With just three weeks left until conference championship weekend, we are at the point of knowing who the serious contenders are for a spot in the four team playoff, and the paths for each to get there. LSU, Ohio State, and Clemson are ranked 1-3 and all control their own destinies. Win and they are in.
At number 4 we have Georgia, who is a one loss team, but still controls their own destiny. Their only path is winning out, including beating LSU in the SEC Title game. This is the path that is the most likely scenario to get two teams from the “vaunted” SEC into the CFP. With their resume, LSU could absolutely survive losing to a one loss Georgia team.
At five we have Alabama. The Tide are coming off of a 46-41 loss to top ranked LSU in Tuscaloosa that snapped their 31 game home winning streak. It has also put a serious damper on their playoff hopes. Bama has made the four team playoff every year since its inception, but this season they are badly in need of help.
It isn’t looking like it is going to play out the way it did in 2017. That season Alabama was only competing with a 2 loss B1G champ Ohio State for that final spot. Had Wisconsin won the B1G that season, Bama is out. The Tide might be fifth now, but they aren’t likely to stay there. Not with one loss teams Oregon and Utah sitting at six and seven respectively. If one of them wins out, they will eventually jump Alabama.
The Utes and the Ducks are on a collision course to meet in the Pac 12 Championship. If neither lose before then, the Crimson Tide’s run of 5 straight playoff appearances will end. The winner of that game is getting in, regardless of who it is. It is hard to imagine a CFP that doesn’t include Nick Saban, but heading into Week 12 it is starting to look like that could very well be the case. The only one loss conference champ that Bama would get in over is Oklahoma.
Bama has been the gold standard of the sport during the Nick Saban era. They have won so much that they have become something similar to the evil empire. The average college football fan is tired of seeing the Crimson Tide, with most hoping we finally do get a playoff free of Saban and Company.
At number seven we have Minnesota, another team that controls their own destiny. They are underdogs on the road this weekend as they get set to take on Iowa. If they can get by the Hawkeyes, they will still need to get through Wisconsin and Ohio State, and getting through that stretch unscathed will be tough, and the Gophers have no margin for error this late in the season.
Penn State dropped to nine this week after their loss in Minnesota. Believe it or not, they still control their own destiny. This week they host a pesky Indiana team who has quietly gone 7-2 to this point. After that they get Ohio State in Columbus, where their faint playoff hopes die for good. That is, if the Hoosiers do not ruin them first.
At number thirteen we have Baylor, who dropped a spot after their close call at TCU last weekend. This week they host Oklahoma and we will get a chance once and for all to see what this Baylor team is made of. They have been barely hanging on to their unbeaten status with close wins over Texas Tech, West Virginia, Iowa State, and Rice. They have been playing with fire all season, and this is their chance to prove themselves against a top ten team.
Heading into the final stretch, those are the only teams left with a realistic shot at getting in. After the weekend is over, the list will only get smaller.