College Football Playoff: After Week Six, Who Are the Contenders?
We are six full weeks into the college football season. The hierarchy is shaking out. There are 130-ish FBS teams, and only about 14 have a chance at being in the College Football Playoff.
Of course, there is still plenty of football left to play. Shenanigans are bound to happen between now and December 1st. So who are these teams that play their way in? Let’s break it down by conference.
CONTENDERS FOR COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF
The Clemson Tigers have had a couple of close calls this year. However, they remain unbeaten and should stay that way. They have a massive game with NC State in two weeks. After that, it should be smooth sailing for Dabo Swinney and company until the ACC Championship Game. I am presuming that Miami will be waiting for them.
NC State (5-0)
The Wolfpack are a surprising 5-0 and find themselves, temporary contenders. A hurricane cancellation against West Virginia would have been a nice game to see. We will have to settle for their showdown with Clemson. If the Pack upsets Clemson, we will re-visit them. Until then, I believe they can be ruled out.
Ohio State (6-0)
The Buckeyes had some issues with TCU and Penn State but ultimately won the game. Their offense has been dynamic each week. Ohio State may not face another test until they play Michigan State on 11/10. After that is the Michigan game and the B1G Championship, likely against Wisconsin.
The Notre Dame loss on opening weekend isn’t looking so bad now. Michigan has won their next five. Of course, the Wolverine still have to play at Michigan State, Penn State, and Ohio State. If the Wolverines win all three and defeat Wisconsin, then they have a chance. Lose once, and it’s better luck next year.
Penn State (4-1)
The Nittany Lions are in worse shape than Michigan. They need Ohio State to lose twice in conference play (unlikely) for them to get a shot at the Big Ten title. However, they do play Wisconsin in the regular season, along with Michigan State and Michigan. Trace McSorley and company need a lot of help.
West Virginia (5-0)
The Mountaineers have gotten to 5-0 with little in the way of resistance. I really would have loved to see the game with NC State. West Virginia plays at Iowa State this week, and that could get a bit tricky. If they come out of Ames unscathed, then the schedule doesn’t get tough until November. In four consecutive weeks, West Virginia must play at Texas, TCU, at Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma. Win all four, and you are playing one of them again on December 1st in the Big 12 title game. The Mountaineers will not get the benefit of the doubt with a single loss. However, if they run the table, they no doubt belong in the College Football Playoff.
Barring complete carnage, I do not see a scenario where Texas or Oklahoma get into the playoff.
The Huskies have a huge hill to climb. As the weeks go by, the loss to Auburn gets worse. They also aren’t putting up those “style points” each week. Washington needs to win out and hope for some help. I just don’t think they get through without another loss. U-Dub plays at Oregon this week, Colorado, Stanford, and their annual tilt with Washington State.
The Buffaloes get on this list for a minimum of two weeks. The teams they have played in 2018 have combined to win six games. Colorado plays at Southern Cal and at Washington in their next two games. Win both, and maybe I start to believe.
Alabama hasn’t played a Murderer’s Row schedule to date, but they have sure been murdering the opposition. The Crimson Tide offense, led by Tua Tagovailoa, is averaging 56 points-per-game. The defense has had a few hiccups but whatever. The schedule gets a bit more daunting in November. The Tide will play at LSU, Mississippi State, and Auburn. I fully expect them to play Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. A loss there and they still won’t be eliminated.
The Bulldogs have taken their foot off of the gas the last couple of weeks. They will need to firmly re-apply it soon. Georgia plays at LSU this week and then Florida on the 27th. Georgia should be unbeaten going into Atlanta. A loss there to Alabama would also not eliminate them.
Florida (5-1) & LSU (5-1)
Both of these teams get lumped in here because they need to run the table completely to make it. If either does, there would be no disputing their resumes to make the playoffs. However, the prospects of that are highly unlikely.
Notre Dame (6-0)
The Irish find themselves unbeaten. With wins over Michigan and Stanford, Notre Dame has set themselves up for a run at the College Football Playoff. Only their 11/24 game at Southern Cal sticks out as a potential roadblock. However, not being in a conference could backfire. Teams like Georgia, Ohio State, West Virginia, and others will get that extra chance to pad the resume.
The Golden Knights sit at 5-0, averaging 51 PPG, and ranked 10th in the polls. They lost another Power-5 game this year against North Carolina. The knock on UCF’s chances will be the schedule. The only marquee win will be over Pitt, who is currently 2-3 and will have to fight to make a bowl game.
Helping the Knights cause are that South Florida and Cincinnati are also both unbeaten. UCF will play them both in November. UCF needs them to stay unbeaten and get a whole lot of help. I mean like multiple two-loss conference champion type of assistance. Is it possible? Sure. Is it likely? Probably not.
SO WHO IS IN THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF TODAY?
If it were up to me, based on what I think will happen the rest of the way, the field would look like this:
(1) Alabama versus (4) Notre Dame
(3) Clemson versus (2) Ohio State
Who do you think will play in this year’s College Football Playoff?
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