College Football Playoff Eliminator: Week 3


The Big Ten’s big statements and some close calls from the usual bluebloods of Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Oklahoma were the stories of the weekend. Alabama narrowly escaped Florida, who showed they can contend in the SEC East with Georgia.  Clemson had a hard time getting on the board against Georgia Tech, winning in bleak fashion 14-8. Ohio State’s slow offensive engine and defensive question marks kept them from escaping Tulsa until the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Oklahoma was given a scare by one of the Big Ten’s worst in Nebraska.

As we get into conference play, some teams have already departed the playoff field. Group of Five and Independent teams Cincinnati, Fresno State, and BYU all made some noise on Saturday to move up in our contender’s arena.

Let’s run through the College Football Playoff (CFP) Eliminator criteria before breaking down the conferences:

  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 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 are still very much in contention.
  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 is the clear Group of Five favorite, and they already took down Indiana before an upcoming matchup with Notre Dame.

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


It was a huge weekend for the American as Cincinnati took down Indiana on the road, an SMU miracle allowed them to beat Louisiana Tech, and Memphis handed Mississippi State a loss at the Liberty Bowl. Memphis and Cincinnati avoid each other in the regular season, which is good news for the potential ranked conference championship matchup at the end of the year.

Still in the hunt (3 teams):

#8 Cincinnati (3-0)

Memphis (3-0)

SMU (3-0)

Current bubble (2 teams):

UCF (2-1): lost to Louisville, 42-35 (Week 3)

Houston (2-1): lost to Texas Tech, 38-21 (Week 1)

Eliminated (6 teams):

Temple (1-2): eliminated with loss to Boston College, 28-3 (Week 3)

Tulane (1-2): eliminated with loss to Ole Miss, 61-21 (Week 3)

East Carolina (1-2): eliminated with loss to South Carolina, 20-17 (Week 2)

Navy (0-2): eliminated with loss to Air Force, 23-3 (Week 2)

Tulsa (0-3): eliminated with loss to Oklahoma State, 28-23 (Week 2)

USF (1-2): eliminated with loss to Florida, 42-20 (Week 2)


Clemson’s narrow escape of Georgia Tech will have to be left in the rearview mirror, but the remaining ACC schedule of opponents in wildly favorable to the Tigers. Pitt’s loss to Western Michigan was a big damper to the conference, as was Miami and Virginia Tech losing to Michigan State and West Virginia, respectfully. Virginia also suffered their first loss against UNC, 59-39.

Still in the hunt (2 teams):

Wake Forest (3-0)

Boston College (3-0)

Early tumblers (9 teams):

#9 Clemson (2-1): lost to Georgia, 10-3 (Week 1)

Virginia Tech (2-1): lost to West Virginia, 27-21 (Week 3)

NC State (2-1): lost to Mississippi State, 24-10 (Week 2)

Louisville (2-1): lost to Ole Miss, 43-24 (Week 1)

Syracuse (2-1): lost to Rutgers, 17-7 (Week 2)

Pittsburgh (2-1): lost to Western Michigan, 44-41 (Week 3)

Duke (2-1): lost to Charlotte, 31-28 (Week 1)

#21 UNC (2-1): lost to Virginia Tech, 17-10 (Week 1)

Virginia (2-1): lost to UNC, 59-39 (Week 3)

Current bubble (2 teams):

Miami (1-2): lost to Alabama, 44-13 (Week 1) and Michigan State, 38-17 (Week 3)

Georgia Tech (1-2): lost to Northern Illinois, 22-21 (Week 1) and Clemson, 14-8 (Week 3)

Eliminated (1 team):

Florida State (0-3): eliminated with loss to Wake Forest, 35-14 (Week 3)


Oklahoma continues to play down to their competition, and their defense has been underwhelming through three weeks. The Big XII still has six undefeated teams, but nobody has established themselves as the clear and dominant frontrunner to challenge the Sooners. Oklahoma State is 3-0, with their wins coming from a total of only 13 points. Conference play opens up this weekend and should give us a clearer picture of who will rise to the top.

Still in the hunt (6 teams):

#4 Oklahoma (3-0)

TCU (2-0)

Baylor (3-0)

Texas Tech (3-0)

#25 Kansas State (3-0)

Oklahoma State (3-0)

Early tumblers (3 teams):

#14 Iowa State (2-1): lost to Iowa, 27-17 (Week 2)

West Virginia (2-1): lost to Maryland, 30-24 (Week 1)

Texas (2-1): lost to Arkansas, 40-21 (Week 2)

Current bubble (1 team):

Kansas (1-2): lost to Coastal Carolina, 49-22 (Week 2) and Baylor, 45-7 (Week 3)


Ohio State continues to drop, but the stock of Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State are rising in the East. Iowa and Wisconsin are still the likely favorites in the West as the Big Ten is challenging the SEC with multiple teams deserving of being in the CFP conversation. With Penn State’s win over Auburn, the Big Ten East is the top division in the country through three weeks.

