best Case Scenario: Oklahoma has to win out and hope for Notre Dame to lose. If the Irish lose and no other conference can prove to have two teams worthy of making the CFP, the Sooners will get in by winning out.

10. UCF (American, 6-0)

Rundown: The Knights and quarterback McKenzie Milton are the most interesting team in college football. #20 Cincinnati and #21 USF are still undefeated in a three-way battle for the American Conference East Division.

Best Case Scenario: UCF needs to hope that Cincinnati and USF continue to win, but they also need to hope that Houston (5-1) takes care of business in the West Division with their dynamic offense. The unfortunate part is that USF and Houston play in two weeks. Either way, UCF needs these American Conference teams to be ranked when they play. If UCF can get wins against ranked opponents, they would need the following things to happen: Notre Dame to lose, one team from the Big Ten, SEC, and ACC to be clearly ahead, and the Big XII and Pac-12 to have multi-loss champions. It seems like a lot, but if the Knights are ranked high enough when the CFP rankings are released, there is still hope.

11. Florida (SEC, 6-1)

Rundown: Florida gets a bye before they face #8 Georgia, who is the only ranked team remaining on their schedule. The loss to #14 Kentucky still hurts the Gators because both teams can win out and Florida can still be left out of the SEC Championship game.

Best Case Scenario: Florida wins out and Kentucky finds a loss in SEC play. A one-loss Florida team that wins the SEC will have a better resume than any Big XII or Pac-12 team. Florida will get in with by winning out and claiming the SEC Championship.

12. Oregon (Pac-12, 5-1)

Rundown: The Pac-12 is still in deep trouble even after Oregon moved up in the rankings. Oregon gets #25 Washington State on Saturday in a pivotal North Division showdown, but that is the only ranked game left on their schedule. Don’t be surprised if the winner of this conference has as many as three losses.

Best Case Scenario: Notre Dame has to lose and three conferences (SEC, Big Ten, ACC) need to have only one team get in. Even then, the Big XII has to have a multi-loss champion. Oregon could even end up having problems with UCF, whose remaining strength of schedule could include 3 ranked opponents. The Pac-12 is looking more like the 6th best conference as the season progresses.

13. West Virginia (Big XII, 5-1)

Rundown: West Virginia just lost to Iowa State and they still have to play #7 Texas and #9 Oklahoma. They control their own destiny in the Big XII but quarterback Will Grier will need to play up to the hype of the rest of the conference.

Best Case Scenario: If WVU wins out, they’d need Notre Dame to surely lose and three conferences (SEC, Big Ten, ACC) to have one team only. Two Big Ten teams (Ohio State, Michigan) and two SEC teams if Alabama doesn’t win the SEC can also stay ahead of the Big XII’s chances. However, they would jump an undefeated UCF, which is a more confident prediction then we can make for Oregon.

14. Kentucky (SEC, 5-1)

Rundown: Kentucky controls their own fate in SEC play as they have winnable games against Vanderbilt and Missouri before facing #8 Georgia in a potential divisional championship.

Best Case Scenario: Much like the rest of the one-loss teams in the SEC, the Wildcats will be in control of their fate as winning out would boost their resume above the Big XII and Pac-12. Kentucky could be behind a Notre Dame, Clemson, and one or both of Ohio State and Michigan, depending on what the Committee sees as far as the eye test is concerned.

15. Washington (Pac-12, 5-2)

Rundown: Washington’s CFP chances are about as slim as anyone in the top 25. The Huskies lost to #12 Oregon this past weekend and have a tough game against Colorado (5-1) this Saturday.

Best Case Scenario: Washington probably won’t rank ahead of a one-loss Notre Dame, any one-loss SEC team, any one-loss Big Ten team, any one-loss ACC team, or any undefeated American Conference teams. The Huskies would need absolute chaos and then more chaos.

16. North Carolina State (ACC, 5-0)

Rundown: NC State is still undefeated and gets to prove if they belong in the conversation this weekend when they play #3 Clemson. An undefeated NC State team does not carry as much clout as an undefeated Clemson due to Clemson’s win against #17 Texas A&M, but a win this weekend will mean all the difference.

Best Case Scenario: NC State gets the bid over any Big XII team if they win out. The problem remains with the eye test. The SEC still has an influx of teams with one loss and a chance at the SEC belt and the Big Ten also has Michigan and Ohio State possibly proving they both deserve to be in over the ACC. It seems unlikely that an undefeated NC State does not get a bid, but their strength of schedule might even be weaker than the big three of the American East Division (UCF, Cincinnati, USF). NC State needs to beat Clemson this weekend, the rest lays at the hands of the Committee when the first rankings are released in two weeks.

17. Texas A&M (SEC, 5-2)

Rundown: Texas A&M has two strong losses in #3 Clemson and #1 Alabama. They have to rely on Alabama to lose twice to make the SEC Championship. Their schedule doesn’t get easier after the bye week with #22 Mississippi State, Auburn, and #5 LSU still on the schedule.

