College Football Playoff Picture: Week 9

A new-look top 10 is revealed in the last relevant AP Top 25 poll of the season after Ohio State took a royal beatdown to the Boilermakers of Purdue. This week, we look at every team’s status to make it to the College Football Playoff before Tuesday’s CFP rankings are released for the first time this season.

1. Alabama (SEC, 8-0)


Last Game: W vs Tennessee 58-21

The Crimson Tide remain in control of their own destiny with a little more wiggle room to work with. Every team outside of the SEC should root for Alabama to win-out and remain in control of their conference. QB Tua Tagovailoa is still the unanimous Heisman favorite and has yet to throw an interception. He will be tested after the bye against #4 LSU, but history tells us that Alabama is dangerous after a week’s rest.

2. Clemson (ACC, 7-0)


Last Game: W vs #22 NC State 41-7

Clemson proved why they are the kings of the ACC yet again after romping previously unbeaten NC State. They are playing good defense and will be tested against Florida State on Saturday. The Tigers need to continue to win to fend off any one-loss teams waiting behind them. Look for Clemson to be ranked #2 or #3 next Tuesday.

3. Notre Dame (Independent, 7-0)


Last Game: BYE

Notre Dame needed one thing to control their own destiny on the road to the CFP and that was for Ohio State to lose. They got their wish and now have a schedule that is filled with teams that have proved to upset ranked opponents in the past. The Irish get Navy on Saturday before facing the current leader in the Big Ten West – Northwestern. They close the season with 3 mid-level games against Florida State, Syracuse, and USC.

4. LSU (SEC, 7-1)


Last Game: W vs Mississippi State 19-3

Joe Burrow and the Tiger’s offense took a while to get going against Mississippi State, but LSU’s defense made it look like they had control throughout the entirety of the 4 quarters. #1 Alabama and LSU both get a bye before they play in Death Valley. If the Tiger’s defense can keep QB Tua Tagovailoa from having big plays, there can be a potential upset. Barring any chaos, next Saturday will be an elimination game for LSU. Alabama, on the other hand, can lose and still be in decent position to make the CFP.

5. Michigan (Big Ten, 7-1)


Last Game: W vs Michigan State 21-7

The Wolverines took down in-state rival Michigan State in a heated matchup in Big Ten East play. Michigan gets a much-needed bye before they take on #17 Penn State. QB Shea Patterson and WR Donovan Peoples-Jones are continuing their strong season together (326 yards, 6 touchdowns) and are pretty much in control of their own CFP destiny since they hold the best loss in the country (#3 Notre Dame). A conference championship should put them in the playoff. The only thing possibly keeping them out would be if Alabama loses a close match to a LSU team that wins out. A one-loss Big XII champ would have to be unequivocally better than Michigan to get a spot ahead. The fact that #6 Texas lost to Maryland (who Michigan beat 42-21) should keep Michigan ahead of any Big XII team.

6. Texas (Big XII, 6-1)


Last Game: BYE

The Longhorns remaining schedule is one of the toughest in the country. They have Oklahoma State on Saturday followed by #13 West Virginia, Texas Tech, and dark horse Iowa State. Texas remains atop the Big XII standings and will have a rematch in their conference championship game if they continue to win out. Like Michigan, the Longhorns should hope for Alabama to win out and need another team to lose ahead of them. They should also root against #11 Ohio State in the coming weeks.

7. Georgia (SEC, 6-1)


Last Game: BYE

Georgia is still in control no matter which way the SEC is viewed compared to the other conferences in the country. If Georgia can get through #9 Florida and #12 Kentucky in back-to-back weeks, they’ll be in position to setup a conference championship with a top-tier team in #1 Alabama or #4 LSU. The Bulldogs control their own fate because of their strength of schedule and would be the strongest one-loss team in the country if they win out.

8. Oklahoma (Big XII, 6-1)


Last Game: W vs TCU 52-27

Because the nature of the Big XII, Oklahoma has a shot at redemption. The Sooners get Kansas State before Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, and they close the season against #13 West Virginia – which could be a play-in game into the Big XII Championship. Oklahoma needs the same outcomes as #6 Texas to find themselves in the CFP. QB Kyler Murray (96.9 QBR rating) and Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa (97.5 QBR rating) are on pace to shatter the top 2 all-time QBR ratings in college football history.

9. Florida (SEC, 6-1)


Last Game: BYE

The Gators game against #7 Georgia this week will determine a lot in the SEC East, but #12 Kentucky still owns the tiebreaker thanks to a 27-16 victory against Florida in early September. It’s smooth sailing if Florida can get through Georgia on Saturday with Missouri, South Carolina, Idaho, and Florida State on deck in November.

10. UCF (American, 7-0)


Last Game: W vs East Carolina 37-10

It’s a pain to continually win games over the course of a season and a half and still need help to reach the CFP, but the Knight’s schedule is just not up-to-par with the rest of the country. Temple comes into town next Thursday night fresh off their win against previously unbeaten Cincinnati. The American Conference East Division is up for grabs against the Owls, who are undefeated in conference play despite being 5-3. The good news for UCF is that their final 3 games of the season can potentially be between 3 ranked opponents if Cincinnati can jump back into the rankings, #21 South Florida (7-0), and Houston (6-1) in the American Conference Championship. The Knights would need some help from two of the following: a two-loss Big Ten champ, a two-loss Big XII champ, #3 Notre Dame to lose, #2 Clemson to have a meltdown, and #1 Alabama to win out. Every week, those scenarios seem a little more likely.

11. Ohio State (Big Ten, 7-1)


Last Game: L vs Purdue 49-20

Ohio State looked inept on defense against the Purdue run game last Saturday, but they are still in control of the Big Ten East. QB Dwayne Haskins played decent (470 yards) as the offense struggled to put points on the board. If Ohio State can manage to win out, they should still hope for #1 Alabama to run the show in the SEC and to pass the eye test against a one-loss Big XII champ. If the Buckeyes could have kept their loss to Purdue close, they would not have to worry as much about the Big XII being a conference that could get in ahead of them. The coming weeks have Nebraska, Michigan State, Maryland (the team that beat #6 Texas), and #5 Michigan.

12. Kentucky (SEC, 6-1)


Last Game: W vs Vanderbilt 14-7

Kentucky, like Georgia, is in control of their own destiny. RB Benny Snell Jr. continues to run the ball well (868 yards, 9 touchdowns) and is heading towards his third straight 1,000-yard season. If the Wildcats win out, they will have beaten #9 Florida (a game they won 27-16), #7 Georgia, and either #1 Alabama or #4 LSU in the SEC Championship game. They get Missouri this Saturday before taking on Georgia conveniently the week after Georgia plays Florida. Their remaining schedule sets up nicely with Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and Louisville to close the season.

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


Last Game: BYE

WVU has the toughest remaining schedule in the Big XII with Baylor tonight, #6 Texas, TCU, Oklahoma State, and #8 Oklahoma. Will Grier can win games and put up numbers, but consecutive weeks with that schedule ahead can be a tall task for the Mountaineers. To see what WVU needs to reach the CFP, see Texas above.

14. Washington State (Pac-12, 6-1)


Last Game: W vs #19 Oregon 34-20

Washington State saw their stock rise this weekend after a statement win against #19 Oregon. The Cougars only loss is to USC (4-3), who they can still potentially rematch in the Pac-12 Championship game. QB Gardner Minshew (2,745 yards, 23 touchdowns) is a top-5 QB in the country and runs an offense that Washington State depends on every game. If Alabama can win out, they will still need two of the following to happen: a two-loss Big Ten champ, a two-loss Big XII champ, Clemson to lose the ACC, and Notre Dame to lose (probably more than once). It’s an uphill battle, but Washington State gets #24 Stanford on Saturday and #15 Washington to close the season.

15. Washington (Pac-12, 6-2)


Last Game: W vs Colorado 27-13

A two-loss team from the Pac-12 will not make the CFP. Even with #24 Stanford and #14 Washington State still left on the schedule, the Pac-12 South’s top 3 teams all have at least 2 losses. Every two-loss champion from the other Power Five conferences would have a stronger case than the Huskies, as would undefeated #10 UCF and #3 Notre Dame even if the Irish lose.

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


Last Game: BYE

The Aggies get both Mississippi teams and Auburn in the coming weeks before #4 LSU to close out the season. If A&M wins out, they would still need #1 Alabama to lose twice to reach the SEC Championship game. If all of that magically happened and Texas A&M won the SEC, they would still need two of the following to take place: a two-loss team to win the Big Ten, a two-loss team to win the Big XII, a two-loss team not named #2 Clemson to win the ACC, #10 UCF to lose, and #3 Notre Dame to lose (probably twice). These scenarios are not as farfetched as they seem considering every conference championship can feature a team with multiple losses this season. Unfortunately, A&M’s biggest hurdle is that they don’t control their own destiny in the SEC West.

