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Weekly College Football Playoff Mock Bracket: Hope Not Lost For Teams Like Texas, FSU

What a 12-team College Football Playoff bracket would look like if it was released today.

Halfway through the college football season, we bring you bad news: If your team has lost two or more games, it has likely been eliminated from the four-team College Football Playoff. In some cases, if your team has lost one game, it is also a longshot to advance to the postseason.

The good news? When the Playoff soon expands, your team will still be very much alive to make the 12-team field. While under the current four-team format, only about 25-30 teams hold realistic CFP hopes, while the expanded version gives about 50 teams a path to the postseason.

The margin for error is much greater in a 12-team playoff. Take, for example, Texas, which lost its two games without injured starting QB Quinn Ewers. Would the committee leave out an 11-2 or 10-3 Big 12-champion team with a healthy Ewers at QB? That would not happen. Florida State is on a two-game slide, but in an expanded playoff, it would still very much be in the running. The same goes for the likes of Utah, Purdue, Washington State, Florida, Baylor and—gasp!—Notre Dame.

All but one of the 12 teams in this week’s mock bracket are undefeated, but that will change in the weeks ahead. As a reminder, we are using the expansion model CFP executives adopted in August. It features (1) automatic qualifiers to the six highest-ranked conference champions and (2) six at-large selections to the next six highest-ranked teams. The four highest-ranked conference champions receive byes to the second round (independents are not eligible to receive a bye), and the four first-round games are played on the higher seed’s campus. Six bowls host the quarterfinals and semifinals in a rotation, with teams assigned to their league’s historic bowl affiliation.

Something to keep in mind: we are seeding teams based on how they have performed and who they performed against. The tougher your schedule, the better your seed (for instance, Clemson is the No. 1 seed since it beat two ranked teams, one on the road; Ohio State is No. 2 because it has not yet played a team in the current Top 25).

A mock bracket of what the CFB expanded format would look like today.
  • 1. Clemson (ACC champion)
  • 2. Ohio State (Big Ten champion)
  • 3. Alabama (SEC champion)
  • 4. USC (Pac 12 champion)
  • 5. Georgia (SEC at large)
  • 6. Michigan (Big Ten at large)
  • 7. Oklahoma State (Big 12 champion)
  • 8. Tennessee (SEC at large)
  • 9. Penn State (Big Ten at large)
  • 10. UCLA (Pac 12 at large)
  • 11. TCU (Big 12 at large)
  • 12. Cincinnati (American champion)

The bubble: With TCU’s road win against Kansas this past weekend, the Horned Frogs bumped out Ole Miss to take the last at-large spot in the bracket. It was a tough decision, but one broken by the schedules. The Rebels’ win over Kentucky, while sold, no longer counts as a top-30 victory after the Wildcats lost to South Carolina. So far, TCU’s strength of schedule (67th) is tougher than Ole Miss (84th), according to Sagarin ratings.

UCLA is this week’s other new team even though the Bruins’ strength of schedule is ghastly (108th). The Power 5’s remaining unbeaten team we left out is Syracuse, but don’t worry, we’ll soon know how good or bad the Orange are—their next three games are at NC State, at Clemson and back at home to host Notre Dame. Win two of those and Dino Babers’s team might find its way into our mock playoff.

Second-round smorgasbord: Sure, the first round produces some electric on-campus duels. The Big Ten Nittany Lions visit Knoxville, the Big House hosts a snowy game against Sonny Dykes and TCU, and Chip Kelly and the Bruins head to play Mike Gundy and the Pokes. Fun! But maybe not as fun as some of the quarterfinal matchups—Georgia faces USC in the Rose Bowl in a clash of styles that Lincoln Riley has already lostonce (Georgia edged Oklahoma, 54–48 in the 2017 Rose Bowl). 

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