In just two weeks, we’ve pared down the College Football Playoff Pool from 31 teams to 14. We had 22 last week so the attrition rate has been high for the past couple of weeks.
Amazingly, 11 of those 14 teams are still undefeated meaning there’s still a solid chance that we’re going to end up with two or more undefeated teams in the playoff. There is a chance the playoff pool will grow if we have to add any Group 4 teams (Power 5 teams with two or more losses or Group of 5 teams with one loss), but with so many undefeated teams remaining, there are no scenarios yet where a Power 5 champion would have more than a single loss. That is to say, there are still Power 5 teams in every single division of the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC with just a single loss, and in the Big 12’s case, the league still has two undefeated teams for now. We won’t list any Group 4 teams until it’s clear that there’s a chance they might receive consideration from the playoff committee.
The following three groups, therefore, represent the priority we believe these 14 teams would receive from the College Football Playoff selection committee as things stand today. While it’s no guarantee that a Group 1 team will get in over a Group 2 team (or a Group 2 team over a Group 3 team), we generally do believe the teams will be selected in order from these various groups. If the committee chose, for example, to take a Group 2 team over a Group 1 team, that means they would be selecting a one-loss team from a Power 5 conference over an undefeated champion from a Power 5 conference. It is possible — it’s, in fact, quite likely that a one-loss SEC champion would be selected over maybe an undefeated Big 12 champion. But that probably only comes in to play if the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 champions are all undefeated as well; otherwise, it’s hard to imagine an undefeated Power 5 conference champion being left out.
In the meantime, Group 1, of course, belongs to the undefeated teams from Power 5 conferences, and all nine of the teams that entered last week undefeated made it through the weekend successfully. Of course, Michigan, Texas A&M and Washington were all on bye weeks, and there were some close calls for the remaining six teams. Ohio State and Clemson both needed overtime to survive challenges from Wisconsin and NC State, respectively. And Nebraska just managed to ease by Indiana 27-22 on the road. The other three Group 1 squads, however, won big with Alabama’s 49-10 dismissal of Tennessee leading the way. Baylor’s 49-7 win over Kansas was expected, although the margin of West Virginia’s 48-17 annihilation of Texas Tech may have turned a few heads as the Mountaineers have now quietly managed a 5-0 start. We are guaranteed to lose at least one team from this group this week, however, as the marquee game of the week in college football features two of these unbeatens playing against each other. Texas A&M makes the trip to Tuscaloosa Saturday to face Alabama, and the winner of that matchup has a leg up in the race for the SEC West title.
Group 2 is where the one-loss teams from Power 5 leagues reside, and for the moment, it’s a small group with just three teams — Florida of the SEC, Louisville of the ACC and Utah of the Pac-12. Louisville is probably the best of the bunch, but with a loss at undefeated Clemson already on the books, the Cardinals might spend the whole season on the outside looking in even if they run the table. Utah actually stands a pretty good chance of winning the Pac-12 South, and it’s not out of the question that the Utes could run the table out west, too, which would make them a strong candidate for the playoff. That scenario would include a win over currently undefeated Washington. Florida already has a loss to Tennessee, but thanks to the Volunteers’ back-to-back losses against SEC West foes Texas A&M and Alabama the past two weeks, the Gators actually have the inside path to the SEC East title now. It’s a long road, however, that will wind through Jacksonville as always with the annual rivalry game against Georgia along with the remainder of the SEC East. Thanks to Hurricane Matthew, it will also take a side trip through Baton Rouge now for a game against LSU that was originally slated to be a home game for Florida. The loser of Alabama-Texas A&M will fall to Group 2 next week as well.
Finally, that brings us to Group 3 where we look at the undefeated teams from the Group of 5 conferences. There are only two remaining, and only one of those realistically has a shot at the playoff. Boise State has made plenty of noise in the past under the old BCS system, but this is the Broncos’ first run at maybe messing things up for the playoff committee. And instead of playing for one of two spots, the Broncos only have to finish in the top four now. At 6-0 playing in the Mountain West, it isn’t out of the question that they could run the table and finish 13-0. If there are a number of two-loss champions from Power 5 leagues, you’d expect by then that the Broncos would be ranked high in the Top 10, and they may get the playoff spot that once seemed within the grasp of the Houston Cougars of the American Athletic Conference. That is, before the Cougars lost at Navy two weeks ago followed by a close call with Tulsa last weekend. The only other member of Group 3 is another team of Broncos — the 7-0 squad from Western Michigan led by rising young coaching star P.J. Fleck. In theory, any FBS team is eligible for the playoff so there has to be a scenario where an unbeaten Western Michigan squad could make the playoff. In reality, that scenario is the longest of long shots — something akin to four upsets in the Power 5 championship games leading to a cluster of three- and four-loss champions in the top conferences. Maybe then a 13-0 Western Michigan would receive consideration which is to say, the odds of it happening would be astronomical. At the very least, they’ve done all they can to help their case by remaining undefeated and that includes two wins over Big Ten squads.
Currently, all of our projected playoff participants come from the Power 5 leagues, and we’ve got the Top 4 ranked this week as Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State and Washington based on results to date. (Of course, Michigan plays at Ohio State in the regular season finale, and that would open up a slot for No. 5 Clemson if the Tigers remain undefeated.) The Big 12 has two undefeated teams remaining as well in Baylor and West Virginia, but for the moment, they would need somebody to lose to open up a slot. The bottom line is, it’s early so don’t fret where your team is ranked. If they’re undefeated and they keep winning, then if they are in a Power 5 league, it’s likely that it will all work out just fine.
THIS COMING WEEKEND
We didn’t have any games between undefeated teams last week, and as noted, all nine of the teams that entered last week undefeated are still unbeaten. That will change this week as Texas A&M plays at Alabama, and the loser there will suffer its first defeat.
Outside of that, there aren’t any meetings between two CFP Pool teams. The biggest matchups include Thursday night’s game between an improving BYU (4-3) and undefeated Boise State (6-0). Then on Saturday, a 4-2 NC State squad that took Clemson to overtime has the unenviable task of having to visit Louisville (5-1) just one week later. Louisville also lost at Clemson by a narrow margin so this could be a better matchup than it appeared to be a few weeks ago. TCU (4-2) at West Virginia (5-0) has upset potential as many had the Horned Frogs ranked ahead of the Mountaineers in the preseason. And Utah (6-1) will have to avoid the upset bug with a trip to UCLA (3-4) that is always fraught with danger.
Finally, the night cap features undefeated (6-0) Ohio State’s trip to Penn State (4-2), and there’s always the potential for an upset in a big game like that. Ohio State is coming off a tough trip to Wisconsin as well that required overtime so don’t be surprised if this one is tougher than expected, too, as the Buckeyes start to hit the meat of their schedule.
Battles of the Unbeaten
Saturday, October 22, 2016
3:30 p.m. ET: Texas A&M (6-0, Group 1) at Alabama (7-0, Group 1), CBS
There are no games between two one-loss CFP Pool teams.
Other Games between two CFP Pool teams
There are no other games between two CFP Pool teams.
Other Games involving CFP Pool teams
Thursday, October 20, 2016
10:15 p.m. ET: BYU (4-3) at Boise State (6-0, Group 3), ESPN
Saturday, October 15, 2016
Noon ET: NC State (4-2) at Louisville (5-1, Group 2), ABC
3:30 p.m. ET: Illinois (2-4) at Michigan (6-0, Group 1), BTN
3:30 p.m. ET: Purdue (3-3) at Nebraska (6-0, Group 1), ABC/ESPN2
3:30 p.m. ET: TCU (4-2) at West Virginia (5-0, Group 1), ABC/ESPN2
3:30 p.m. ET: Eastern Michigan (5-2) at Western Michigan (7-0, Group 3), ESPN3
4 p.m. ET: Utah (6-1, Group 2) at UCLA (3-4), PAC-12
6:30 p.m. ET: Oregon State (2-4) at Washington (6-0, Group 1), PAC-12
8 p.m. ET: Ohio State (6-0, Group 1) at Penn State (4-2), ABC
CFP Pool teams on bye week
Baylor, Clemson and Florida
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