College Football Playoff Eliminator: Week 9

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF ELIMINATOR – WEEK 9

The College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings have been released, giving us a clearer picture of where each team’s resume stands with the committee. From two-loss teams still in contention for conference championships and opportunities for Group of Five teams to make a move, this season has proven to be one of the most delicate yet; however, there are still wide-open possibilities of the CFP consisting of teams that have all been there before in Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State, and Oklahoma.

Let’s run through the CFP Eliminator criteria before breaking down the national landscape:

  1. Three-loss Power Five teams: A two-loss Power Five team that finds itself playing for a conference championship can also be playing for a CFP spot. See Auburn, whose only losses are to Penn State on the road and #1 Georgia. Beating Georgia in a rematch could be convincing enough for them to slide back in.
  1. Two-loss Group of Five teams: One-loss is enough to eliminate a Group of Five team from playoff contention. However, we will keep around the teams that can still finish the season undefeated or as a one-loss conference champion – which could be enough to get them into a New Years’ Six (NY6) bowl.
  1. Strength of schedule issues: This should come as no surprise, but teams with a harder schedule will get rewarded over teams with weaker ones. Even with Cincinnati sitting at 8-0, a one-loss Ohio State team that still has to play Michigan State and Michigan can get the nod over the Bearcats.

CONTROLLING THEIR OWN DESTINY (5 TEAMS)

#1 Georgia (8-0)

It’s Georgia’s world and the rest of college football is just living in it. The Bulldogs have been stellar this year and the defense has only allowed 30 points over the last five games (6.0 points per game). It doesn’t matter who is starting at QB because Stetson Bennett (1,157 yards, 12 TD / 4 INT) and JT Daniels are both capable of winning. Georgia should be favored to win out, with Tennessee being their toughest remaining opponent. Even a loss in the SEC Championship might not drop them from the top four.

#2 Alabama (7-1): lost to Texas A&M, 41-38 (Week 6)

The Crimson Tide still lead the SEC West with LSU, Arkansas, and Auburn still to go in conference play. QB Bryce Young (2,453 yards, 26 TD (2 rush) / 3 INT) is well within the Heisman conversation. The only Alabama loss came on a last-second field goal against Texas A&M, so there is no reason to believe that if the Tide win out they won’t secure a spot.

#3 Michigan State (8-0)

RB Kenneth Walker III (1,194 yards, 15 total TD) has been on fire this year. Scoring five touchdowns against Michigan, Walker has secured his current spot in the Heisman conversation. Games against Ohio State and Penn State to close out the year will be the biggest tests.

#4 Oregon (7-1): lost to Stanford, 31-24 (OT) (Week 5)

The remaining schedule for Oregon is Washington, Washington State, Utah, and Oregon State. The Pac-12 is on the outside looking in for a CFP spot, but the Ducks’ win at Ohio State can carry a lot of clout into the conversation. QB Anthony Brown (1,797 yards, 10 TD (6 rush) / 3 INT) has been good so far, but the wins need to be more impressive if Oregon wants to keep up with Ohio State’s strength of schedule.

#5 Ohio State (7-1): lost to Oregon, 35-28 (Week 6)

Ohio State’s offense has stars all over the field. WRs Garret Wilson (687 yards, 6TD) and Chris Olave (562 yards, 9 TD) can break away from defensive backs, while RB Treveyon Henderson (845 yards, 15 total TD) and QB CJ Stroud (2,270 yards, 23 TD / 3 INT) have been a force in the backfield. Although they have looked shaky at times, this is a team that can still win the Big Ten and find themselves in the CFP.

WILL NEED SOME HELP IF THEY WIN OUT (6 TEAMS)

#6 Cincinnati (8-0)

Cincinnati is undefeated again heading into the November slate of American Athletic Conference games. QB Desmond Ridder (1,847 yards, 18 TD (1 rush) / 4 INT) and RB Jerome Ford (864 yards, 16 total TD) lead a Bearcats offense that has been stifled in recent weeks. College GameDay comes to town on Saturday against Tulsa with one-loss SMU and a potential conference championship game against one-loss Houston to close the season.

#8 Oklahoma (9-0)

Oklahoma has scraped by opponents all season but took care of Texas Tech in dominant fashion, 52-21. With Baylor, Iowa State, and Oklahoma State being the last three remaining games, this is a Sooners team that will have the strength of schedule and Power Five resume to get in the CFP if they run the table. A loss, even if that loss is avenged in the conference championship game, could certainly remove them from contention.

#9 Wake Forest (8-0)

An 8-0 start for Heisman hopeful QB Sam Hartman (2,475 yards, 22 TD (6 rush) / 3 INT) has Wake Forest in control of the ACC. Weaker than usual, this conference could be left out even if the Demon Deacons manage to run the table. The strength of schedule just isn’t there.

#7 Michigan (7-1): lost to Michigan State, 37-33 (Week 9)

Michigan doesn’t control their conference destiny, but the Wolverines and Michigan State still have to play Penn State and Ohio State in the Big Ten East. The Wolverines have relied heavily on the run game this season (239.9 yards per game) and even without a Big Ten championship game appearance, can still hypothetically slide in if they only have one loss (see Ohio State in 2016 and Alabama in 2017).

#11 Oklahoma State (7-1): lost to Iowa State, 24-21 (Week 8)

Oklahoma State started the year with one-possession wins over FCS Missouri State, Tulsa, and Boise State. They’re not super explosive on offense, but their defense has kept teams in check (18.0 points per game). Outside of the season finale against Oklahoma, there isn’t much that this schedule has to offer. Regardless, there are still opportunities for this team to have a chance.

#12 Baylor (7-1): lost to Oklahoma State, 24-14 (Week 5)

Baylor’s only loss is to Oklahoma State. Much like the Cowboys, the conference matchup against Oklahoma is the only true test remaining. The wins over Iowa State, Texas, and BYU certainly help, but the Bears will still need some chaos in front of them to make a case.

CHAOS WOULD HAVE TO OCCUR (4 TEAMS)

#10 Notre Dame (7-1): lost to Cincinnati, 24-13 (Week 5)

The Irish have been a mystery all season long and lost the all-important matchup with Cincinnati, 24-13. Their remaining schedule consists of Navy, Virginia, Georgia Tech, and Stanford – all of whom have the ability to take down a team without an identity. If Notre Dame can win out, they would still need a Cincinnati falter and additional chaos to reach another CFP.

(Not Ranked) SMU (7-1): lost to Houston, 44-37 (Week 9)

SMU’s loss to Houston was a major setback for the Mustangs, but an overall positive for the American as they now have two ranked teams for Cincinnati’s playoff chances. If SMU and QB Tanner Mordecai (2,625 yards, 32 TD (2 rush) / 8 INT) can beat Memphis, UCF, Cincinnati, and Tulsa, then they can meet Houston again for the conference championship in what should be a highly-ranked matchup.

(NR) Houston (7-1): lost to Texas Tech, 38-21 (Week 1)

Houston’s only loss came in Week 1 to Texas Tech, but it has been all Cougars since. The offense has put up 40+ points in five of eight games this year and has the opportunity to play Cincinnati in the conference championship game if all things go according to plan. Winning out would mean they get the NY6 bid.

(NR) UTSA (8-0)

The UTSA offense has come alive as of late and the Roadrunners are sitting at 8-0. With four games remaining, only UTEP (6-2) and UAB (5-3) will be opponents with winning records. The C-USA East representative in a conference championship game will be coming in with 3+ losses, making their schedule weaker than most. Regardless, a double-digit win season is within reach.

WOULD NEED TO BE A TWO-LOSS CONFERENCE CHAMP (7 TEAMS)

#13 Auburn (6-2): lost to Penn State, 28-20 (Week 3) & Georgia, 34-10 (Week 6)

This is the best two-loss team in the country heading into the final stretch of the season. After taking down Ole Miss, Auburn has the chance to prove themselves against Texas A&M this week and Alabama at the close of the year. Win those games and a rematch with Georgia for the SEC title, and we are back in business for the Tigers to be considered for a CFP spot.

#14 Texas A&M (6-2): lost to Arkansas, 20-10 (Week 4) & Mississippi State, 26-22 (Week 5)

A&M is holding onto their win over Alabama, but two SEC losses keeps them behind in the standings for now. With Auburn and Ole Miss the next two weeks, and Auburn hosting Alabama at the end of the year, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for the Aggies to make the SEC Championship game with a chance to face the number one team in the country.

#16 Ole Miss (6-2): lost to Alabama, 42-21 (Week 5) & Auburn, 31-20 (Week 9)

It’ll take a lot for the Rebels to find their way back in the CFP conversation. With QB Matt Coral (2,202 yards, 15 TD (10 rush) / 2 INT) and numerous other offensive players injured, Ole Miss can be on upset alert when they host Liberty on Saturday. They will need Auburn and Alabama to both find a fluke loss going into the Iron Bowl to have a shot at the SEC West.

#20 Minnesota (6-2): lost to Ohio State, 45-31 (Week 1) & Bowling Green, 14-10 (Week 4)

Don’t look now, but the Golden Gophers are atop the Big Ten West race. If they manage to run the table and potentially beat Ohio State in the conference championship game (avenging their week one loss), there would still need to be a lot of chaos for them to get in. A one-loss Michigan State would even be considered for the Big Ten’s potential spot. Either way, we can’t eliminate Minnesota just yet.

#19 NC State (6-2): lost to Mississippi State, 24-10 (Week 2) & Miami, 31-30 (Week 8)

NC State has a close loss to Miami and lost to a bottom-tier SEC team. They have undefeated Wake Forest in two weeks in a game that should decide the Atlantic Division barring any further chaos.

#25 Pittsburgh (6-2): lost to Western Michigan, 44-41 (Week 3) & Miami, 38-34 (Week 9)

Pitt’s loss to Miami was a massive blow to their resume as they already had a home drop to Western Michigan. QB Kenny Pickett (2,755 yards, 26 TD (2 rush) / 3 INT) is still in the Heisman conversation, but this team will need to play better against UNC and Virginia down the stretch.

#22 Iowa (6-2): lost to Purdue, 24-7 (Week 7) & Wisconsin, 27-7 (Week 9)

Iowa is one of those teams that has struggled to get going following a 6-0 start. Their offense has scored two touchdowns in two straight losses in Big Ten West play, putting them behind to even reach the conference championship game.

ELIMINATED G5 & INDEPENDENTS WITH AN OUTSIDE SHOT AT A NY6 (5 TEAMS)

#15 BYU (7-2): lost to Boise State, 26-17 (Week 6) & Baylor, 38-24 (Week 7)

BYU should be favored in their last three games (Idaho State, Georgia Southern, USC) thanks to the ground game of RB Tyler Allgeier (1,132 yards, 16 TD). This is a BYU squad that took down Utah, Arizona State, and Virginia – three teams still in the thick of their conference championship hopes.

(NR) Liberty (7-2): lost to Syracuse, 24-21 (Week 4) & Louisiana-Monroe, 31-28 (Week 7)

Liberty has beaten nobody of note this year, but their final stretch consists of Ole Miss, Louisiana, and Army. Winning out and some chaos in the American could get them in a NY6 bowl, but a lot would have to happen still.

(NR) Louisiana (7-1): lost to Texas, 38-18 (Week 1)

The Ragin’ Cajuns dismantled Appalachian State in mid-October; that is by far their best win of the year. With Liberty still on the schedule and the possibility of facing App State or Coastal Caroline for the Sun Belt title, this is a team that can make a case for themselves in the NY6 bidding.

#24 San Diego State (7-1): lost to Fresno State, 30-20.

The Aztecs only loss came at home to Fresno State, a team that is 7-2 with their only losses being by three points to Hawai’i and seven points to Oregon. Due to that loss, SDSU no longer controls their conference destiny.

(NR) Coastal Carolina (7-1): lost to App State, 30-27 (Week 8)

The Chanticleers and TE Isaiah Likely (609 yards, 8 TD) were the darlings of the 2020 pandemic season. Now, they’ll need Appalachian State to drop one of their four remaining Sun Belt contests in order to get to the conference championship game.

HONORABLE MENTION – TEAMS HAVING GOOD SEASONS

Air Force (6-2), Appalachian State (6-2), Fresno State (7-2), Kentucky (6-2), Northern Illinois (6-2), Utah State (6-2), UTEP (6-2)

THE ELIMINATED

WEEK 9 (7 TEAMS)

Arizona State: eliminated with loss to Washington State, 34-21 (Week 9)

Iowa State: eliminated with loss to West Virginia (Week 9)

Kentucky: eliminated with Georgia clinching the SEC East (Week 9)

Oregon State: eliminated with loss to California, 39-25 (Week 9)

Penn State: eliminated with loss to Ohio State, 33-24 (Week 9)

UTEP: eliminated with loss to Florida Atlantic, 28-25 (Week 9)

Virginia: eliminated with loss to BYU, 66-49 (Week 9)

WEEK 8 (10 TEAMS)

Air Force: eliminated with loss to San Diego State, 20-14 (Week 8)

Army: eliminated with loss to Wake Forest, 70-56 (Week 8)

Boston College: eliminated with loss to Louisville, 28-14 (Week 8)

Clemson: eliminated with loss to Pitt, 27-7 (Week 8)

Maryland: eliminated with loss to Minnesota, 34-16 (Week 8)

Nevada: eliminated with loss to Fresno State, 34-31 (Week 8)

Purdue: eliminated with loss to Wisconsin, 30-13 (Week 8)

Texas Tech: eliminated with loss to Kansas State, 25-24 (Week 8)

UCLA: eliminated with loss to Oregon, 34-3 (Week 8)

Utah: eliminated with loss to Oregon State, 42-34 (Week 8)

WEEK 7 (10 TEAMS)

Appalachian State: eliminated with loss to Louisiana, 41-13 (Week 7)

Arkansas: eliminated with loss to Auburn, 38-23 (Week 7)

Florida: eliminated with loss to LSU, 49-42 (Week 7)

Kansas State: eliminated with loss to Iowa State, 33-20 (Week 7)

Mississippi State: eliminated with loss to Alabama, 49-9 (Week 7)

TCU: eliminated with loss to Oklahoma, 52-31 (Week 7)

Tennessee: eliminated with loss to Ole Miss, 31-26 (Week 7)

Texas: eliminated with loss to Oklahoma State, 32-24 (Week 7)

Virginia Tech: eliminated with loss to Pitt, 28-7 (Week 7)

Wyoming: eliminated with loss to Fresno State, 17-0 (Week 7)

WEEK 6 (11 TEAMS)

Duke: eliminated with loss to Georgia Tech, 31-27 (Week 6)

Louisville: eliminated with loss to Virginia, 34-33 (Week 6)

LSU: eliminated with loss to Kentucky, 42-21 (Week 6)

Rutgers: eliminated with loss to Michigan State, 31-13 (Week 6)

South Alabama: eliminated with loss to Texas State, 33-31 (OT) (Week 6)

South Carolina: eliminated with loss to Tennessee, 45-20 (Week 6)

Stanford: eliminated with loss to Arizona State, 28-10 (Week 6)

Syracuse: eliminated with loss to Wake Forest, 40-37 (OT) (Week 6)

UNC: eliminated with loss to Florida State, 35-25 (Week 6)

USC: eliminated with loss to Utah, 42-26 (Week 6)

Western Michigan: eliminated with loss to Ball State, 45-20 (Week 6)

WEEK 5 (16 TEAMS)

Charlotte: eliminated with loss to Illinois, 24-14 (Week 5)

Eastern Michigan: eliminated with loss to Northern Illinois (Week 5)

Fresno State: eliminated with loss to Hawai’i, 27-24 (Week 5)

Georgia Tech: eliminated with loss to Pitt, 52-21 (Week 5)

Indiana: eliminated with loss to Penn State, 24-0 (Week 5)

Louisiana-Monroe: eliminated with loss to Coastal Carolina, 59-6 (Week 5)

Memphis: eliminated with loss to Temple, 34-31 (Week 5)

Miami: eliminated with loss to Virginia, 30-28 (Week 5)

Missouri: eliminated with loss to Tennessee, 62-24 (Week 5)

Northwestern: eliminated with loss to Nebraska, 56-7 (Week 5)

UAB: eliminated with loss to Liberty, 36-12 (Week 5)

UCF: eliminated with loss to Navy, 34-30 (Week 5)

Utah State: eliminated with loss to BYU, 34-20 (Week 5)

Washington: eliminated with loss to Oregon State, 27-24 (Week 5)

West Virginia: eliminated with loss to Texas Tech, 23-20 (Week 5)

Wisconsin: eliminated with loss to Michigan, 38-17 (Week 5)

WEEK 4 (12 TEAMS)

California: eliminated with loss to Washington, 31-24 (OT) (Week 4)

Colorado: eliminated with loss to Arizona State, 35-13 (Week 4)

Florida Atlantic: eliminated with loss to Air Force, 31-7 (Week 4)

Kansas: eliminated with loss to Duke, 52-33 (Week 4)

Marshall: Eliminated with loss to Appalachian State, 31-30 (Week 4)

Nebraska: eliminated with loss to Michigan State, 23-20 (Week 4)

New Mexico: eliminated with loss to UTEP, 20-13 (Week 4)

San Jose State: eliminated with loss to Western Michigan (Week 4)

Troy: eliminated with loss to Louisiana-Monroe, 29-16 (Week 4)

Vanderbilt: eliminated with loss to Georgia, 62-0 (Week 4)

Washington State: eliminated with loss to Utah, 24-13 (Week 4)

Western Kentucky: eliminated with loss to Indiana, 33-31 (Week 4)

WEEK 3 (21 TEAMS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEEK 2 (15 TEAMS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEEK 1 (1 TEAM)

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

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