Final Four teams for College Football Playoff
November is time for the biggest rivalry games in college football. These are season-defining games for many teams including those not in the running for a conference title or the college football playoff and championship chase. But November is also knockout month as the list of teams is narrowed down from the final contenders to the final four that compete in the college football playoff to crown the national champion.
On October 30, the college football selection committee releases its first rankings of the season, and will update them each week. The playoff committee rankings may differ from the AP Top-25 rankings, as the committee’s rankings include selection criteria that places emphasis on quality wins, strength of schedule and results against common opponents. Solid road wins are definitely a bonus.
Since no 2-loss team has yet made the college football playoff, here are 12 teams still remaining that have a chance to make the college football playoff and win the national championship as the season continues into November.
November College Football Championship Contenders
Central Florida (7-0)
Notre Dame (8-0)
Ohio State (7-1)
Washington State (7-1)
West Virginia (7-1)
The list will be narrowed down with the following elimination games between contenders:
Nov. 4 – Alabama (-14) at LSU
Nov. 4 – Georgia (-10) at Kentucky
Nov. 23 – Oklahoma at West Virginia
Nov. 24 – Michigan at Ohio State
In addition, we saw Alabama make the college football playoff last year with 1-loss despite not even playing in the SEC championship game. So Alabama is still a favorite to make the CFB playoff even if it loses one of it’s remaining games, including in the SEC championship if they are undefeated going into that contest.
We’ll know more after this week’s two big SEC games, but neither Georgia or Kentucky will make the college football playoff if they lose in the SEC championship game. If either runs the table and beats Alabama or LSU in the SEC championship game, then Georgia or Kentucky will have a solid shot to make the CFP playoff, as will Alabama if they entered undefeated.
Clemson will get into the CFB playoff even with 1-loss.
Notre Dame will be in the CFB playoff if they remain undefeated, but out if they lose. A pretty tough schedule still remains against Florida State and winning teams Syracuse, Northwestern and USC to conclude the season.
The Big Ten could well be left out after the conference was so highly touted entering the season. I don’t believe Ohio State will get in if they win out unless they get a lot of help. However, Michigan has the best chance and a road win against Ohio State while running the table gives Big Blue the best opportunity to secure the No. 4 spot.
Oklahoma will likely get more votes to join the CFB playoff party if the Sooners win out, and are victorious in the Big 12 championship game. Most voters would probably favor Oklahoma over Michigan if both had 1-loss. I would side with Michigan and its defense if the Wolverines and Oklahoma were to be the final choices for the No. 4 playoff spot.
West Virginia has four regular season games left including three against winning Big-12 teams and two on the road starting this week at Texas. The Mountaineers are unlikely to win them all and the Big 12 championship game.
Washington State has to win out and still get help, and WSU has rival Washington to finish the season and also the Pac-12 championship game likely against Utah. But like last season, the Pac-12 is on the outside looking in and needs much help, including a USC win over Notre Dame in late November to knock out the Irish.
The Mountain West still has a pair of 1-loss teams leading its respective divisions, but neither Fresno State or Utah State are getting invited to the postseason playoff party.
Undefeated Central Florida did not get invited to the college football playoff last season when undefeated, and the Knights will not be included this year if they win out and remain undefeated. The Knights strength of schedule doesn’t cut it, and a 1-loss Houston team won’t make it either if they were to beat UCF in the American Athletic Conference championship game.
Plenty of coaches have voiced their opinion on expanding the college football playoff, including viable coach of the year candidate Mike Leach of Washington State as recently as last week. I’ve added some thoughts on why college football should expand to more than 4 teams, but that’s not happening even in the next decade with the 4-team playoff schedule and sites already set. Power and money win out, and the playoff committee and NCAA will not be making the change.
Power and money also win out in the betting market and at the sportsbooks, and when betting on these top teams chasing a college football playoff spot, I caution betting against them even when laying inflated prices against lesser, losing teams. Clemson showed last week that they can and will run up the score against a decent conference opponent knowing that style points and margin wins may matter when it comes to the playoff committee having to settle the score in choosing close playoff contenders. Common opponents and strength of schedule are key criteria along with quality wins, so top teams will try to score as much as possible when given the opportunity even against a quality opponent.
You can bet on it.
FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay