How Contenders Left Outside Latest CFP Top Four Could Snag a Playoff Spot

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There were a few things we knew we would see once the second College Football Playoff rankings were released: LSU at No. 1, Clemson in the playoff picture and Minnesota in the top 10. All three of those ideas proved prescient.

If the playoff field were set after Tuesday’s unveiling, No. 1 LSU would meet No. 4 Georgia and No. 2 Ohio State would face No. 3 Clemson. From there it’s a bunch of one-loss teams, and two undefeated Power 5 squads hoping they can impress the committee enough to move into the top four by selection Sunday.

Here’s what else we’re thinking about after seeing the rankings:

On the Outside Looking In

The current top four (mostly) control their own destinies. LSU and Georgia are on a path to meet in the SEC title game. If LSU wins that game, it would open the door for someone else to take UGA’s final playoff spot. A close Bulldogs’ win may not be enough to knock a 12–1 LSU team out of the final four. And a comfortable UGA win opens the door for a one-loss Pac-12 champ or someone like Oklahoma or Baylor to reach the CFP.

With that in mind, let’s look at what resume-building games the main contenders outside the top four have left.

Alabama: at Auburn on Nov. 30

Oregon: potential Pac-12 Championship Game vs. Utah on Dec. 6

Utah: potential Pac-12 Championship Game vs. Oregon on Dec. 6

Minnesota: at Iowa on Nov. 16, vs. Wisconsin on Nov. 30, potential Big Ten Championship Game vs. Ohio State or Penn State on Dec. 7

Penn State: at Ohio State on Nov. 23, potential Big Ten Championship Game vs. Minnesota on Dec. 7

Oklahoma: at Baylor on Nov. 16, at Oklahoma State on Nov. 30, potential Big 12 Championship Game

Baylor: vs. Oklahoma on Nov. 16, vs. Texas on Nov. 23, potential Big 12 Championship Game

A quick glance at the list above makes one thing clear: with a date against Ohio State on the horizon—or at least a likely one in Minnesota’s case—the two Big Ten teams still control their own destiny.

Undefeated Minnesota may be the only one with a tiny margin for error; everyone else is probably completely out of the conversation with another loss. Bama, OU and Baylor would need outside help. Oregon and Utah must meet in the Pac-12 title game with their one-loss records intact.

Any Two-Loss Teams With a Small Shot of Getting in?

Yes. Florida. UF is an absolute long shot here, but hear us out. The Gators need Georgia to completely fall apart by losing to Auburn this week and Texas A&M the week after, so they can be crowned SEC East champs. They then need to beat No. 1 undefeated LSU in the SEC title game. An 11–2 SEC champion Florida would definitely be in the playoff under this wild scenario.

(Before you lay out even crazier scenarios, two-loss Auburn, Michigan and Wisconsin would need the college football universe to completely self-implode in order to enter the conversation.)

The full rankings:

1. LSU
2. Ohio State
3. Clemson
4. Georgia
5. Alabama
6. Oregon
7. Utah
8. Minnesota
9. Penn State
10. Oklahoma
11. Florida
12. Auburn
13. Baylor
14. Wisconsin
15. Michigan
16. Notre Dame
17. Cincinnati
18. Memphis
19. Texas
20. Iowa
21. Boise State
22. Oklahoma State
23. Navy
24. Kansas State
25. Appalachian State