The Path to The College Football Playoff Comes into Focus

Written By: Brett Korpi


After the College Football Playoff selection committee released the third set of rankings on Tuesday night, it became apparent (barring significant upsets) what teams have a chance at being in the Top 4 of the final rankings in three weeks. Eight of the top 10 teams in this week’s ranking are the teams that have a map that will lead them to the College Football Playoff semifinals. Below is a breakdown of how each of those seven teams can get there.

No. 1 Alabama (10-0, 7-0 SEC)

The Crimson Tide slide into the top spot after Georgia fell to Auburn this past weekend. Their simple path is clear, if Alabama wins out and wins the SEC Championship they are in. However, there is a path that could see them in the semifinals with a loss. Should the Tide lose to Auburn in the Iron Bowl and Georgia beats the Tigers in a rematch for the SEC Championship I see a scenario where two one-loss SEC teams get in. If Oklahoma and Wisconsin all lose in their conference title games leaving the PAC 12, Big 12 and B1G all with two loss champions I see the Tide getting into the semifinals.

No. 2 Clemson (9-1, 7-1 ACC) and No. 3 Miami (9-0, 6-0)

There can be an argument here that Miami should be ahead of Clemson. However, that quarrel is all for not as these two teams will settle that debate in the ACC title game. The obvious scenario for each team is to win, and they are in. If Clemson loses along the way they are likely out of consideration with two losses. Miami on the other hand still has a chance to be in the final top 4 with a loss to Clemson in the ACC title game. Like Alabama, if Oklahoma and Wisconsin lose and the ‘Canes are defeated in a close battle by Clemson there is a realistic chance we see two ACC teams in the CFP.

No. 4 Oklahoma (9-1, 6-1 Big 12)

The Sooners have an argument that they should be ranked ahead of Clemson as they boast three wins over teams ranked in this week’s top 13. That is a fair argument. They have a chance to boost their resume a little more with a Big 12 title. As long as the Sooners win out, they will be in. It is just a matter of where they will be ranked.

No. 5 Wisconsin (10-0, 7-0 B1G)

A lot has been made of Wisconsin’s resume or lack of one. The truth is it doesn’t matter. If the Badgers stay undefeated they are in. The committee keeps giving Wisconsin opportunities. This week’s opponent, Michigan, hopped back into the Top 25 and a victory over a ranked team in the B1G Championship will give them a strong enough resume to get in over the loser of the ACC title game and/or a one-loss Alabama team. However, if they are to lose it will be harder to argue that they belong due to their weak strength-of-schedule.

No.6 Auburn (8-2, 6-1 SEC)

If the Tigers beat Alabama and then Georgia for the second time to win the SEC Championship history will be made. Auburn will be the first two-loss team to compete in the CFP. The Tigers have a chance no other multiple loss team has ever had. A loss in any game will put their hope to bed though, as they have no margin for error.

No. 7 Georgia (9-1, 6-1 SEC)

The Bulldogs not only got embarrassed by Auburn but saw their best victory take a hit with Notre Dame suffering the same fate. Georgia still has a shot though as it controls the SEC East and will be in the conference title game. If they beat Alabama or avenge their loss to Auburn, the Bulldogs will comfortably slide back into the Top 4.

No. 9 Ohio State (8-2, 6-1 B1G)

Many wrote Ohio State off when they got embarrassed in Iowa. However, if the Buckeyes can avoid another loss and defeat Wisconsin in the B1G championship and Alabama, Miami and Oklahoma all win their conferences the Buckeyes will find themselves as the first two loss team in the CFP.

The rest of the teams in the Top 25 need to hope that everyone ahead of them loses some multiple times. But, who knows as Week 11 showed us anything can happen and maybe we see a team outside of these eight there in the end.

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