The past two weeks of college football madness has ruined many dreams and gave other teams much promise as the season enters the last few weeks of the season. We have seen teams like LSU make a statement against Alabama and others like Minnesota watch their dreams of an undefeated season be spoiled by Iowa. The new playoff rankings will be released Tuesday night at 7pm ET/ 6pm CT and it will all be irrelevant for the teams outside the Top 15. Which teams have all but booked their ticket to New Orleans and what teams need some help to get there?
Tier 1: Win and You Are In
LSU: This team has the strongest resume in college football and still could pick up a quality win against Texas A&M to end the season. Add this resume to a potential SEC Championship win will make this team a prohibitive favorite going into the playoffs.
Ohio State: Another impressive team with an impressive resume. The Buckeyes still have a chance to pick up quality wins over Penn State and Michigan, along with whoever ends up winning the BIG-10 West. This team has talent on both sides of the ball and will be hard to beat in the playoffs.
Clemson: This team should be in its own tier honestly and that tier should be called “Locked In” because this team is not going to lose. A game against South Carolina (Who lost to Appalachian State) awaits the Tigers. The ACC championship will not help boost the resume, since the winner of the ACC Coastal will have no less than 3 losses. It looks like the Tigers will have a great shot to repeat.
Georgia: A huge resume boosting win over Auburn this past weekend makes this team sneaky dangerous. Wins over Florida and Notre Dame help the resume look extremely impressive and this team has quality games against Texas A&M and most likely LSU before the playoffs begin. A slip up against South Carolina did not deter this team and here they are making a playoff push in November.
Tier 2: Win and “Should” Be In, But Needs Some Help
Alabama: Tua’s hip injury will keep the starting QB out for the rest of the season. A tough game in Jordan-Hare against Auburn awaits this team in the last week of the season, but a win there with a backup QB should be enough to get in. The committee may be nervous to include Bama without Tua, but Ohio State was on their 3rd string QB in 2014 and won the National Championship.
Oregon: The best team in the PAC-12 (In my opinion) falls in this tier due to the perception of the PAC-12. The SEC has 3 teams above this 1-loss team and it could be due to the 4th-5th best team in the SEC beating Oregon to start the season (Auburn). This team should get in over Alabama without Tua and Georgia if they lose to LSU, but the committee still seems skeptical about Oregon. This team needs help, but could be a contender if a team ahead of them loses.
Utah: Another PAC-12 team that should get in if they win out, but they need a team or two to lose. Luckily, their resume can be boosted with a win over Oregon in the PAC-12 championship game. This team has an elite defense and could make some noise if they get into the playoffs, so watch out for the Utes.
Oklahoma: This team played the role of the “Cardiac Kids” this weekend with a 25-point comeback win over the previously undefeated Baylor Bears. I think the committee may be cautious about this team due to their loss in Manhattan, KS to Kansas State. This team has experience and an offense led by the best QB in the nation. A 12-1 Oklahoma team deserves to be in, but needs a loss or two to happen above them to feel comfortable at the season’s end.
Tier 3: Win Out and Need “Controlled Chaos”
Penn State: A tough loss to Minnesota two weeks ago dropped Penn State to this tier. If Minnesota loses to Wisconsin this weekend, then Penn State could need a lot of help. The climb up the rankings begin this weekend with a huge game in Columbus against Ohio State. Penn State must make a statement and come out with a win or their playoff hopes could die as soon as Saturday night.
Minnesota: This may be a stretch, but a quality win over Wisconsin and a win over an undefeated Ohio State team may be enough to give the Golden Gophers a shot at the playoffs. They really need some chaos, such as Auburn beating Alabama, Georgia losing to LSU, Oregon and/or Utah losing, or Oklahoma losing. “Controlled chaos” may be the best term to describe what this team needs, but it is college football and anything can happen.
Tier 4: All Hell Must Break Lose and Must Win Out
Florida: This is the best 2-loss team in the country and it is not even close. Dan Mullen has done an excellent job in Gainesville and might have the Gators going for the championship next year. Florida needs a lot to happen, but if chaos ensues and major upsets rock college football then Florida should be the team to benefit. This team lacks huge wins, but has played top competition close (Lost to LSU & UGA by a total of 21 points). Florida probably will not be in the final four, but we can all hope.
Michigan: I cannot believe I am saying this, but Michigan might have the best chance out of the 2-loss teams in the playoff race. This team has a huge matchup against Ohio State and if multiple upsets occur, then Michigan could sneak its way into the conversation. A bad loss to Wisconsin (35-14) haunts this team, but the close loss to Penn State looks really good and Indiana is not a cupcake anymore. The Wolverines can create and hope for chaos and they may sneak into the playoffs.
Baylor: A tough loss to Oklahoma this weekend leaves the Bears in Waco wondering what their playoff future holds. I am here to tell them that unless a lot of teams lose; the playoff hopes are gone. Baylor is sitting at 9-1 with games against Texas and Kansas left on their schedule. A win in those two games will lead to matchup with Oklahoma in the BIG-12 championship game, which Baylor MUST win. In all honesty, Baylor needs a lot more than that but that is a solid start to making the impossible happen.
Wisconsin: Another BIG-10 team that can create some chaos, but needs more than that to make a run at the playoffs. A huge game against Minnesota in the final week will determine who will go to the BIG-10 championship and most likely face Ohio State. A win in both of those games will give Wisconsin a great shot, but this team needs a lot of help from teams in the SEC and PAC-12. The loss to Illinois will haunt the Badgers for the end of time and it should, because the odds are not in their favor.