At least a dozen teams are still in the mix for a playoff spot and with Bama's schedule strength--regarded as the toughest in the country in the preseason--taking hits week by week and so many undefeated Power 5 teams, our résumé probably won't be enough to get us in if it doesn't include "SEC Champions".
Utah's loss to USC eliminated one threat, and head-to-head matchups will knock some contenders out, but here are the teams in the mix and how the rest of their season might go.
A lot of Bama fans feel like just winning out will punch a ticket to the final four, but that's no guarantee. There are three conference foes that could crash the party.
Let's start with the home team.
Nine of Alabama's opponents have spent at least one week in the AP Top 25, but only three are there today: #4 LSU, #19 Ole Miss and #25 Mississippi State. So the Tide is 0-1 against currently-ranked opponents. And that one loss is to a team that got blown out by Florida and lost to a Group of 5 team.
But Bama is the only team with more than two wins against the Sagarin Top 30. The Tide is 4-1 against those teams who are just outside the AP Top 25 and are poised to make a late-season run:
- Texas A&M (Sagarin #24) is #26 in the AP and could run off four wins in a row against South Carolina, Auburn, FCS Western Carolina and Vanderbilt before the season finale at LSU. That would be good for a 9-3 season and probably a Top 25 finish.
- Georgia (Sagarin #21) is #30 in the AP and faces a season-defining matchup against Florida this week. If they lose, it will be hard to claw back into the Top 25 with Kentucky, Auburn, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech on the schedule.
- Wisconsin (Sagarin #19) is #31 in the AP and has one of the easiest remaining schedules in the Power 5: Rutgers, Maryland, Northwestern and Minnesota. That should leave the Badgers at 10-2 and well inside the Top 25.
- Tennessee is #22 in the Sagarin ratings and #12 in ESPN's FPI, which projects the Volunteers have a 50.3% chance of winning out. (That's the third-highest Win Out Pct in the country.) They'll face Kentucky, South Carolina, North Texas, Missouri and Vanderbilt and could finish 8-4. They didn't receive any Top 25 votes in either poll this week, and it's tough to say if beating that motley crew would earn much respect from voters.
For the purposes of this post, I'll assume Alabama wins out because nothing else matters if they don't.
Alabama's biggest test is its next. #4 LSU comes to Tuscaloosa on November 7. A win there (59.5% chance according to FPI) would be enough to bump Bama a couple of spots, but undefeated P5 champs would still get the CFP nod ahead of the Tide.
And lest Bama fans look too far ahead, the Tide only has a 0.5% better chance of beating Mississippi State than LSU.
|November 7||#4 LSU||59.5%|
|November 14||at #25 Mississippi State||60.0%|
|November 21||Charleston Southern||99.4%|
|November 28||at Auburn||75.5%|
Win Out Pct: 18.2%
#4 LSU Tigers
LSU (7-0) is the most obvious roadblock Bama faces. Quarterback Brandon Harris has thrown 9 touchdowns and 0 interceptions on the season and presents just enough of a downfield threat to open up some space for Heisman candidate Leonard Fournette.
The Tigers will probably be the #1 seed if they win out, but ESPN's FPI ranks their remaining schedule the toughest in football and projects losses to Bama and Ole Miss.
|November 7||at #7 Alabama
|November 21||at #19 Ole Miss
|November 28||Texas A&M
Win Out Pct: 6.4%
#11 Florida Gators
Former Bama OC Jim McElwain is off to an incredible start in the Swamp. The Gators are 6-1 with a blowout win over Ole Miss and a 7-point loss at LSU. The SEC East is dreadful, but the Gators can get into the playoffs by winning out.
|November 14||at South Carolina
|November 21||Florida Atlantic
|November 28||#17 FSU||63.0%|
Win Out Pct: 10.0%
#19 Ole Miss Rebels
Ole Miss isn't in a position to take a playoff spot, but they can certainly keep the Tide from getting one.
Hugh Freeze and Company still control their own destiny in the SEC title race. Win out, and they're the SEC champs. And while the AP Poll might put Bama ahead of Ole Miss, I have a hard time believing that the Selection Committee, which puts a premium on conference championships, would select Bama, who lost to Ole Miss, over SEC Champion Ole Miss. If Ole Miss wins the conference, the SEC might not get a team in the playoff at all.
The Rebels' remaining schedule strength is ranked 4th by FPI, which doesn't project them as underdogs in any remaining regular season games.
|October 31||at Auburn
|November 21||#4 LSU
|November 28||at #25 Mississippi State
Win Out Pct: 10.0%
An Undefeated Big Ten Champ
The Big Ten still has three undefeated teams: Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa. If any one of them finishes the season undefeated, they'll get a spot in the playoffs.
Ohio State finally settled on J.T. Barrett as their QB and handed Rutgers a 42-point loss. FPI doesn't foresee any great challenges in their upcoming schedule, and the Buckeyes have the best chance of winning out among all of the teams contending for a playoff spot.
|November 14||at Illinois
|November 21||#6 Michigan State
||at #15 Michigan
Win Out Pct: 33.0%
The Spartans have sputtered through this season, struggling against inferior opponents. We thought that Week 2 win over Oregon was a big deal until Utah went duck hunting. Michigan State only beat Purdue by 3 and Rutgers by 7, and you know how that Michigan game ended. They have a chance to earn their ranking on November 21.
|November 7||at Nebraska
|November 21||at Ohio State
|November 28||Penn State
Win Out Pct: 5.5%
#10 Iowa Hawkeyes
Iowa's road to the Big Ten Championship is smooth as glass: Maryland, at Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue and at Nebraska. They beat Wisconsin 10-6, and being the undefeated champ with a win over either Ohio State or Michigan State, though not likely, would get them into the final four.
|November 7||at Indiana
|November 28||at Nebraska||51.3%|
||#1 Ohio State
Win Out Pct: 7.7%
An Undefeated Big 12 Champ
There are three undefeated teams in the Big 12, but the round-robin should straighten that situation out.
#2 Baylor Bears
Baylor is the Big 12 favorite, but their remaining schedule is the seventh-toughest in football and they recently lost their starting quarterback. Can a freshman lead them through this gauntlet?
|November 5 (Thursday)
||at Kansas State
|November 14||#14 Oklahoma
|November 21||at #12 Oklahoma State
|November 27 (Friday)
||at #5 TCU
Win Out Pct: 19.3%
TCU simply hasn't looked the part of a Top 5 team this season. They started with a 6-point win over Minnesota, only beat Texas Tech by 3 and only beat Kansas State by 7--the same K-State team that lost to Oklahoma 55-0. Voters thought their dismantling of Texas was a sign that the Frogs were for real, but I'm skeptical. So is ESPN's FPI.
|November 7||at #12 Oklahoma State
|November 21||at #14 Oklahoma
|November 27 (Friday)
Win Out Pct: 17.0%**
*TCU's Win % against Baylor jumped from 49.8% to 54.5% after their Week 9 win over West Virginia.
**TCU's Win Out Pct was calculated after their Week 9 win over West Virginia.
The Pokes are undefeated, sure, and that's tough. But their best win was probably in overtime against unranked West Virginia or 30-27 over Texas. The other teams they've beaten are Central Michigan, FCS Central Arkansas, Texas-San Antonio, K-State, and Kansas.
Their remaining schedule, however, is rated sixth-toughest and they have just a 1.7% chance of winning out. The only thing in the Cowboys' favor is that they host their three ranked opponents.
||at Texas Tech
|November 7||#5 TCU
|November 14||at Iowa State
|November 21||#2 Baylor
|November 27 (Friday)
Win Out Pct: 1.7%
An Undefeated ACC Champ
There's only one candidate who can fill this role:
Dabo's Tigers jumped three spots in the latest AP Poll after throttling Miami, but their rain-soaked 2-point win over Notre Dame is their only Top 25 win. They can add to that by beating Florida State.
Their most likely ACC Championship Game opponent is North Carolina. The Heels are #27 in the AP but look to jump into the Top 25 after beating Pitt last night. They face #22 Duke next week and will probably be a Top 25 team on December 5.
|October 31||at NC State
|November 7||#17 Florida State
|November 14||at Syracuse
|November 21||Wake Forest
|November 28||at South Carolina
Win Out Pct: 32.8%
A 1-Loss Pac-12 Champ
Stanford's Week 1 16-6 loss to Northwestern was ugly, but the Cardinal could be Pac-12 champs and on a 12-game win streak when the Selection Committee releases its final poll.
A win over Notre Dame in the final week of the regular season followed by a win in the Pac-12 Championship Game over an 11-1 Top-10 Utah would probably bump Stanford over Bama if the Tide is idle on Championship Saturday.
|October 31||at Washington State
|November 7||at Colorado
|November 28||#9 Notre Dame
Win Out Pct: 15.5%
Notre Dame's only loss is an easily forgivable 24-22 loss at now-#3 Clemson in a Biblical downpour, but I don't know if their remaining games--including a trip to #8 Stanford--are enough to bump the Irish into the Top 4.
|October 31||at #21 Temple
|November 7||at #23 Pitt
|November 14||Wake Forest
|November 21||Boston College
|November 28||at #8 Stanford
Win Out Pct: 21.0%
UndefeatedAthletic Conference Champ
Look, there would have to be complete and utter chaos for a Group of 5 team to sniff the playoffs, but it's a possibility.
#16 Memphis Tigers
The Tigers are 7-0 with a win over Ole Miss--who could still win the SEC--and they still have two undefeated Top-25 teams on their schedule. If they finish undefeated with wins over Ole Miss and the team that beat Notre Dame (Temple), they would have a legitimate case to make the playoffs.
|November 14||at #18 Houston
|November 21||at #21 Temple
Win Out Pct: 9.5%
#21 Temple Owls
Temple's good for the first time in a generation or more. They opened the season with a shocking win over Penn State and have rolled over subpar opponents ever since. They're 7-0 for the first time in program history.
They host Notre Dame this weekend. A win would propel them into a very interesting discussion.
|October 31||#9 Notre Dame
|November 6 (Friday)
|November 14||at USF
|November 21||#16 Memphis
Win Out Pct: 2.4%
#18 Houston Cougars
I'm including Houston here because, like Memphis and Temple, they're undefeated in the AAC. But unlike the others, Houston doesn't have a chance to score a big win against a Top-25 Power 5 team.
They beat Louisville (who hasn't?) and get Vandy this week. Maybe if Temple beats Notre Dame and the Cougars beat Memphis and Temple in the AAC Championship game to score transitive wins over Ole Miss, Bama and Notre Dame?
|November 14||#16 Memphis
|November 21||at UConn
|November 27 (Friday)
Win Out Pct: 14.6%
Playoff Contenders' Remaining Games
Projected Final Rankings
If things play out the way ESPN's FPI thinks they will, here's how the final CFP rankings* will look:
- Ohio State (undefeated Big Ten champ)
- Baylor (undefeated Big 12 champ)
- Clemson (undefeated ACC champ)
- Florida (1-loss SEC champ)
- Stanford (1-loss Pac-12 champ)
- Alabama (11-1 but did not play in SEC Championship game)
*I think there's a very good possibility that Alabama is in the AP and Coaches Top 4 but not in the College Football Playoff Selection Committee Top 4.