Nothing changed within the top ten in this week’s CFP rankings, but some interesting scenarios lay ahead for teams still in contention. This week, we go deeper into the playoff hopes for every team still with a chance.
1. Alabama (SEC, 10-0)
Last game: W vs #21 Mississippi State 24-0
Here we are with Alabama yet again at the top, but more and more analysts are saying the gap between them and #2 Clemson is slimmer than what was previously thought. After this week’s FCS matchup against The Citadel, a rivalry game with Auburn and a SEC Championship game against #5 Georgia remain on the schedule. Alabama can afford a loss to either of those teams as long as they still look like a top four team. The winner of that SEC title game will surely get a bid to the CFP.
Next game: vs The Citadel
2. Clemson (ACC, 10-0)
Last game: W vs #20 Boston College 27-7
The Tiger’s defense continues to be one of the best in the country and offensive standout Trevor Lawrence is poised to win out. Rivalry games against Duke and South Carolina remain on the schedule before the ACC Championship, which looks to be against Pittsburgh (6-4, 5-1 ACC) and their prolific run game. Clemson is the only team in the ACC with a shot at making the CFP (sorry, Syracuse) and they can still afford a loss if there is chaos elsewhere.
Next game: vs Duke
3. Notre Dame (Independent, 10-0)
Last game: W vs Florida State 42-13
The Irish remain a lock to make the semifinal if they win out. Their upcoming games against #12 Syracuse and USC are reasonable challenges down the stretch. They can’t afford a loss this late in the season against these opponents, but their fate will be determined by QB Ian Book and the offense staying healthy.
Next game: vs #12 Syracuse
4. Michigan (Big Ten, 9-1)
Last game: W vs Rutgers 42-7
Michigan is in control of their own destiny as long as #1 Alabama doesn’t lose to #5 Georgia in the SEC title game. They have the top defense in the country and will face #22 Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship, that’s if they get through #10 Ohio State in the season finale.
Next game: vs Indiana
5. Georgia (SEC, 9-1)
Last game: W vs Auburn 27-10
The Bulldogs control their own fate. A good QB in Jake Fromm have allowed the offense to be at least reasonably dominant. UMass and WR Andy Isabella will need to pull out all the stops to beat Georgia this weekend, as will Georgia Tech the following week. Georgia could struggle against #1 Alabama in the SEC Championship (#7 LSU beat Georgia by 20, Alabama beat LSU by 29), so they will need a unique game plan against the Tide in order to win. It’s pretty simple though: win and you’re in.
Next game: vs UMass
6. Oklahoma (Big XII, 9-1)
Last game: W vs Oklahoma State 48-47
The Oklahoma Sooners keep scraping by, with their last two wins being by a total of 6 points. Their defense is awful, but their offense is on record-breaking pace with QB Kyler Murray emerging as the Heisman favorite. Kansas and #9 West Virginia are still on the schedule to close out Big XII play before the conference championship against . . . West Virginia? A rematch is certainly possible still. The Sooners being ranked at the six spot is curious, as Committee Chairman Rob Mullens has explained throughout the season that everyone is ranked based on what they have done so far this year, rather than what is yet to come. The Big XII is in decent position to be the first conference in if anyone outside the SEC is to stumble.
Next game: vs Kansas
7. LSU (SEC, 8-2)
Last game: W vs Arkansas 24-17
LSU is ranked based upon their resume thus far, but the rest of the teams remaining in contention – and that includes #11 UCF – have a tougher schedule down the stretch. This Tigers team barely scraped by the worst team in the conference (Arkansas) and their last two opponents are dismal (Rice, Texas A&M). Even if LSU wins out, they can be hopped by teams behind them (Washington State, West Virginia, Ohio State, UCF, and even Syracuse).
Next game: vs Rice
8. Washington State (Pac-12, 9-1)
Last game: W vs Colorado 31-7
QB Gardner Minshew and Wazzu are clicking well at the moment, but they need to start looking like a playoff team against Arizona and #18 Washington to close the season. Their opponent in a potential Pac-12 Championship will be a sub-par South Division winner in Utah or one of the Arizona teams. #9 West Virginia and #10 Ohio State can both see themselves ahead of the Cougars based purely on strength of schedule alone, so coach Mike Leach needs some help.
Next game: vs Arizona
9. West Virginia (Big XII, 8-1)
Last game: W vs TCU 47-10
QB Will Grier continues to climb back into the Heisman conversation just as the bulk of the Mountaineers schedule arises with Oklahoma State and #6 Oklahoma in back-to-back weekends. Their schedule is tough enough to at least give them a shot at their first ever playoff berth, but they still need help from the Big Ten. WVU should root for #22 Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship game, whether they play #10 Ohio State or #4 Michigan. The Big XII Championship game will either be a rematch against #6 Oklahoma, #16 Iowa State (who beat WVU 30-14), or #15 Texas (who WVU beat on a two-point conversion).
Next game: @ Oklahoma State
10. Ohio State (Big Ten, 9-1)
Last game: W vs Michigan State 26-6
The Buckeyes need to look like a playoff team or they can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye and send them on their way with either #4 Michigan or the Big XII. Maryland and rival Michigan are closing out the regular season, so there is still room for a statement ahead of a potential Big Ten Championship bid against #22 Northwestern. If Ohio State wins out and looks impressive enough, they might only need #1 Alabama to run the table in the SEC to get a bid.
Next game: @ Maryland
11. UCF (American, 10-0)
Last game: W vs Navy 35-24
The American East will be decided Saturday night against #24 Cincinnati. A good South Florida (7-3) team is there to close out the season before facing Houston (7-3), SMU (5-5), or Tulane (5-5) in the American Athletic Championship – so needless to say a statement needs to be made right now. College GameDay will be in attendance for this crucial matchup as the Knights try to get to 23 straight wins. Here are some scenarios that UCF could root for down the stretch to keep their playoff hopes alive:
– #1 Alabama wins out, beats #5 Georgia in the SEC title game.
– #2 Clemson loses to Pitt, who UCF beat 45-14, in the ACC title game.
– #3 Notre Dame loses to USC to close out the regular season.
– #4 Michigan beats #10 Ohio State, loses to #22 Northwestern in the Big Ten title game.
– #6 Oklahoma and #9 West Virginia split their meetings, or #16 Iowa State or #15 Texas win the Big XII title.
Next game: vs #24 Cincinnati