17. Penn State (Big Ten, 5-2)


Last Game: W vs Indiana 33-28

Penn State can thank their back-to-back conference losses (#11 Ohio State, Michigan State) for their current fourth place ranking in the Big Ten East. The Nittany Lions have a tough schedule remaining with #18 Iowa on Saturday followed by #5 Michigan and #20 Wisconsin. Penn State should also root for #1 Alabama to finish the season undefeated and then hope for one of the following: a two-loss team to win the ACC, a two-loss team to win the Big XII, #10 UCF to lose, and #3 Notre Dame to lose (probably twice). If all of that happens, Penn State will still need Michigan and Ohio State to find another conference loss before November ends.

18. Iowa (Big Ten, 6-1)


Last Game: W vs Maryland 23-0

The Hawkeyes defense is one of the best in the Big Ten and has carried them throughout the season. The loss to #20 Wisconsin hurts them as they would need the Badgers to lose again to reach the Big Ten Championship game. Iowa takes on #17 Penn State on Saturday in an elimination game before Purdue and Northwestern. A one-loss Iowa that wins the Big Ten still needs one of the following to happen: #2 Clemson to lose, a two-loss team to win the Big XII, one team to run the table in the SEC (preferably #1 Alabama), and Notre Dame to lose (possibly twice).

19. Oregon (Pac-12, 5-2)


Last Game: L vs #14 Washington State 42-24

Again, a two-loss team from the Pac-12 will not make the CFP this season. The Ducks have 3 teams with only 1 conference loss ahead of them in the North Division and essentially have no control of their own destiny. They face Arizona on Saturday and would need #24 Stanford and #14 Washington State to lose twice and #15 Washington to lose again just to reach the Pac-12 Championship.

20. Wisconsin (Big Ten, 5-2)


Last Game: W vs Illinois 49-20

Wisconsin still controls their own destiny in the Big Ten West with an important game this Saturday against Northwestern. The Badgers need the same scenarios as #17 Penn State does in order to have a chance at the CFP, but unlike the Nittany Lions who they play in three weeks, they have a better shot at winning their division.

21. South Florida (American, 7-0)


Last Game: W vs UConn 38-30

USF continues to find themselves escaping close conference games as their final 2 wins are by a total margin of only 9 points. The only reason they are listed as needing help rather than “on the brink” is because they deserve respect for being an undefeated team. However, USF cannot make the CFP without the weaker divisions in the Power Five winning conference championships. Virginia Tech (4-2), Northwestern (4-3), and #23 Utah (5-2) all currently lead their divisions in Power Five conferences. USF needs to root for #1 Alabama and major chaos ahead of them to be playing in a playoff. The Bulls get Houston on Saturday and end the season with crucial divisional games against one-loss Cincinnati, Temple, and #10 UCF.

22. NC State (ACC, 5-1)


Last Game: L vs #2 Clemson 41-7

Even if #2 Clemson lost again, NC State would still be out of their own conference championship game. Two-loss teams from the Big Ten, Big XII, and SEC all have stronger resumes than the Wolfpack, as does #10 UCF and #3 Notre Dame. If NC State can win out with Clemson falling apart, they would still need a lot of the same crazy scenarios as the USF Bulls.

23. Utah (Pac-12, 5-2)


Last Game: W vs USC 41-28

Back-to-back losses to the Washington teams doomed the Utes from the start. Their remaining schedule is too weak for them to reach a semifinal with UCLA, Arizona, and #19 Oregon being their strongest opponents all coming in consecutive weekends starting on Saturday.

24. Stanford (Pac-12, 5-2)


Last Game: W vs Arizona 20-13

Stanford still has a chance to be the strongest two-loss team in the country by season’s end. They play #14 Washington State and #15 Washington in back-to-back weekends starting this Saturday and can still play for a conference championship. The Cardinal would need a million and one things to happen to reach the playoff and they simply don’t have enough time to do so.

25. Appalachian State (Sun Belt, 5-1)


Last Game: W vs LA Lafayette 27-17

Appalachian State has always been making a name for themselves under head coach Scott Satterfield. He’s been with the program for years and helped the Mountaineers transition to the FBS in 2014. He’s had a winning record every season since entering the Sun Belt Conference. Rather than focusing on App State’s CFP chances (slim to none), it would be very realistic to see them in a New Years’ Six Bowl game. If they run the table and can prove to be better than an American Conference team, they can set themselves up nicely for a high-profile bowl at the end of the season. As we know, it helped #10 UCF get to where they are now.



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