These Eight Teams Have a Chance to Make the College Football Playoff

    After West Virginia's 45-41 loss at Oklahoma State in Week 12, there are eight teams that still have a chance of making the College Football Playoff,

    November 18, 2018

    After West Virginia’s 45-41 loss at Oklahoma State in Week 12, there are eight teams that still have a chance of making the College Football Playoff, barring a nearly unthinkable situation where there’s at least three power conference champions that have at least two losses.

    Here are the eight teams and how each team can make the College Football Playoff.


    • Nov. 24 vs. Auburn
    • SEC Championship: Dec. 1 vs. Georgia

    This should come as no surprise given that the defending national champion Crimson Tide appears not just dominant but so far hasn’t allowed an opponent to even get a whiff of an upset, outside of the first half against The Citadel in Week 12. Alabama will host Auburn in the Iron Bowl in Week 13, then it’s the SEC Championship Game against Georgia.

    If Alabama wins out, it’ll get the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff. There’s even a potential scenario where the Crimson Tide could lose a competitive game to Georgia and still make the playoff if the selection committee determines Alabama is more worthy than the next-highest ranked one-loss team.


    • Nov. 24 vs. South Carolina
    • ACC Championship: Dec. 1 vs. Pitt

    This season and in the College Football Playoff era, Clemson is the 1a to Alabama’s 1. The number of teams that can play with, let alone potentially beat, Alabama starts (and potentially ends) with Clemson. Like the Crimson Tide, the Tigers have a dominant defensive front and a game-changing quarterback of their own.

    Clemson hasn’t been tested since its 27-23 win against Syracuse in late September, when recently promoted starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence was knocked out of the game in the first half. Assuming the Tigers continue their six-game streak of holding their opponents to 16 points or less, their next test may not come until the playoff.

    Notre Dame

    • Nov. 24 at USC

    The Fighting Irish could be the first team to clinch their spot in the College Football Playoff, even if it won’t be official until after the conference championship games, when the playoff selection committee announces a final top four. But an undefeated Notre Dame team that’s currently ranked No. 3 won’t fall out of the playoff field if it wins at USC in Week 13.

    Notre Dame has had a single-digit ranking next to its name in the CFP era but it has never finished the job. That could change this year and the Fighting Irish represent the ultimate wild card in the playoff conversation because their inclusion guarantees (at least) two Power Five conferences won’t be represented. A playoff appearance would give Notre Dame potentially its second national championship game appearance in seven seasons.


    • Nov. 24 at Ohio State
    • *Big Ten Championship: Dec. 1 vs. Northwestern

    *If it wins at Ohio State

    Michigan is arguably the college football program who’s national status in the sport would benefit the most from the playoff appearance. The Wolverines have one of the biggest and most passionate fan bases, a high-profile head coach and a storied past, but all too frequently in the last decade they haven’t been the best Big Ten team in their own division, let alone their state. That could all change if Michigan can win at Ohio State, then beat Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship.

    If the Wolverines finish at 12-1, they would have beaten five teams that were ranked in the top 25 at the time of their matchup and their 24-17 loss at Notre Dame in Week 1 would arguably be the “best” loss of any playoff contender. The most concerning potential situation for Michigan is if Georgia were to beat Alabama in a close game in the SEC Championship and the playoff selection committee were to put a team that lost its conference championship game into the playoff for the first time ever.


    • Nov. 24 vs. Georgia Tech
    • SEC Championship: Dec. 1 vs. Alabama

    While Georgia is currently ranked outside of the top four, the Bulldogs have the biggest remaining opportunity of any team in the country: playing No. 1 Alabama for the SEC Championship. If Georgia wins its next two games, it’ll make the playoff for the second year in a row. Having already suffered one loss at LSU, there’s no room for error.


    • Nov. 23 at West Virginia
    • *Big 12 Championship: Dec. 1 vs. TBD

    *If Oklahoma wins at West Virginia

    Despite its top-10 ranking, 10-1 record and first-place standing in the Big 12, Oklahoma hasn’t yet locked up a spot in the conference championship game. That requires a win in Morgantown, West Virginia, where the Mountaineers can also clinch a spot in the Big 12 Championship with a win. It’ll be a shootout between two of the nation’s best quarterbacks and it’s arguably the most important Big 12 game to date.

    If Oklahoma wins in Week 13, the “TBD” listed above is likely to be Texas, which is the only team that’s beaten the Sooners this season. Like the last time the Longhorns and Sooners met, the Big 12 Championship would be at a neutral site and a win there could potentially propel Oklahoma into the playoff.

    The potential issue for the Sooners is that there are currently two teams with the same record ranked ahead of them (Michigan and Georgia) and both schools have the chance to play an opponent before the end of the year who will be ranked higher than the Mountaineers and Longhorns. It would benefit Oklahoma if Michigan and Georgia both lost another game.

    Washington State

    • Nov. 23 vs. Washington
    • *Pac-12 Championship: Nov. 30 vs. Utah

    *If Washington State beats Washington

    Washington State’s biggest game of the year is at home in Week 13 against in-state rival Washington. A win allows the Cougars to clinch the Pac-12 North and play for the conference title.

    However, even if Washington State wins out and beats a pair of ranked teams in the process (Utah being the other), it would still need help across the country – most likely in the form of a two-loss Big 12 champion, Northwestern beating Michigan/Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship and Alabama beating Georgia in the SEC Championship – to reach the playoff. As long as the Cougars keep winning, their playoff hopes are still alive but they don’t control their own destiny because of their loss at unranked USC and their lack of wins against teams that the committee has ranked in the top 25.

    Ohio State

    • Nov. 24 vs. Michigan
    • *Big Ten Championship: Dec. 1 vs. Northwestern

    *If Ohio State beats Michigan

    Despite its 49-20 loss at Purdue and a string of unconvincing wins, most recently a 52-51 victory in overtime at Maryland, Ohio State is still in the playoff conversation. If the Buckeyes beat Michigan, they’ll clinch the Big Ten East and play Northwestern for the Big Ten Championship.

    The loss to the Boilermakers will continue to weigh down Ohio State, but a 12-1 Buckeyes team that hypothetically wins the Big Ten and owns wins over Michigan, Penn State, Northwestern and Michigan State would still be in the playoff picture. Like Washington State, Ohio State could still use some help to make the playoff, even with Michigan out of the playoff picture. The Buckeyes have the worst loss among the one-loss power conference teams but there’s a potential path to the No. 4 seed if they beat Michigan, Alabama beats Georgia, Washington beats Washington State, and West Virginia beats Oklahoma.


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