Top Contenders for the College Football Playoff
As the calendar turns to November, many teams are pushing for a bowl bid and some conference contenders are looking to secure a division title and a shot at their conference crown in the conference championship game. Struggling teams still have a chance to 'save' their season by winning a big rivalry game, and others can play spoiler and knock a playoff contender out of the conference and national title chase.
The college football playoff pool has been narrowed down to the November Nine. And on the upcoming weekend when the World Series of Poker reconvenes for Final Table action at the World Series of Poker Championship in Las Vegas, nine undefeated teams remain in the college football playoff picture.
Let's take a look and see how the college football playoff is shaping up into November, and the favorites to play in the BCS Championship game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL.
|Bosie State||165/1||West Virginia||40/1|
If the playoffs started before November, the final four playoff teams would be Alabama, Clemson, Michigan and Washington.
So can those top-4 teams win out or survive one loss? The remaining schedules look like this.
A review of my article and bye schedule shows Alabama has a bye Oct. 29 and a pair of challenging games remaining at LSU and home vs. rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Alabama is 5-0 in SEC play, but both Auburn and LSU are 3-1. An SEC Championship game follows if 'Bama wins those two and likely even if they slip up once. Regardless, Alabama is a big favorite to make it to the SEC Championship game and the college football playoff.
Clemson escaped a near disaster against NC State to win in overtime last game, and the Tigers BCS playoff hopes come down to Oct. 29 in Tallahassee when they play rival Florida State. A victory puts Clemson securely in the driver's seat as a prohibitive favorite in their remaining four games before the ACC Championship game. Clemson holds the Atlantic division tiebreaker over Louisville, as they beat the Cardinals.
Michigan, with the nation's most dominant defense, is a remarkable 24-point favorite at rival Michigan State Oct. 29, and the Wolverines also have road games at Iowa and the big rivalry game at Ohio State, which may decide the Big Ten East winner who plays in the Big Ten Championship game. Could Michigan be 11-0, lose to Ohio State to miss out on the Big Ten Championship game, and still make the college football playoff? If Ohio State wins out, and either wins or loses in the Big Ten Championship game, the answer is yes. We'll give the Wolverines my vote to take the national title.
Washington has a tough road ahead, as they travel to Utah Oct. 29 and still have a challenging home game vs. USC. They also play Arizona State and travel to Berkeley to play Cal. Regardless, the Pac-12 North looks like it will be decided between the Huskies and Cougars when Washington plays at Washington State Nov. 25. But a 1-loss Pac-12 team is not likely to make the college football playoff unless many other teams stumble, so Washington needs to win out for a spot in the postseason party.
The remaining undefeated teams and 1-loss hopefuls look like this:
Boise State is a favorite to run the table as the Mountain West's best. The Broncos toughest remaining game is Oct. 29 as a 2-touchdown favorite at Wyoming, who they remain tied with at 3-0 in the Mountain division of the Mountain West Conference. A win sets them up to play San Diego State in the Mountain West championship game. The Broncos light schedule likely prevents them from making the college football playoff even if undefeated with their best win over Washington State, 31-28.
Baylor and West Virginia are both 6-0 and tied on top of the Big 12 with Oklahoma. No championship game in the Big 12, and these two teams play the final Saturday of the regular season on Dec. 3. But Baylor must still win at Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech, and survive a home game vs. TCU. Unlikely for certain, while West Virginia is in tough at Oklahoma State Oct. 29, then at Texas and home vs. Oklahoma in back-to-back weeks in November. The Mountaineers are the best of the longest shots, but a 1-loss Big 12 team is likely left out again until they play a championship game, which starts next season.
Nebraska must win at Wisconsin Oct. 29 to remain alive for the college football playoff. A loss still keeps them on top of the Big Ten West, but the 'Huskers travel to Ohio State the following week. Nebraska also hosts Minnesota and plays at Iowa, and while they remain the favorite to make the Big Ten championship game, their hopes for the college football playoff would end there vs. Michigan or Ohio State.
Western Michigan. A great season for the Bronco's and a legit top-25 team. But MAC teams don't play in the college football playoff, even if undefeated.
The sleepers or remaining teams who need help would include Florida, who has 1 loss but would still have to run the table vs. Georgia with road games at Arkansas, LSU and Florida State. Oh, and then the Gators would have to likely beat 'Bama in the SEC Championship game. Huge longshot.
Ohio State is still a favorite according to BookMaker, who has them at 4-1 to win the BSC championship. The Buckeyes blew it last week losing at Penn State as a 19-point favorite. But Ohio State can still get into college football playoff by running the table with key games vs. Nebraska, at Michigan State and the huge home rivalry game for the Big Ten East vs. Michigan. A victory over the Wolverines and in the Big Ten Championship would get 1-loss Ohio State into the college football playoff.
Louisville is still just 10-1 to win it all, and the Cardinals are rolling over teams weekly while leading the nation in scoring at 53 points per game with the Heisman favorite in QB Lamar Jackson, who was greater than 100-1 to win the honor before the season. Louisville's 1-loss at Clemson will keep them out of the ACC championship game unless the Tigers lose twice. The Cardinals toughest remaining game is at Houston, and they will continue to try and win big with style points in hopes a number of teams stumble to the finish including Ohio State and Washington.
Utah has just one loss and could enter the discussion with a home win over Washington Oct. 29. They would still have to win out including at Colorado to close the season. That would get them into the Pac-12 championship game, where they would have to beat Washington again or Washington State. Plenty of help still needed, including Ohio State, Nebraska, and Louisville all losing again.
You'll see plenty of inflated lines from the bookmakers as the top teams push for the college football playoff into November. There is little value if the future market to win the national championship, but plenty of opportunity to win every week as the pressure mounts and the bubble bursts for the remaining teams in the college football playoff hunt.
FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay