After seven weeks, the college football playoff picture is starting to become clearer. A few weeks ago, pretenders like Georgia (5-2), Ole Miss (5-2), Northwestern (5-2), UCLA (4-2), and USC (3-3) all looked like contenders, while teams like Iowa (7-0) and Florida (6-1) were not even in consideration for contender status. Only ten Power5 teams remain undefeated, and all but two of those teams (Utah, LSU) face another currently undefeated team before the playoffs.
#1 Ohio State and #7 Michigan State remain undefeated in the East Division. The Buckeyes and Spartans meet on November 21st, and both could realistically enter the game a perfect 11-0. If the Buckeyes win, they must still face a dangerous Michigan squad in the regular season finale, while Sparty closes with a Penn State team that looks like a paper lion despite a 5-2 record. In the West Division, #12 Iowa is the lone undefeated team and the Hawkeyes have already faced their toughest regular season challenges.
With a high-powered offense (albeit currently running on six cylinders) and a defense full of stars (but sometimes full of holes), Ohio State looks like it's in the best position to finish the regular season without a loss. However, after the Agony in Ann Arbor Michigan State is beginning to look a team of destiny, and quarterback Connor Cook provides the leadership of a fifth-year senior with a 29-3 record as a starter. Iowa closes its season against five teams with a combined record of 2-13 in Big Ten action, but does anyone really think that this Cinderella will survive even that soft a schedule?
Bottom Line: A Big Ten team with a perfect 13-0 record and an outright conference championship gets into the playoffs regardless of what anybody else does. A 12-1 Ohio State or Michigan State team still has an outside shot for a playoff berth, based largely on recent performance and reputation.
The Big XII also has three currently undefeated teams. #2 Baylor and #4 TCU face off on November 28th, with a perfect season and a playoff spot likely on the line. The Bears have pounded a weak schedule, while the Horned Frogs have squeaked by a weak schedule, so the smart money looks to be leaning Baylor's way.
The frontrunners also face #14 Oklahoma State, the lowest-ranked among the P5 unbeatens, and #17 Oklahoma, one of the higher-ranked one-loss teams. Of course, the Sooners and the Cowboys face off in the final week in the Bedlam rivalry game. Both of the Oklahoma squads look to be spoilers at this point, but either one of them could get into the playoff hunt by winning out (and it will take nothing less than that to get in).
Bottom line: The lack of a conference championship game hurts all of the Big XII contenders, but Baylor or TCU or Oklahoma State will definitely get in with a perfect record. A one-loss Oklahoma garners some consideration because the Sooners' massive reputation still overshadows their dwindling performance. One-loss Baylor and TCU got left out last season - will this season be any different?
#5 Louisiana State is the only unbeaten team in the SEC, but the Bayou Bengals must still face #8 Alabama, #15 Texas A+M, #24 Ole Miss, and rival Arkansas. And if they successfully run that gantlet, then the Tigers get the SEC East winner in the conference title game. LSU is one dimensional on offense, but that dimension is running back Leonard Fournette, who is currently leading the FBS with over 200 yards a game rushing.
The team most likely to knock off LSU is #8 Alabama, the highest-ranked one-loss team. If the Crimson Tide can pull off that mild upset, then they will not face another ranked team until the SEC championship game (and maybe not even then).
#13 Florida is the class of the SEC East, but that's not saying much as the Gators are the only ranked team in the division. Florida has rivalry games next week (unranked Georgia) and to end the regular season (#9 Florida State) and three cupcakes in between.
Bottom line: An undefeated (LSU) or one-loss (LSU, Alabama, Florida) SEC conference champion gets into the playoffs, no questions asked. But a two-loss team? Very unlikely. The other contenders would have to have meltdowns of epic proportions to allow that to happen.
#9 Florida State is 33-1 over the past two-and-a-half seasons, with a national championship in 2013 and a playoff appearance in 2014. This year the Seminoles have cruised through a Charmin soft schedule to post a 6-0 record, and very little challenge remains going forward. The biggest test will come November 7th when the Noles travel to face unbeaten #6 Clemson. The Tigers have already have one quality win in the books (a two-point squeaker over #11 Notre Dame), and a victory over FSU could ensure a perfect season as their other five opponents are unranked. The Florida State-Clemson winner will likely face a much weaker team in the conference championship game.
Bottom line: The ACC is clearly the weakest of the Power5 conferences, and their conference champion will probably have to be undefeated in order to earn serious playoff consideration. There's even a possibility that an undefeated conference champ gets left out of the mix in certain scenarios (for example, Ohio State, Baylor, and Utah all finish with perfect records, and a perfect LSU or a one-loss Alabama wins the SEC).
Once regarded as the toughest conference, the PAC 12 has been reduced to a bunch of has beens and never wases. Only #3 Utah remains undefeated, and as of today none of the Utes' future opponents is ranked. However, USC, UCLA, and Arizona are quality competition, and each of them could pull off the upset.
Bottom line: If Utah wins out, they're in. If not, they're probably out unless there is massive turmoil in the other conferences. #10 Stanford could also find a way in of they win out (#11 Notre Dame remains) and then beat a quality opponent (an undefeated #3 Utah, for example) in the conference title game.
Right now, #3 Utah (CCG), #6 Clemson (#9 FSU, CCG), #7 Michigan State (#1 Ohio State, CCG), #8 Alabama (#5 LSU, CCG), and #12 Iowa (CCG) have the easiest paths to the playoffs.
#1 Ohio State has had a soft schedule to date, but finishes with #7 Michigan State, #15 Michigan to end the regular season in a rivalry game, and then the CCG.
#9 Florida State faces nearly identical challenges, with #6 Clemson and #13 Florida in a season-ending rivalry game, and then the CCG.
#5 LSU has been a trendy pick playoff recently, but the Tigers still have to face #8 Alabama, #15 Texas A+M, #24 Ole Miss, rival Arkansas, and then the CCG. A very tough row to hoe, indeed.
It's still too early to call the race among #2 Baylor, #4 TCU, #14 Oklahoma State, and #17 Oklahoma, as they all have to play each other and there's no conference championship game to sort out the mess. This one may go down to the final weekend, and they all might be left on the sidelines with a loss or two on their records.
#10 Stanford, #11 Notre Dame, and #13 Florida all remain long shots, with Florida having the best chance to boost its resume` (#9 Florida State, CCG against #5 LSU or #8 Bama). Stanford and Notre Dame square off at the end of the regular season, which will help to sort things out.
The four undefeated G5 schools - #18 Memphis, #19 Toledo, #21 Houston, and #22 Temple - will obviously have to finish with a perfect record and then hope for a lot of outside help, and I mean A LOT. The big boys get ripped for scheduling these kind of schools in non-conference games, so does any of them really belong in the playoffs?
Follow us on Twitter @buckeyeplanet and @bp_recruiting, like us on Facebook! Enjoy a post or article, recommend it to others! BP is only as strong as its community, and we only promote by word of mouth, so share away!Dismiss Notice
Consider registering! Fewer and higher quality ads, no emails you don't want, access to all the forums, download game torrents, private messages, polls, Sportsbook, etc. Even if you just want to lurk, there are a lot of good reasons to register!Dismiss Notice