Still in the hunt (6 teams):

#6 Penn State (3-0)

#5 Iowa (3-0)

#20 Michigan State (3-0)

#19 Michigan (3-0)

Maryland (3-0)

Rutgers (3-0)

Early tumblers (4 teams):

#9 Ohio State (2-1): lost to Oregon, 35-28 (Week 2)

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

Purdue (2-1): lost to Notre Dame, 27-13 (Week 3)

Minnesota (2-1): lost to Ohio State, 45-31 (Week 1)

Current bubble (3 teams):

Indiana (1-2): lost to Iowa, 34-6 (Week 1) and Cincinnati, 38-24 (Week 3)

Nebraska (2-2): lost to Illinois, 30-22 (Week 0) and Oklahoma, 23-16 (Week 3)

Northwestern (1-2): lost to Michigan State, 38-21 (Week 1) and Duke, 30-23 (Week 3)

Eliminated (1 team):

Illinois (1-3): eliminated with loss to Maryland, 20-17 (Week 3)


UTSA is now the only 3-0 team out of C-USA after Marshall’s loss to East Carolina and Charlotte’s loss to Georgia State. A matchup with a strong Memphis (3-0) squad this weekend should propel one of them into ranking considerations and could be a deciding factor for a New Years’ Six bid later on. Many teams suffered their second loss of the season, sending them to elimination status.

Still in the hunt (1 team):

UTSA (3-0)

Current bubble (6 teams):

Florida Atlantic (2-1): lost to Florida, 35-14 (Week 1)

Marshall (2-1): lost to East Carolina, 42-38 (Week 3)

Western Kentucky (1-1): lost to Army, 38-35 (Week 2)

UAB (2-1): lost to Georgia, 56-7 (Week 2)

Charlotte (2-1): lost to Georgia State, 20-9 (Week 3)

UTEP (2-1): lost to Boise State, 54-13 (Week 2)

Eliminated (7 teams):

FIU (1-2): eliminated with loss to Texas Tech, 54-21 (Week 3)

Louisiana Tech (1-2): eliminated with loss to SMU, 39-37 (Week 3)

Middle Tennessee (1-2): eliminated with loss to UTSA, 27-13 (Week 3)

North Texas (1-2): eliminated with loss to UAB, 40-6 (Week 3)

Old Dominion (1-2): eliminated with loss to Liberty, 45-17 (Week 3)

Southern Miss (1-2): eliminated with loss to Troy, 21-9 (Week 3)

Rice (0-3): eliminated with loss to Houston, 44-7 (Week 2)


BYU’s stock continues to rise after taking down a ranked Arizona State team. They’re now 3-0, all against the Pac-12. Notre Dame looked better against Purdue as they get Wisconsin and Cincinnati back-to-back. Liberty and Army also remained undefeated.

Still in the hunt (4 teams):

#15 BYU (3-0)

#12 Notre Dame (3-0)

Army (3-0)

Liberty (3-0)

Eliminated (3 teams):

UConn (0-4): eliminated with loss to Holy Cross, 38-28 (Week 2)

UMass (0-3): eliminated with loss to Boston College, 45-28 (Week 2)

New Mexico State (1-3): eliminated with loss to San Diego State, 28-10 (Week 1)


Western Michigan took down Pitt to spoil the Panther’s season, 44-41. Eastern Michigan’s lone loss is to Wisconsin. Those two Michigan teams are the only ones with one loss, as the MAC is establishing itself as the weakest of the Group of Five.

Current bubble (2 teams):

Western Michigan (2-1): lost to Michigan, 47-14 (Week 1)

Eastern Michigan (2-1): lost to Wisconsin, 34-7 (Week 2)

Eliminated (10 teams):

Ball State (1-2): eliminated with loss to Wyoming, 45-12 (Week 3)

Buffalo (1-2): eliminated with loss to Coastal Carolina, 28-25 (Week 3)

Central Michigan (1-2): eliminated with loss to LSU, 49-21 (Week 3)

Kent State (1-2): eliminated with loss to Iowa, 30-7 (Week 3)

Northern Illinois (1-2): eliminated with loss to Michigan, 63-10 (Week 3)

Toledo (1-2): eliminated with loss to Colorado State, 22-6 (Week 3)

Akron (1-2): eliminated with loss to Temple, 45-24 (Week 2)

Bowling Green (1-2): eliminated with loss to South Alabama, 22-19 (Week 2)

Miami (OH) (1-2): eliminated with loss to Minnesota, 31-26 (Week 2)

Ohio (0-3): eliminated with loss to Duquesne, 28-26 (Week 2)


Fresno State jumped into the rankings after beating UCLA, 40-37 and San Diego State is still undefeated after beating Utah in overtime, 33-31. Utah State (3-0) and Wyoming (3-0) are also undefeated after close wins this past weekend.

