We remain over a month away from the end of college football’s regular season, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to take a look at who might find their way into the College Football Playoff field. Some candidates are obvious — Alabama, anyone? — while others may need to mount a late charge to make themselves strong contenders for the field.
The good news for everyone? With the amount of carnage that has happened toward the top of the rankings this season, one loss does not disqualify you from contention. There’s a whole host of talented one-loss teams that have a real chance of playing their way into the field.
Here is a look at the twelve teams most likely to make the College Football Playoff, from least to most likely.
12) Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Irish are at a perpetual disadvantage, lacking a conference or a title game to prove their championship mettle. They are, however, a prominent national brand, and their schedule is certainly tough enough to give them chances to make a few statements along the way. Notre Dame has four ranked teams left on their schedule — plus a fifth in Navy that could be ranked by the time they play each other. Their list of tough remaining opponents includes playoff contenders USC and Miami. Win out and the Irish might just leapfrog enough teams to make the top four, though they’ll have a lot of work to do to get there.
11) USC Trojans
The most difficult part of USC’s schedule will be behind them after they travel to Notre Dame this weekend. If they win that game, they’ll be favorites in every remaining game. Winning all four of their games after Notre Dame would be enough to get them a trip to the Pac-12 title game. Facing Stanford, Washington or Washington State in the conference championship would all be possibilities, but the bottom line is the same — win out and Sam Darnold’s Trojans stand a good chance of getting into the field, especially if they do it impressively.
10) Penn State Nittany Lions
The Nittany Lions have a minefield of a schedule left to navigate, but they currently sit unbeaten and second in the nation, so they obviously have a chance to make it happen. They’re also bolstered by a Heisman candidate at running back in Saquon Barkley, who is an incredibly difficult matchup for any defense in the country. They’ll have to win three straight games against ranked opponents, including trips to Ohio State and Michigan State, to make the CFP. Plus they’d have a likely Big Ten Championship battle with Wisconsin if they can get that far.
9) Clemson Tigers
Clemson looked like a heavy favorite to reach the Playoff until they shockingly lost to Syracuse last week, but that need not be the end of their CFP ambitions. If Clemson can win out — which would include victories at NC State and in the ACC Championship — they’ll likely make it as a one-loss team. Remember, these guys were beating up on everyone and getting first-place votes before the shocking loss. They’ll need quarterback Kelly Bryant to get healthy quickly, though, if they want to have the chance to defend their championship.
8) Washington Huskies
Washington looked to be in prime position to snap up a second consecutive playoff berth until they too were toppled by lowly Arizona State at the weekend. One loss does not rule anyone out at this point, however, and their situation is pretty much the same as USC’s — win your remaining games, including the Pac-12 title game, and you’re in. Their schedule is a little tougher than USC’s — they still have to face both of their ranked Pac-12 North foes in Stanford and Washington State — but the Huskies had been the better team before the Arizona State defeat.
7) Georgia Bulldogs
The SEC’s other unbeaten team has two routes into the Playoff — the most straightforward would be to run the table, beat Alabama in the SEC Championship, and enter the field potentially as the top-ranked team in the country. Their other hope? Run the table during the regular season, put up a good fight in a losing effort against the Crimson Tide, and hope the selection committee is impressed enough to pick two SEC teams. Depending on how everyone else does, the latter scenario may be a bit far-fetched. That’s why, despite how good they look right now, the Bulldogs are so low on this list. Taking down Alabama will be very difficult.
Kenny Hill has had a fascinating college football career. He took over for Johnny Manziel and pieced together a magical September as a freshman at Texas A&M, but since then he’s had some real struggles — both at A&M and at Texas Christian University, where Hill transferred after one season in Aggieland.
This season, however, he is off to a strong start. Saturday, the Horned Frogs stayed unbeaten — they’re the only undefeated team in the Big 12 through six weeks — with a tough, 31-24 win over West Virginia.
Hill displayed his versatility and scored three different ways in the showdown.
The College Football Playoff committee released its first set of rankings this week, and we are already hearing plenty of grumbling and groaning from fans of the Big 12. If the playoffs started today, we would have Clemson, LSU, Ohio State and Oklahoma playing for a national championship. Baylor is the closest Big 12 team at No. 6, with TCU two spots behind the Bears at No. 8.
According to Las Vegas oddsmakers, TCU and Heisman Trophy candidate Trevone Boykin are the most underrated team in the first CFB Playoff poll. R.J. Bell of Pregame.com says TCU would be a Vegas favorite over both No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 LSU if the Horned Frogs played either team right now. At the risk of irritating Big 12 fans even further, we should note that Baylor would currently be favored over Clemson as well.
On the flip side, the oddsmakers feel that No. 5 Notre Dame is the most overrated team, as Vegas only has the Irish ranked 12th.
What does all of this mean? At the moment, not a whole lot. The top 4 is guaranteed to change over the next several weeks. Ohio State still has to face Michigan State, which is currently No. 7 in the playoff rankings. LSU and Alabama square off Saturday night. The loser of that game will probably be immediately bumped out of the top 4.
As for the Big 12, the worst thing the best teams in the conference could do is beat up on each other over the next month. Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma are currently No.’s 6, 8, 14 and 15 in the CFB Playoff rankings, respectively. All of those teams have yet to face one another. If one of the three Big 12 teams without a loss — Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma State — runs the table, they should have a spot in the CFB Playoff. And you can bet the Big 12 commissioner will handle things differently this year than he did last.
There’s no need for Big 12 fans to panic at the moment. Ohio State, the eventual national champion, debuted at No. 16 in the first CFB Playoff poll last year. Things are going to change, but the Big 12 could shoot itself in the foot again if one team doesn’t dominate the rest down the stretch. We already had a team in the CFB Playoff last year that Las Vegas didn’t agree with. Don’t be surprised if it happens again.
Remember Kenny Hill? The Texas A&M sophomore was billed as the next Johnny Manziel after he threw for more than 500 yards and three touchdowns in a win over South Carolina to kick off the 2014 season. Now, the man they nicknamed “Kenny Trill” is reportedly leaving College Station.
According to ESPN’s Travis Haney, Hill has asked for his release from Texas A&M and is likely transferring to TCU. The Aggies are also expected to sign dual-threat quarterback Kyler Hill, one of the top prospects in the Class of 2015.
After throwing 11 touchdowns and no interceptions through the first three weeks of the season, Hill started to look mediocre. Nicknames like “Trill” and “Kenny Football” quickly wore off when the Aggies lost three straight games to SEC opponents, and Hill was replaced by freshman quarterback Kyle Allen in November.
Judging by the way this player reacted when he was asked about Manziel after Hill’s Texas A&M debut, it’s safe to say the Aggies never imagined Hill wouldn’t even be a part of their team in 2015.
TCU made an incredibly loud statement during the first half of the Peach Bowl on Wednesday, dominating Ole Miss in every phase of the game and storming out to a 28-0 lead. The game got so ugly that the Horned Frogs began relentlessly taunting the “Landshark” defense.
Those who have followed the Rebels ferocious defense throughout the season know that the unit refers to itself as the “Landshark D.” TCU threw the hand gesture in Ole Miss’ face early and often on Wednesday.
“I just feel like it’s the fact that we’re so tenacious,” Nkemdiche said. “We have so many people that run to the ball. All-out effort, pursuit, that’s what Landsharks do, man. We just go. It doesn’t matter. We’re at the point where we’re fighting for the tackle.”
As we all know, the original Ole Miss landshark is this guy.
The Rebels entered the Peach Bowl ranked first in the nation with just 13.8 point allowed per game. Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace, who threw an interception in his own end zone instead of giving up a safety, didn’t exactly put the Rebels’ defense in position to succeed.
Previously known for being a defensive team under Gary Patterson, this year’s Horned Frogs squad leads the nation at 50.4 points per game. Last year they averaged less than half that at 25.1 points per game, which explains why they ran out of fireworks after just seven games. Maybe they should get in touch with Gilbert Arenas to buy some more.
TCU melted down late in the fourth quarter and lost to Baylor 61-58 on Saturday.
Once up 58-37, the Horned Frogs allowed three straight touchdowns and then a field goal to blow the lead in what turned out to be the biggest comeback in Baylor school history.
They can thank the referees for an assist on the final drive.
After watching his defense allow three straight touchdowns, TCU coach Gary Patterson decided to go for it on 4th-and-3 at the Baylor 45 with just over a minute remaining. They threw a fade pass that fell incomplete, giving the Bears the ball.
Baylor got one first down and then had a 3rd-and-10 situation from the TCU 43 and it looked like the Horned Frogs had a real shot to stop them. But the Bears got a break when a referee called pass interference on Corry O’Meally that gave them 15 yards and a first down. Baylor was able to move up to the 11 to position themselves for the winning kick and converted.
It’s wild that TCU didn’t get a call on their 4th down but got penalized on their end. And it was for nothing, too:
TCU assistant athletic director Greg Featherston apologized Friday for his negative Facebook comments about Texas A&M’s plans to honor the 12 fans people who died in the 1999 bonfire tragedy.
Featherston shared a link to a story about A&M’s plans to leave 12 seats open in the renovated stadium to honor the 12 students who died in the infamous 1999 bonfire collapse. Featherston then quoted some negative commentary about the tragedy and said he agreed with it.
The commentary said in part:
“If the number of students that were victims of what amounted to drunken, negligent homicide on the part of that cow college didn’t match so perfectly with the cult’s favorite number, I doubt you would have seen anything like this done.”
“See, this way it’s a passive tragedy that “happened” rather than an active atrocity that was committed. This fits into the real aggy honor code of lying, cheating, and stealing.”
“It was not my intention to disrespect the fallen students or minimize the magnitude of the disaster,” Featherston concludes in his apology. “I sincerely apologize for the my lapse in judgment with regard to the re-post.”
The Star-Telegram also says TCU issued a statement distancing themselves from Featherston’s comments.
If that’s how the man feels, he should have just stood by his statement instead of apologizing. Maybe he was just trying to protect his job.