College Football Playoff Eliminator: Week 0/1

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF ELIMINATOR – WEEK 1

The first two weeks of the college football season are in the books as we look to our first College Football Playoff (CFP) Eliminator of the year. The Eliminator will break down the teams still in contention, talk about teams’ playoff chances, and go into detail about the hypothetical scenarios that are still in play for teams to make a run at the playoff. As we go deeper into the season, we will be narrowing it down and getting more in-depth on the remaining teams.

Although there are certain criteria the Eliminator upholds as the season goes on for a team to be “mathematically” in contention, I like to keep teams around even if they suffer a brutal loss. Why? It’s fun to talk about teams who can finish the season ranked, make a miraculous turnaround, or compete for a New Years’ Six (NY6) bowl game.

For those reasons, I’ll keep Power Five teams like Washington – who lost to FCS Montana 13-7 – and Group of Five teams like Louisiana – who was ranked in the AP poll and lost to Texas by 20 – in the conversation for now. Here are some guidelines I like to follow when it comes to eliminating teams:

  1. Three-loss Power Five teams: A two-loss Power Five team can absolutely make the CFP at the end of the season: see LSU, whose two losses in 2007 didn’t stop them from winning a BCS National Championship. A two-loss team would need a conference championship win and three losses would absolutely doom a team, even in the four-team system that exists.
  1. Two-loss Group of Five teams: Even though undefeated Group of Five teams have always been on the outside looking in (UCF in 2017 and 2018), I’d like to keep talking about the teams that are in the running for a New Years’ Six bid before eliminating them from the playoff completely. One loss is pretty much enough to eliminate them from the CFP, but we’ll talk about the teams at the top who can still finish the season ranked. This guideline could also be used for the FBS Independents, although BYU and Notre Dame both have difficult schedules that I want to keep an eye on for the coming weeks.
  1. Strength of schedule issues: Outside of a few teams going undefeated, pretty much every program in the country needs additional assistance getting into the playoff. Cincinnati absolutely has the strength of schedule, as they travel to Indiana and Notre Dame in back-to-back games. They have the benefit of a bye week in between, but the fact they were only one of four teams in the American to start 1-0 is troubling. The American has to prove itself to be better than at least two Power Five conference champions.

Now that we’ve established the guidelines, let’s look at where we stand conference by conference:

AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE

The American looked good at the top, but suffered some brutal out-of-conference losses. Dillon Gabriel (318 yards, 4 TD) impressed in UCF’s 36-31 comeback win against Boise State, but they’ll need to be better in the conference to prevent Cincinnati from putting points on the board.

Still in the hunt:

#7 Cincinnati (1-0)

The Bearcats opened up by beating rival Miami (OH). Their playoff hopes will be either on pace or off the rails by October 2nd when they travel to Notre Dame for what should be a top-10 matchup.

Memphis (1-0)

SMU (1-0)

UCF (1-0)

The current bubble:

East Carolina (0-1): lost to Appalachian State, 33-19

Houston (0-1): lost to Texas Tech, 38-21

Navy (0-1): lost to Marshall, 49-7

Temple (0-1): lost to Rutgers, 61-14

Tulane (0-1): lost to Oklahoma, 40-35

Tulsa (0-1): lost to UC Davis, 19-17

USF (0-1): lost to NC State, 45-0

ACC

The ACC looked helpless at the top of the conference in Week 1, as Alabama pummeled Miami so bad that I don’t even think winning out would be enough to get them in. UNC’s loss to Virginia Tech showed just how much QB Sam Howell needs more weapons around him – and how good VT can be this season in a mediocre Coastal Division.

Still in the hunt:

Boston College (1-0)

NC State (1-0)

Pitt (1-0)

Syracuse (1-0)

Virginia (1-0)

#19 Virginia Tech (1-0)

Wake Forest (1-0)

Early tumblers:

#6 Clemson (0-1): lost to Georgia, 10-3

In the most anticipated matchup of the weekend, Clemson fell to Georgia in a defensive battle. Clemson’s strength of schedule is less than stellar, so they’ll need to blow through an ACC that struggled in Week 1.

Duke (0-1): lost to Charlotte, 31-28

Florida State (0-1): lost to Notre Dame, 41-38 (OT)

Georgia Tech (0-1): lost to Northern Illinois, 22-21

Louisville (0-1): lost to Ole Miss, 43-24

#22 Miami (0-1): lost to Alabama, 44-13

#24 UNC (0-1): lost to Virginia Tech, 17-10

BIG XII CONFERENCE

The Big XII had the luxury of nine out of their ten teams winning their season openers (sorry, West Virginia). However, those wins were not pretty. FCS Missouri Valley Football Conference Members Northern Iowa, South Dakota, and Missouri State almost took down Iowa State (6 points), Kansas (3 points), and Oklahoma State (7 points), respectively.

Still in the hunt:

#4 Oklahoma (1-0)

The Sooners battled off a resilient Tulane squad and QB Michael Pratt (296 yards, 3 TD). Their out-of-conference schedule consists of Western Carolina and Nebraska, but the defense will have to look better if they want to have any shot at playoff redemption.

Baylor (1-0)

Iowa State (1-0)

Kansas (1-0)

Kansas State (1-0)

Oklahoma State (1-0)

TCU (1-0)

#15 Texas (1-0)

Texas Tech (1-0)

Early tumblers:

West Virginia (0-1): lost to Maryland, 30-24

BIG TEN CONFERENCE

The Big Ten had little surprises. The WR room for Ohio State is predictably strong, Penn State had a huge win against Wisconsin, and Iowa asserted themselves as the West Division favorite after pummeling Indiana. Look for these late-season games to be highly ranked matchups.

Still in the hunt:

#3 Ohio State (1-0)

QB CJ Stroud got off to a slow start, but if he relies on Olave and Wilson at WR he will have an easier adjustment to the offense. The defense was spotty at times, but the Buckeyes should still be heavy favorites in a (for now) top-heavy East.

#10 Iowa (1-0)

Maryland (1-0)

Michigan (1-0)

Michigan State (1-0)

#11 Penn State (1-0)

Purdue (1-0)

Rutgers (1-0)

Early tumblers:

Illinois (1-1): lost to UTSA, 37-30

Indiana (0-1): lost to Iowa, 34-6

Minnesota (0-1): lost to Ohio State, 45-31

Nebraska (1-1): lost to Illinois, 30-22

Northwestern (0-1): lost to Michigan State, 38-21

#18 Wisconsin (0-1): lost to Penn State, 16-10

CONFERENCE USA

There are a few teams who can make a push in C-USA this season. Most notably would be Marshall, who was able to beat Navy 49-7 even with QB Grant Wells not playing his best game. Louisiana Tech was also impressive in a 35-34 loss to Mississippi State.

Still in the hunt:

Charlotte (1-0)

The 49ers took down Duke to open the season. Their other big out-of-conference game is Illinois on October 2nd, and there is no reason to believe they won’t be able to compete with the Illini if their running back committee room remains intact. Fellow conference member UTSA took down Illinois in Week 1.

FIU (1-0)

Marshall (1-0)

Middle Tennessee (1-0)

North Texas (1-0)

UAB (1-0)

UTEP (2-0)

UTSA (1-0)

Western Kentucky (1-0)

The current bubble:

Florida Atlantic (0-1): lost to Florida, 35-14

Louisiana Tech (0-1): lost to Mississippi State, 35-34

Old Dominion (0-1): lost to Wake Forest, 42-10

Rice (0-1): lost to Arkansas, 38-17

Southern Miss (0-1): lost to South Alabama, 31-7

INDEPENDENTS (FBS)

The independent landscape is interesting this year as Notre Dame returned a lot of production and Liberty returned QB Malik Wills. BYU’s schedule is also respectable again after last year’s makeshift season; the Cougars play five Pac-12 opponents, Boise State, Baylor, and Virginia.

Still in the hunt:

#8 Notre Dame (1-0)

The Irish returned a lot of talent and will be looking towards a top-10 matchup with Cincinnati in October. What they do in that game will absolutely be a deciding factor regarding their independent CFP bid or someone else sneaking in ahead of them. Their schedule is strong enough that I believe they can afford a loss, but that would require additional help down the stretch.

Army (1-0)

BYU (1-0)

Liberty (1-0)

The current bubble:

UMass (0-1): lost to Pitt, 51-7

Eliminated:

New Mexico State (0-2): eliminated with Week 1 loss to San Diego State, 28-10

UConn (0-2): eliminated with Week 1 loss to Holy Cross, 38-28

MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE

The MAC’s usual suspects of Buffalo, Northern Illinois, and Toledo all opened up with Week 1 wins. The conference needs a lot of help from the rest of the Group of Five if they want to get in the NY6 conversation.

Still in the hunt:

Northern Illinois (1-0)

A one-point win at Georgia Tech and the ball carrying of Harrison Waylee (27 carries for 144 yards, 1 TD) was just what the Huskies needed to start the year. Wyoming and Michigan are on slate for the next two games, which could be pivotal to the conference as a whole.

Ball State (1-0)

Buffalo (1-0)

Eastern Michigan (1-0)

Toledo (1-0)

The current bubble:

Akron (0-1): lost to Auburn, 60-10

Bowling Green (0-1): lost to Tennessee, 38-6

Central Michigan (0-1): lost to Missouri, 34-24

Miami (OH) (0-1): lost to Cincinnati, 49-14

Ohio (0-1): lost to Syracuse, 29-9

Kent State (0-1): lost to Texas A&M, 41-10

Western Michigan (0-1): lost to Michigan, 47-14

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE

The Mountain West is my preseason seventh ranked conference, which is why the conference champion could easily be competing for a NY6 spot, especially if Cincinnati runs the table.

Still in the hunt:

Nevada (1-0)

The Wolf Pack took down Cal 22-17 to open the season. They also have Kansas State on the schedule, which is why they deserve a special look before heading into conference play.

Air Force (1-0)

New Mexico (1-0)

San Diego State (1-0)

Utah State (1-0)

Wyoming (1-0)

The current bubble:

Boise State (0-1): lost to UCF, 36-31

Colorado State (0-1): lost to South Dakota State, 42-23

Fresno State (1-1): lost to Oregon, 31-24

Hawai’i (1-1): lost to UCLA, 44-10

San Jose State (1-1): lost to USC, 30-7

UNLV (0-1): lost to Eastern Washington, 35-33 (OT)

PAC-12 CONFERENCE

Oregon remains the Pac-12’s best hope to bust through the longest playoff drought from a Power Five conference. UCLA started off the year strong as well, taking down LSU 38-27.

Still in the hunt:

#12 Oregon (1-0)

Oregon narrowly escaped Fresno State in Week 1 and has to travel to Ohio State on Saturday in what should be a must-win game. A Pac-12 bid rides almost entirely on an undefeated team, especially if Cincinnati runs the table.

#23 Arizona State (1-0)

Colorado (1-0)

#16 UCLA (2-0)

#14 USC (1-0)

#21 Utah (1-0)

Early tumblers:

Arizona (0-1): lost to BYU, 24-16

Cal (0-1): lost to Nevada, 22-17

Oregon State (0-1): lost to Purdue, 30-21

Stanford (0-1): lost to Kansas State, 24-7

Washington (0-1): lost to Montana, 13-7

Washington State (0-1): lost to Utah State, 26-23

SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE

Alabama is the nation’s No. 1 team, but Georgia picked up a huge win over Clemson in what should be their toughest test. There are a lot of scenarios for two SEC teams to get in the CFP, especially if there is a one-loss team in the West who gets to avoid a Georgia or a Florida in the conference championship.

Still in the hunt:

#1 Alabama (1-0)

The Crimson Tide offense didn’t skip a beat under Bryce Young (344 yards, 4 TD) and fans of big-time defenses should be rooting for Bama and Georgia to meet in the SEC Championship.

Arkansas (1-0)

#25 Auburn (1-0)

#13 Florida (1-0)

#2 Georgia (1-0)

Kentucky (1-0)

Mississippi State (1-0)

Missouri (1-0)

#20 Ole Miss (1-0)

South Carolina (1-0)

Tennessee (1-0)

#5 Texas A&M (1-0)

Early tumblers:

LSU (0-1): lost to UCLA, 38-27

Vanderbilt (0-1): lost to East Tennessee State, 23-3

SUN BELT CONFERENCE

Coastal is still king in as they will be pushing for a NY6 spot this season, but Appalachian State could be their biggest threat in Group A.

Still in the hunt:

#17 Coastal Carolina (1-0)

QB Grayson McCall’s sophomore campaign got off to a hot start as he went 16/19 for 262 yards and a TD. Kansas and Buffalo could be tricky nonconference games, but they are must-win.

Appalachian State (1-0)

Arkansas State (1-0)

Georgia Southern (1-0)

South Alabama (1-0)

Troy (1-0)

The current bubble:

Georgia State (0-1): lost to Army, 43-10

Louisiana (0-1): lost to Texas, 38-18

Louisiana-Monroe (0-1): lost to Kentucky, 45-10

Texas State (0-1): lost to Baylor, 29-20

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