Still in the hunt (3 teams):

San Diego State (3-0)

Utah State (3-0)

Wyoming (3-0)

The current bubble (5 teams):

#22 Fresno State (3-1): lost to Oregon, 31-24 (Week 1)

New Mexico (2-1): lost to Texas A&M, 34-0 (Week 3)

Nevada (2-1): lost to Kansas State, 38-17 (Week 3)

San Jose State (2-1): lost to USC, 30-7 (Week 1)

Air Force (2-1): lost to Utah State, 49-45 (Week 3)

Eliminated (4 teams):

Boise State (1-2): eliminated with loss to Oklahoma State, 21-20 (Week 3)

Colorado State (1-2): eliminated with loss to Vanderbilt, 24-21 (Week 2)

Hawai’i (1-3): eliminated with loss to Oregon State, 45-27 (Week 2)

UNLV (0-3): eliminated with loss to Arizona State, 37-10 (Week 2)


UCLA’s loss to Fresno State and Arizona’s elimination at the hands of Northern Arizona highlighted a bad weekend for the Pac-12 South. Utah lost to San Diego State, Minnesota shut out Colorado 30-0, and BYU took down Arizona State to start the year 3-0 against the Pac-12.

Still in the hunt (1 team):

#3 Oregon (3-0)

Early tumblers (4 teams):

#24 UCLA (2-1): lost to Fresno State, 40-37 (Week 3)

Stanford (2-1): lost to Kansas State, 24-7 (Week 1)

Oregon State (2-1): lost to Purdue, 30-21 (Week 1)

USC (2-1): lost to Stanford, 42-28 (Week 2)

Current bubble (6 teams):

Arizona State (2-1): lost to BYU, 27-17 (Week 3)

Utah (1-2): lost to BYU, 26-17 (Week 2) and San Diego State, 33-31 (OT) (Week 3)

Colorado (1-2): lost to Texas A&M, 10-7 (Week 2) and Minnesota, 30-0 (Week 3)

California (1-2): lost to Nevada, 22-17 (Week 1) & TCU, 34-32 (Week 2)

Washington (1-2): lost to Montana, 13-7 (Week 1) & Michigan, 31-10 (Week 2)

Washington State (1-2): lost to Utah State, 26-23 (Week 1) and USC, 45-14 (Week 3)

Eliminated (1 team):

Arizona (0-3): eliminated with loss to Northern Arizona, 21-19 (Week 3)


The SEC West took a hit with Auburn’s loss at the Penn State whiteout game and Mississippi State’s faltering at Memphis. Still, the league is in good shape after a Florida-Alabama game that showed the Gators could compete with Georgia in the East.

Still in the hunt (6 teams):

#1 Alabama (3-0)

#2 Georgia (3-0)

#7 Texas A&M (2-0)

#13 Ole Miss (3-0)

#16 Arkansas (3-0)

Kentucky (3-0)

Early tumblers (7 teams):

#11 Florida (2-1): lost to Alabama, 31-29 (Week 3)

#23 Auburn (2-1): lost to Penn State, 28-20 (Week 3)

LSU (2-1): lost to UCLA, 38-27 (Week 1)

Tennessee (2-1): lost to Pitt, 41-34 (Week 2)

Mississippi State (2-1): lost to Memphis, 31-29 (Week 3)

South Carolina (2-1): lost to Georgia, 40-13 (Week 3)

Missouri (2-1): lost to Kentucky, 35-28 (Week 2)

Current bubble (1 team):

Vanderbilt (1-2): lost to East Tennessee State, 23-3 (Week 1) and Stanford, 41-23 (Week 3)


Coastal narrowly escaped Buffalo this past weekend, but Grayson McCall (13/19, 232 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT) continues to be one of the most accurate QBs in the country. South Alabama continued their undefeated campaign with a seven-point win over Alcorn State.

Still in the hunt (2 teams):

#17 Coastal Carolina (3-0)

South Alabama (3-0)

Current bubble (4 teams):

Appalachian State (2-1): lost to Miami, 25-23 (Week 2)

Troy (2-1): lost to Liberty, 21-13 (Week 2)

Louisiana (2-1): lost to Texas, 38-18 (Week 1)

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

Eliminated (4 teams):

Arkansas State (1-2): eliminated with loss to Washington, 52-3 (Week 3)

Georgia Southern (1-2): eliminated with loss to Arkansas, 45-10 (Week 3)

Texas State (1-2): eliminated with loss to Incarnate Word, 42-34 (Week 3)

Georgia State (1-2): eliminated with loss to UNC, 59-17 (Week 2)


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