Here’s a look at 12 teams most likely to contend for a spot in the college football playoffs and their chances of making the final four cut. Plus, a couple random thoughts about Week 8 in college football…
THE FINAL FOUR
SO FAR: Even though the SEC is unusually mediocre this season, Alabama is the best team in the country because they beat the teams they’re supposed to and by a margin that reflects their dominance.
WHAT”S LEFT: vs. LSU, at Auburn, SEC title game
OUTLOOK: Normally, one loss would still guarantee Alabama a spot in the playoffs. But with a weak SEC this season, that prospect isn’t so certain. That being said, the Crimson Tide are the one undefeated team who can afford to lose one game and still make the playoffs.
PENN STATE, 7-0
SO FAR: Running back Saquon Barkley has Penn State in line for a playoff spot en route to becoming the Heisman Trophy front-runner.
WHAT’S LEFT: at Ohio State
OUTLOOK: A loss to Ohio State this week and they have to hope the Buckeyes lose twice more in the conference to stay alive for a playoff spot. They win out, however, and they are in
SO FAR: The reason TCU is in the college football playoff conversation is because they do something the rest of the Big 12 conference doesn’t do–play defense.
WHAT’S LEFT: The Horned Frogs have the toughest remaining schedule of the current undefeated teams: at Iowa State, at Oklahoma, the Big 12 title game.
OUTLOOK; Win out and they’re in. Lose and they need lots of help.
SO FAR: The biggest surprise of the college football season, the Bulldogs have the most impressive non-conference road win of the year at Notre Dame.
WHAT’S LEFT: vs. Florida, at Auburn, SEC title game
OUTLOOK; They can afford one loss and remain in contention for one of the four spots.
FIRST FOUR OUT
MIAMI, FLORIDA, 6-0
SO FAR: This year’s cardiac kids, the Hurricanes have twice saved their season (Florida State and Georgia Tech) in the last-minute of the game.
WHAT’S LEFT: vs. Notre Dame, ACC title game
OUTLOOK: They win out and they’re in if a team in front of them stumbles. You get the feeling, though, their late game luck will eventually run out.
OHIO STATE, 6-1
SO FAR: The loss to Oklahoma is not a killer and if their offense continues to play at the level it has since then, the Buckeyes will return to the college football playoffs.
WHAT’S LEFT: vs. Penn State, at Michigan, Big 10 title game
OUTLOOK: They are the lone team with one loss that will make the playoffs if they win out, regardless of what any current undefeated team does. Another loss and they’re done.
NOTRE DAME, 6-1
SO FAR: For undoubtedly the first time in school history, the Irish are flying under the college football radar. Their only loss was at home to Georgia and their dismantling of USC last week makes them a serious contender.
WHAT’S LEFT: vs. North Carolina State, at Miami, at Stanford
OUTLOOK: They are the one team currently with one loss that benefits from not playing a conference championship thanks to their remaining schedule. Win their remaining games and they can watch the carnage unfold on Championship Saturday.
SO FAR: Their loss to Syracuse doesn’t eliminate them but they no longer control their own destiny. The road to defending their title is full of potholes and needed detours by more than one team.
WHAT’S LEFT: at North Carolina State, ACC title game
OUTLOOK: They must win out and hope they defeat an undefeated Miami in the ACC championship game to have any chance at the playoffs. Even then, it might not be enough.
THE NEXT FOUR OUT
OKLAHOMA STATE, 6-1
SO EAR: The loss to TCU doesn’t look so bad now and if they beat the Horned Frogs in a rematch in the Big 12 championship game, they probably punch their ticket to the playoffs. But before then…
WHAT’S LEFT: at West Virginia, vs. Oklahoma, at Iowa State, Big 12 title game.
OUTLOOK: The Cowboys have a brutal remaining schedule so if they win out, which is a must, they deserve a spot in the playoffs.
SO FAR; The Sooners are the college football version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. At times they look like the best team in the country. Fifteen minutes later, they look like they couldn’t beat Kansas.
WHAT’S LEFT: at Oklahoma State, vs. TCU, Big 12 title game
OUTLOOK: They need to win and hope Ohio State does the same to have any shot at the playoffs.
SO FAR: Without question, the Badgers are the weakest remaining undefeated team. To make matters worse, they have no games left on their schedule where they can make a statement that they belong in the playoffs.
WHAT’S LEFT: Big 10 title game
OUTLOOK: They need to run the table to have any chance. If they do, they at least have a seat at the table when discussing who should be in the playoffs.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE, 6-1
SO FAR: Of all the teams with one loss, the Wolfpack sustained the most damaging one, a defeat to South Carolina. It’s a loss the selection committee may not be able to ignore.
WHAT’S LEFT: at Notre Dame, vs. Clemson, ACC title game
OUTLOOK: Currently, they are the biggest longshot to make the playoffs. They have to win out and hope for lots of help.
Some random thoughts…
- Remember when Jim Harbaugh was hired at Michigan to save the Wolverines from the depths of hell created by former head coach Brady Hoke? In his first 33 games as Michigan’s head coach, Harbaugh’s record is 25-8. In Hoke’s first 33 games at Michigan, his record was 25-8. Good thing the folks in Ann Arbor got rid of that scourge, Brady Hoke.
- College football games lasting more than four hours are common place and it’s completely unnecessary. The game should take no longer than a little more than three hours and the reason they don’t is the sport’s instant replay system. Every replay request in college football is initiated by an official in the booth and they have the authority to stop the action so they can review any ruling by the officials on the field, something they seemingly do after every down. College football needs to adopt the NFL’s replay procedures where the head coach has a limited number of replay requests while the replay official only initiates a review of all scoring plays, turnovers and any plays in the final two minutes of each half and overtime. The NFL’s replay system doesn’t measurably slow down the game and rarely are any of their non-overtime games longer than three and half hours in duration, a game time college football needs immediately.