Who’s still alive in the chase to get into the 2021-2022 College Football Playoff? After Week 8, here’s our ranking of the 21 teams still in the mix.
We lost three teams from the College Football Playoff chase – Penn State, NC State, and Coastal Carolina – and now, out of the 130 teams playing FBS football, we’re down to 21.
The first College Football Playoff rankings come out next week, but remember, they’re just a snapshot of the moment.
The theories and beliefs still hold – win your Power Five conference championship, do it with one loss or go unbeaten, and you’re almost certainly in.
So who’s realistically still left? We rank all 21 teams that have a path to get into the playoff going from those with no shot to those who control their own destiny.
This isn’t a College Football Playoff ranking projection – that’s coming. This is all based on likelihood of getting in and the clearest paths to getting in.
21. UTSA Roadrunners (8-0)
There’s a win over Illinois on the resumé, and it’s possible to roll through the rest of an easy schedule to get into the discussion, but it would take a meltdown of the entire college football world for UTSA to get into the final four. However, making into a New Year’s Six game isn’t out of the question if Cincinnati and San Diego State both lose.
20. San Diego State Aztecs (7-0)
There just aren’t any style points. The Aztecs win with the nation’s best run defense, a tough offense that doesn’t make mistakes, and repeat steps 1 and 2.
Wins over Utah and Arizona aren’t enough, but the schedule overall is better than Cincinnati’s. It won’t matter for the College Football Playoff chase, but the Aztecs are right there for a possible New Year’s Six bowl by winning out.
19. SMU Mustangs (7-0)
It’s the team we’re not talking about … yet.
SMU’s big win is at TCU, but it’s rolling through its schedule – a slate that makes Cincinnati’s look like an SEC West team – but there’s a trip to Cincinnati in late November. Throw in dates with Houston and Memphis on the road and UCF and Tulsa at home, and this could be the it team by the time the showdown with the Bearcats rolls around.
18. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-1)
Notre Dame is sort of stuck because it needs Cincinnati to lose twice. Or, it needs Cincinnati to rip through the rest of its schedule, and it needs the Power Five conference championships to be in meltdown mode. With that said, a few style points wouldn’t hurt, especially considering there won’t be one great win on the resumé by going 11-1.
17. Texas A&M Aggies (6-2)
Here’s how this has to work. Win out, hope for one more loss by Alabama along the way, beat unbeaten No. 1 Georgia in the SEC Championship. Do that, in a four-best-team way, a two-loss team will be in the College Football Playoff for the first time.
16. Ole Miss Rebels (6-1)
The loss to Alabama is a problem – Ole Miss can’t get to the SEC Championship if the Tide don’t lose again – but if it wins out against a decent slate that includes Texas A&M and road dates at Auburn and Mississippi State, and if Alabama wins the SEC Championship over Georgia, in a theoretical way, Ole Miss might have to be considered one of the four best teams.
NEXT: Top 15 College Football Playoff Chase Rankings
15. Auburn Tigers (5-2)
Unlike Texas A&M and Ole Miss, Auburn actually controls its own destiny, at least when it comes to getting to the SEC Championship.
If it wins out, it’ll have to beat Ole Miss, at Texas A&M, Mississippi State, at South Carolina, Alabama, and – most likely – a do-over for an early loss against Georgia. Do that, and in as a two-loss team, no questions asked.
14. Kentucky Wildcats (6-1)
It’s going to require an intellectual leap that the College Football Playoff committee hasn’t been able to make.
For example, last year, Alabama was the be-all-end-all No. 1 team. Texas A&M’s only loss was at Alabama, so A&M – in theory – shouldn’t have been punished for having to play that team on the road. Instead, the committee put in a Notre Dame team that got blasted by Clemson in the ACC Championship.
If Georgia is the be-all-end-all No. 1 team, and Kentucky wins out and its only loss was 30-13 in Athens … again, it would take some work on the committee’s part.
13. Cincinnati Bearcats (7-0)
Be prepared for 1) Cincinnati to be ranked in the top five to start the College Football Playoff rankings next week and 2) this ranking to go up fast over the next few weeks.
However, that first CFP ranking doesn’t matter. Cincinnati needs help.
The brutal reality is that the schedule really isn’t close to being good enough, but that one win over Notre Dame might just be enough if everything else falls into place.
UC needs to get help from Georgia – Alabama can’t win the SEC Championship if Georgia is 12-0 going into it – someone in the Pac-12 has to knock off Oregon, and/or a few other things need to happen so there aren’t four sure-things from the Power Five champions.
12. Baylor Bears (6-1)
It might not seem fair to Cincinnati and the Group of Five programs, but it’s true – a 12-1 Power Five champion is a lock unless there are four other 12-1 or 13-0 Power Five champs. It won’t happen, but with Texas and Oklahoma still to play, and a Big 12 Championship if it all works out Baylor is still alive.
11. Pitt Panthers (6-1)
The loss to Western Michigan might be an anchor, but the College Football Playoff committee is made up of judges. Those judges have preconceived notions, and no matter what, they’re going to think beating Clemson is a big deal, even this year.
NEXT: Top 10 College Football Playoff Chase Rankings
10. Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-1)
The problem is that now Oklahoma State needs help after the tough loss at Iowa State – just winning out with possibly two games against Oklahoma might not be enough.
The most likely scenario is getting to the Big 12 Championship, losing to Oklahoma, and getting to the Sugar Bowl as the highest-ranked Big 12 team could be the better call, but win out, hope for Oregon to lose again and the ACC to implode, and there’s a shot.
9. Ohio State Buckeyes (6-1)
You want style points? Yeeeeeeeesh.
Ohio State is rolling through a ton of bad teams, but the big boys are coming over the finishing kick.
However, this ranking is based on the clearest path to the College Football Playoff, and it’s still blocked by Oregon. That means if there’s an unbeaten SEC Champion, a 12-1 Oregon – who beat Ohio State in Columbus – and unbeaten Oklahoma are all there are Power Five champs, there’s a problem if Cincinnati still in the mix. If Alabama goes 12-1 with an SEC championship, there’s a HUGE issue.
Realistically, though, 12-1 with a Big Ten Championship gets Ohio State in. However, there can’t be a slip against Penn State, Michigan State, or at Michigan.
8. Oregon Ducks (6-1)
Does that look like a College Football Playoff team to you?
No, not really, but that win over Ohio State on the road – Texas A&M’s win over Alabama was in College Station – might hold up as the best victory by anyone all year.
If the Ducks win out and go 12-1 with a Pac-12 Championship, they’re in unless one of the unbeaten Big Ten teams runs the table, Oklahoma goes 13-0, and Alabama and Georgia are both 12-1. The rest of the schedule – Colorado, at Washington, Washington State, at Utah, Oregon State – is manageable enough to make it happen.
7. Iowa Hawkeyes (6-1)
The home loss to Purdue doesn’t matter. As long as Iowa wins out, takes the Big Ten West title, and knocks out whatever if coming out of the East, it should be a lock.
It would still take at least one the three from the ACC, Pac-12, Big 12 champs to lose, and it would be nice if Cincinnati could tap out, but …
No way the College Football Playoff committee is leaving out a one-loss Big Ten champion this year.
Now we get into the teams with an unobstructed path to the College Football Playoff.
6. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7-0)
There’s good news and bad news, and they’re both the same – the rest of the schedule is hard.
That’s bad because Wake Forest only has one solid win – 37-17 at Virginia. However, get through November – at North Carolina, NC State, at Clemson, at Boston College – and beat, most likely, Pitt for the ACC Championship, and at 12-1, in. 13-0, guaranteed in.
It’s not going to happen, but at least the path is clear.
NEXT: Top 5 College Football Playoff Chase Rankings
5. Alabama Crimson Tide (7-1)
The only reason Alabama isn’t No. 2 on this list is because it can’t lose.
Michigan and Michigan State can potentially drop a game and be fine if one of them wins the Big Ten title. It’s tougher for Wake Forest to absorb a loss, only because its strength of schedule won’t be great.
The path for the Tide is an easy one, though. Win the rest of the games, and all is good.
Alabama is eight wins away from yet another national championship, but a loss – even a close overtime thriller in the SEC Championship to an unbeaten Georgia – won’t get it done.
4. Oklahoma Sooners (8-0)
The ranking is based on ease of path to get into the College Football Playoff, but Oklahoma is 3 because if it wins out, and if Michigan or Michigan State win out and goes unbeaten, the Big Ten champ would get in easier and be the higher seed.
It’s also a problem because Oklahoma might not be able to afford a loss.
A one-loss Big Ten champion is almost certainly in. The same goes for a one-loss Oregon if it wins the Pac-12 title, A one-loss ACC champion has concerns, and a one-loss Big 12 champ might need a little help – and could really use a Cincinnati loss.
However, as the lone remaining unbeaten Big 12 team, this is relatively easy. Win the rest of the games, be no worse than the 2/3 seed – likely in the Cotton Bowl.
3. Michigan State Spartans (7-0)
The Spartans are in the College Football Playoff by winning out, and they’ll almost certainly be a lock with one loss and a Big Ten Championship.
Two problems – before and after.
Before – Michigan State has yet to beat a team that’s likely to go bowling. WKU might be the lone exception. Whatever.
After – Michigan, at Purdue, Maryland, at Ohio State, Penn State. It’s a path, but it’s a challenging one.
However, in terms of the clearest path, win out, be no worse than the No. 2 seed. That also goes for …
2. Michigan Wolverines (7-0)
Road games at Michigan State, Penn State, and Maryland – okay, not Maryland – over the next four weeks will set everything up. If the Wolverines can finally get by Ohio State and get to the Big Ten Championship at 12-0, they might have a shot to get in even if they lose.
But if they really do roll through the next month and are 11-0 going into Ohio State, and as long as they don’t get blown out, they might still have a shot at getting in if the Buckeyes win the Big Ten title in a blowout and there’s a whole lot of help elsewhere.
1. Georgia Bulldogs (7-0)
There’s no one in a better position overall when it comes the path to the College Football Playoff, and the schedule.
It’s not a breeze, but Florida, Missouri, at Tennessee, Charleston Southern, at Georgia Tech isn’t a thing compared to what others have to do.
Georgia is the unquestioned No. 1 seed if it wins out. It could lose to Florida – or someone else – win the SEC Championship, and be just fine.
It could go 12-0, lose to Alabama in the SEC Championship, and be a lock as the 3 or 4 seed, as long as it’s not an annihilation.
Just assume Georgia is in the College Football Playoff and go from there.