Ranking the 12 teams most likely to make the College Football Playoff
6) Wisconsin Badgers
There are better teams than Wisconsin on this list with worse odds of making the Playoff, but the one thing they have that many of their potential rivals don’t is an extremely straightforward route to the field. Playing in the inferior Big Ten West, the only huge challenge on the Badgers’ remaining regular season schedule is a home game against Michigan. Even if they lose it, they’re probably in the Big Ten Championship game. If they come in having lost a game but win the conference title, they’ll be on shaky ground, but still in with a chance. Now if they run the table and win the conference title game, then they’re definitely in the field. They’ll probably be underdogs against whomever they face in the Big Ten title game, though — Ohio State, Penn State, and maybe even Michigan are all better on paper.
5) Oklahoma Sooners
The Sooners have a tough route to a potential playoff berth, but if they can beat Oklahoma State and TCU, their resume would look amazing. Those two wins, plus their early season road win at Ohio State, could give them the best resume in terms of quality wins in the country, which is why they’re up so high. Of course, they’re done if they lose another game, and there will be several chances for them to slip up. Keep in mind that this year will be the first Big 12 Championship of the playoff era, which will be a chance to make one last statement — or potentially blow it.
4) Miami Hurricanes
Dramatic wins over FSU and Georgia Tech have preserved Miami’s unbeaten status, and they can really start to dream of what they can accomplish now. Their toughest remaining regular season games are both at home — Virginia Tech and Notre Dame will both make trips to Miami before the season is out. They also have a real chance of entering the ACC Championship, likely against NC State or Clemson, without a loss on their resume. It’s hard to say what would come from that. Would a one-loss Miami team be able to make the field? Either way, they’re in excellent position, and unlike some other contenders, their destiny is entirely within their hands.
3) TCU Horned Frogs
One of the country’s most impressive teams, the Horned Frogs will have a fantastic chance of getting themselves into the playoff field if they can win at Oklahoma on Nov. 11. A Big 12 title game would still loom, but that would give them road wins at both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. And while nothing is certain, the rest of their schedule is straightforward enough that they’d stand a good chance of being unbeaten going into the conference championship. Like Miami, it’s too early to say whether they could survive a loss there and still get in, but also like Miami, it’s in their hands at this point.
2) Ohio State Buckeyes
Since an early-season defeat at home against Oklahoma, the Buckeyes have stabilized and looked like one of the country’s best teams. They’ll be given the opportunity to prove it now; they’ll face Penn State at home on Oct. 28, then Michigan State two weeks later. The trip to Michigan looms large, as it always does, but the way they’ve been playing, the Buckeyes are entirely capable of winning all three games. If they do, they’ll likely enter the Big Ten title game as favorites, and a win there would put them back in the Playoff field for the third time in four seasons. Urban Meyer’s team has the talent and experience to get it done.
1) Alabama Crimson Tide
At this point, it would probably be more surprising than anything else if the Crimson Tide managed to miss the field. Even one loss probably wouldn’t keep them out, though a lot depends on the timing and nature of such a loss. It might not matter. Alabama will be favored in every game they play from this point forward, and while the team does have to navigate the Iron Bowl at Auburn, their only real test looks to be an SEC Championship date, likely with Georgia. It’s hard to see Nick Saban’s team slipping up at any point before they enter the Playoff at this point.