We are now six weeks into the college football season, and we finally have some shakeup at the top of the playoff power ranking.
Four more teams were effectively eliminated from playoff contention, with Kentucky, Oklahoma State, Auburn, and Stanford all suffering losses that they won’t be able to overcome. Meanwhile, Notre Dame is now in a position to be one of the four teams still standing at the end of the season.
We have learned a few things over the years about how the committee picks the final four, and we have some idea of what teams need to do to make the playoff. Below, we ranked the 17 teams that still have a legit shot to make the playoff.
17. North Carolina State
Record (AP Rank): 5-0 (20)
Last week’s result: Beat Boston College, 28-23
Last week’s playoff rank: unranked
Key games remaining: The Wolfpack have Clemson on the road in two weeks.
One thing to know: We’re not ready to include Colorado because the Pac-12 is a mess. Meanwhile, NC State caught a break with the cancelation of the West Virginia game. They will get a shot to prove their legitimacy against Clemson in 2 weeks.
Record (AP Rank): 5-1 (13)
Last week’s result: Lost to Florida, 27-19
Last week’s playoff rank: 7
Key games remaining: They have to play Georgia and Alabama, although both are at home. They also have Texas A&M on the road.
One thing to know: LSU couldn’t afford a loss to Florida. Now their path back to the playoff picture might require them to beat Alabama once and Georgia twice. Good luck with that.
Record (AP Rank): 4-1 (15)
Last week’s result: Beat Nebraska, 41-24
Last week’s playoff rank: 17
Key games remaining: Wisconsin still has games on the road against Michigan, Northwestern, and Penn State.
One thing to know: Even if Wisconsin runs the table and wins the B1G title game, that still might not be enough with all the undefeated and 1-loss teams ahead of them.
Record (AP Rank): 5-1 (14)
Last week’s result: Beat LSU, 27-19
Last week’s playoff rank: unranked
Key games remaining: Florida’s only ranked remaining opponent is Georgia at a neutral site. They do have to go on the road to face Florida State.
One thing to know: If Florida goes out and beats Georgia, the playoff buzz will grow. But that’s a big “if.”
Record (AP Rank): 5-0 (10)
Last week’s result: Beat SMU, 48-20
Last week’s playoff rank: 14
Key games remaining: UCF has Cincinnati and USF the final two weeks of the season.
One thing to know: The AP voters keep quietly pushing UCF up the poll. There are undefeated Power-5 teams ranked lower than UCF. But will the playoff committee give them the same respect?
Record (AP Rank): 5-1 (16)
Last week’s result: Beat Florida State, 28-27
Last week’s playoff rank: 10
Key games remaining: Duke at home and Virginia Tech on the road are the key games. More importantly, four of their last six games are on the road.
One thing to know: Miami is an interesting case-study. Usually, it is OK to lose one early in the season, and yet the AP voters won’t forgive the Hurricanes for the loss against LSU. That game was one bad half of football and a decent half nobody saw. Meanwhile, a team like Washington is still in the top 7 despite losing to 2-loss Auburn. It will be interesting to see if the playoff committee is more forgiving.
Record (AP Rank): 5-1 (11)
Last week’s result: Lost to Texas, 48-45
Last week’s playoff rank: 5
Key games remaining: OU has TCU, Texas Tech, and West Virginia on the road and Oklahoma State at home.
One thing to know: There is now a 3-way race to win the Big 12 between OU, Texas, and West Virginia, and a case can be made for all three. Of course, at this point, the Big 12 is far from a lock to even get a team into the playoff.
Record (AP Rank): 5-1 (9)
Last week’s result: Beat Oklahoma, 48-45
Last week’s playoff rank: 15
Key games remaining: A home game against West Virginia, and road games against Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.
One thing to know: Texas announced they are back with a strong offensive performance against the Sooners. Right now, they have the edge over OU in the playoff race because of that win and because they have shown steady improvement since their rain-delay loss to Maryland to open the season.
9. West Virginia
Record (AP Rank): 5-0 (6)
Last week’s result: Beat Kansas, 38-22
Last week’s playoff rank: 12
Key games remaining: The Mountaineers’ final four games are TCU and Oklahoma at home and Oklahoma State and Texas on the road.
One thing to know: West Virginia gets the edge over OU and Texas as the top Big 12 hope simply because they are still undefeated. But if Will Grier keeps taking as many risky chances as he has been, that won’t last long against good teams.
8. Penn State
Record (AP Rank): 4-1 (8)
Last week’s result: Did not play
Last week’s playoff rank: 11
Key games remaining: Penn State is in the middle of a 6-game stretch that started with a loss to Ohio State and includes Michigan State, Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
One thing to know: Penn State could end up being this year’s top playoff contender that only has one loss but didn’t make their own conference title game. They will need some help ahead of them and may not be able to play their way into the playoff.
Record (AP Rank): 5-1 (12)
Last week’s result: Beat Maryland, 42-21
Last week’s playoff rank: 9
Key games remaining: Michigan started the season on the road against Notre Dame and ends it on the road against Ohio State. In between, they have a three-game stretch starting this week against Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Penn State.
One thing to know: Michigan is another team that has curiously not been forgiven yet by AP voters for an early loss to a good team. If we are going to prop up Notre Dame, Michigan deserves to be propped up a little as well.
Record (AP Rank): 5-1 (7)
Last week’s result: Beat UCLA, 31-24
Last week’s playoff rank: 8
Key games remaining: U-Dub’s next four games are Oregon, Colorado, Cal, and Stanford.
One thing to know: Washington’s resume is not as strong as Michigan’s but their path to the playoff is a lot easier.
Record (AP Rank): 6-0 (4)
Last week’s result: Beat Wake Forest, 63-3
Last week’s playoff rank: 3
Key games remaining: Clemson’s next two games are North Carolina State at home and FSU on the road.
One thing to know: There is a clear divide between the top five teams and the next group. Unfortunately for Clemson, they are the odd-team out at this point. Their rout of Wake Forest notwithstanding, the Tigers haven’t looked quite as impressive as the other four, but it is close.
4. Notre Dame
Record (AP Rank): 6-0 (5)
Last week’s result: Beat Virginia Tech, 45-23
Last week’s playoff rank: 6
Key games remaining: Games against Florida State (at home) and USC (on the road) look less worrisome now and a schedule that seemed brutal to start the year now looks beatable.
One thing to know: Notre Dame’s path to the playoff looks easier than Clemson’s at this point and this ranking is about who has the best shot to be in the final four. While the Irish don’t have a conference title game to worry about, there is no guarantee the committee will give Clemson any bonus points for beating Miami in the ACC championship game.
3. Ohio State
Record (AP Rank): 6-0 (3)
Last week’s result: Beat Indiana, 49-26
Last week’s playoff rank: 4
Key games remaining: Just one game left against a ranked team, Michigan at home. They also have Michigan State on the road.
One thing to know: At this point, the Big Ten and SEC feel like the only conferences that are locks to get a team (or teams) into the playoff (although, that changes if we consider Notre Dame a pseudo-member of the ACC).
Record (AP Rank): 6-0 (2)
Last week’s result: Beat Vanderbilt, 41-13
Last week’s playoff rank: 2
Key games remaining: Georgia’s next four games are all against ranked teams, including LSU, Florida, Kentucky, and Auburn. Only the Auburn game is at home.
One thing to know: The SEC East turned out to be better than anybody realised and Georgia’s path to the SEC title game is no longer an easy one.
Record (AP Rank): 6-0 (1)
Last week’s result: Beat Arkansas, 65-31
Last week’s playoff rank: 1
Key games remaining: Bama has three games remaining against teams currently in the Top 25. Auburn and Mississippi State is at home and LSU on the road.
One thing to know: Alabama is such a heavy favourite to win the championship that they are favoured against the field, 2/1.
Now check out what happened to all the recent Heisman winners.
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