After another wild weekend of college football, one that saw Ohio State get upset and Alabama destroy Texas A&M, it seems like the playoff picture is beginning to crystalize. Just one problem: College football’s playoff picture never ends up as clear as it seems. Heck, at this time last year Ohio State and LSU were No.’s 1 and 2 in the polls, and neither ended up in their conference title game, let alone the playoff.
Simply put, we know something is going to happen between now and the first weekend in December, we’re just not sure what yet. It also means that if your team has a loss, there’s no need to fear: They are, for the most part, still alive in the playoff race.
So who are the teams with one-loss and the best shot at making the College Football Playoff? Here’s our list.
Getty ImagesJennifer Stewart
Navy Midshipmen (6-1)
Navy is once again one of college football’s nice surprise stories, and a season after winning 11 games, is sitting at 5-1 overall, and in first place in the AAC West standings.
With that said, the likelihood of the Midshipmen making the playoff is next to non-existent, even if they win out here. The simple truth is that it would take utter chaos --- like, 3-4 Power 5 conference champions with at least two losses --- for Navy to even get a whiff of the playoff, and even then, it would remain unlikely they get in. It especially hurts the Midshipmen that their signature win against Houston isn’t quite as “signature” anymore, with the Cougars’ loss to SMU this weekend.
It’s also probably safe to throw other one-loss Group of Five teams like San Diego State (6-1) and Toledo (6-1) in this category as well.
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Florida Gators (5-1)
Ah yes, America’s forgotten, one-loss sweetheart, the Florida Gators. That’s right, after only playing one game in the last three weeks (thanks in part to a postponement of their game against LSU), the Gators are sitting at 5-1, and at least in theory in the playoff picture.
Of course, “being in the picture” and “having a shot to make it” are two completely separate things, and looking at Florida’s remaining road makes it seem virtually impossible they’ll finish with one loss. The Gators still have to play Georgia this weekend, at Arkansas, and now have to play against LSU in Baton Rogue (instead of in Gainesville) and at Florida State to close out the regular season. Even if they somehow survive that gauntlet, there is the SEC title game, likely against No. 1 Alabama.
So yeah, enjoy this little one-loss run, Gator fans. It isn’t likely to last long.
USA TODAY SportsKim Klement
Utah Utes (7-1)
Had you asked us a few weeks ago the likelihood that the Utes would finish the year undefeated, we wouldn’t have felt great. But all of a sudden this one feels a tiny bit more realistic.
With a manageable back-stretch of their schedule (at Arizona State, Oregon and at Colorado to close the year), what the Utes’ playoff hopes rest on is this: Can they beat No. 5 ranked Washington this weekend in Salt Lake City? And can they do it again in the Pac-12 championship game?
If they can, it seems like the Utes might just be headed for the Final Four.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY SportsJoe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Louisville Cardinals (6-1)
After Louisville absolutely demolished NC State 54-13 on Saturday, the conversation once again has been raised: Are the Cardinals the best team in the ACC? This writer thinks so, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. Louisville still needs a lot of help to get into the playoff.
With a loss to Clemson earlier in the season, it means that Dabo Swinney’s club holds a tie-breaker over Louisville, and the Cardinals would need Clemson to lose twice to get into the ACC title game. Since that seems unlikely, Louisville’s best bet is instead that Clemson loses this weekend to Florida State and again, in the ACC title game.
If that happened, would a one-loss Louisville (which wouldn’t be a conference champ), get the playoff nod over a weak ACC Coastal champ (likely Virginia Tech), or a two-loss team Clemson team beat the Cardinals head-to-head? All of college football would be curious to find out.
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Texas A&M Aggies (6-1)
I already made the case on Saturday that A&M could end up as college football’s most controversial team by the time the playoff is announced, and stand by it. If they do end up with one loss, it’s almost certain that it will have come to the No. 1 team in the country (Alabama), on the road, in a game in which they had a lead in the second half. If you are going to lose, that is a good way to do it.
At the same time --- assuming Alabama doesn’t absolutely implode --- A&M’s inclusion into the playoff would have to be as an at-large candidate, and to get there, they would likely need
three of the other four power conference champions (excluding the SEC) to finish with more than one-loss. Considering that the leaders in the Big 12, Pac-12 and Big Ten all have zero losses, that seems highly unlikely.
Texas A&M is a really good team. But it appears as though they’ll be on the outside looking in on the playoff.
If Ohio State wins out in the regular season, they will have beaten Michigan, and own the Big Ten East tiebreaker, meaning they will play in the conference championship game. If they win that (likely over either Wisconsin or Nebraska), you’re looking at an almost unparalleled overall resume, with wins over a likely Top 5 Michigan team, a Top 10 Wisconsin team, a Top 10 Nebraska team (who the Buckeyes play next weekend), and another win over one of those two clubs in the Big Ten title game. They also have an out of conference win over Oklahoma, which could very well end up as the Big 12 champ.
Point being, there’s no need to sweat Buckeyes’ fans. Your road to the playoff is clear: Win out and you’re in.