Best Case Scenario: Alabama drops two games and Texas A&M wins the SEC. A two-loss SEC team would need a lot of help and hope for other two-loss champions in other conferences. If any conference gets a team in with two losses, it’s the SEC.

18. Penn State (Big Ten, 4-2)

Rundown: Penn State is eliminated from playoff contention barring an absolute mess from #2 Ohio State and #6 Michigan. Penn State still has #19 Iowa, #6 Michigan, and #23 Wisconsin.

Best Case Scenario: If Penn State can win out and every conference (including their own and the American) has two-loss champions, the Big Ten has a strong case as any to get a bid. The SEC would be the only thing standing in their way. Penn State can hope for a New Year’s Six bowl game.

19. Iowa (Big Ten, 5-1)

Rundown: Outside of a late October game against #18 Penn State, the Hawkeyes have a favorable schedule. They don’t control their own destiny as Wisconsin holds the tiebreaker over them in Big Ten West play.

Best Case Scenario: If Iowa can find themselves in a Big Ten Championship game and win it against an Ohio State or Michigan, they would be in a good position to sniff the top four. A one-loss SEC champ will probably remain ahead, but a win in the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis will be a stronger win then that of the Big XII or Pac-12 title games. Notre Dame losing and Alabama running the table would help.

20. Cincinnati (American, 6-0)

Rundown: Cincinnati has a weak schedule outside of back-to-back current undefeated teams #21 South Florida and #10 UCF. If they can win those games they could have a potential matchup against a ranked, one-loss Houston team from the weaker West Division.

Best Case Scenario: If multi-loss teams win the Big XII and Pac-12 (which is a more likely scenario than most would think), then the SEC, Big Ten, ACC, and Notre Dame are the only entities standing in the way. But if a two-loss Virginia Tech takes the ACC, an undefeated American Conference team could see themselves in playoff contention. The Bearcats should hope for all that and for Alabama and Ohio State to keep winning. A Notre Dame loss or two wouldn’t hurt either.

21. South Florida (American, 6-0)

Rundown: It took a miracle for USF to take down Tulsa this past weekend, but a zero in the loss column still remains. USF gets Houston in two weeks and also has undefeated teams #20 Cincinnati and #10 UCF.

Best Case Scenario: USF is the only one of the three undefeated teams in the East Division that has to play Houston from the West Division before the American Conference Championship. Beating the same team twice does not boost a resume more than beating that same team once. If you’re wondering what USF needs to hope for to reach the CFP, refer to Cincinnati above, but also factor in that Houston game before the conference championship. A lot of what the American Conference needs is determined by that initial CFP ranking.

22. Mississippi State (SEC, 4-2)

Rundown: Mississippi State has #5 LSU, #17 Texas A&M, and #1 Alabama in three-out-of-four straight weeks. This will be tough for the Bulldogs.

Best Case Scenario: Mississippi State winning out would give them a lot of high-profile wins, but even then they might not make their own conference title game. If somehow they do find themselves in the SEC Championship, they’d be competing with every one-loss champ for a spot in the CFP. Their wins would stack up against any conference champion if they win out, but how would the losses to Kentucky and Florida look by the end of the season? The good news is that both of those teams control their own destiny in the East Division and a rematch victory would help, but then they’d need some more help… and some more.

23. Wisconsin (Big Ten, 4-2)

Rundown: They still control their own destiny in the West Division, but they play #18 Penn State later in the season. Wisconsin’s latest loss at the hands of #6 Michigan will be too much to overcome.

Best Case Scenario: Wisconsin can hope for a Big Ten Championship victory, but the one-loss champions from (most likely) every Power Five conference would remain ahead of the Badgers. A Wisconsin win in the Big Ten title game would probably ruin all chances of the Big Ten getting a bid unless Michigan beats Ohio State and loses to Wisconsin – then Ohio State would still have a chance.

24. Michigan State (Big Ten, 4-2)

Rundown: MSU still controls their own destiny in the East Division since they play #6 Michigan on Saturday with Maryland and #2 Ohio State in November. However, their losses against Arizona State and Northwestern will still look bad on the resume.

Best Case Scenario: Michigan State wins the Big Ten with other two-loss teams winning their conferences. The Pac-12 and Big XII can absolutely have a two-loss champion that Michigan State would jump, but help needs to come from the ACC outside of Clemson and NC State, the SEC only getting one bid, and even Ohio State losing again. The American Conference poses a threat to any two-loss champion, even Michigan State.

25. Washington State (Pac-12, 5-1)

Rundown: Washington State jumped into the rankings after another win. They have #12 Oregon on Saturday and #15 Washington to close out the year. Their lone loss against USC could be avenged in the Pac-12 title game.

Best Case Scenario: Refer to Oregon, it’s practically the same situation.

 

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