Who’s still alive in the chase to get into the 2023-2023 College Football Playoff? Before Championship Week, here are the six teams still alive and what they need to do to get in.
Is there really any drama left?
LSU tapped out with its loss to Texas A&M, Clemson is done after losing to South Carolina, Oregon ended any hopes after collapsing against Oregon State, Tennessee is effectively done, and Alabama … more on that in a second.
Remembering that the College Football Playoff committee has always taken a 12-1 or unbeaten Power Five conference champion this can be very, very simple.
If Georgia, Michigan, TCU, and USC all win their respective conference championship games, they’re in. That’s it. No debate. That’s the College Football Playoff.
But what happens if one of them loses? What happens if one of them gets rocked in a massive blowout? Then this gets interesting for a few other teams.
Remember, though – we have yet to get a huge upset in one of the Power Five conference championships in the eight years of the College Football Playoff era.
What’s the path for the five teams – with another added – to get into the College Football Playoff?
This isn’t a ranking of who the top teams are – that’s for our ranking of all 131 teams – this is about a combination of talent, clearest path, and overall pecking order.
College Football Playoff Chase Ranking Path Of The 6 Teams Still Alive
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6. Alabama Crimson Tide (10-2)
What’s Next: Bowl Game
What Alabama has to do to make the College Football Playoff: I’m only indulging here because of all the Alabama fans who still believe this is one of the four best teams despite the two losses.
Pray for chaos.
It’s going to take something insane – like Kansas State beating TCU by 40 in the Big 12 Championship, Purdue shocking Michigan in the Big Ten title game, and USC has to lose to Utah in the Pac-12 Championship.
And even then, the committee might like the idea of an 11-2 ACC champion Clemson, or a 10-2 Tennessee that beat the Tide.
Will Alabama make the College Football Playoff? Of course not.
The College Football Playoff has yet to take a two-loss team, and it’s not going to select one that didn’t win its Power Five conference championship. With that said …
Alabama’s two losses came on the road on the final plays against Tennessee and LSU. There might be enough respect to think it might be worth of the four slot if TCU gets destroyed and USC loses.
However, the close calls against Texas and Texas A&M are a factor, and yeah, there would’ve been a more compelling case to be made if Bama beat Auburn 49-0 instead of 49-27.
And then there’s the mythical “because it’s Alabama” clause always hanging over the CFP committee. It can do whatever it wants.
But no. Alabama won’t get in. The one team outside of the top four that really does have a shot, though is …
5. Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1)
What’s Next: Bowl Game
What Ohio State has to do to make the College Football Playoff: USC has to lose to Utah.
There’s the slimmest of chances that Clemson could slide in with a total wipeout of an ACC Championship win over North Carolina. Even then, the committee would take Ohio State because of its win over a Notre Dame team that beat Clemson.
Ohio State beat the first 11 teams on the slate by double-digits, the committee might rationalize that time off could help the injury factor, and then there’s the theoretical side that doesn’t get used enough. If Michigan is one of the top two teams, and that’s Ohio State’s only loss, it could – in theory – actually be the third-best team.
Will Ohio State make the College Football Playoff? 50/50.
Utah was terrific in last year’s Pac-12 Championship, it took down USC once already, and ALL of the pressure is now on the Trojan side of the field. It might depend on how close the loss is – if it happens. If it’s on a last second play, it could still be questionable.
And no, Ohio State almost certainly doesn’t jump TCU even if Kansas State wins in a wipeout. It would have to be something truly ugly.
NEXT: College Football Playoff Chase Rankings Top 4
College Football Playoff Chase Rankings Top 4
4. USC Trojans (11-1)
What’s Next: USC in the Pac-12 Championship
What USC has to do to make the College Football Playoff: Win and get in.
Beat Utah, get in the College Football Playoff without any hesitation. Even better, it might be the three-seed with a loss by TCU or Michigan, but that doesn’t matter all that much. You still have to win two no matter what.
Would a close loss – like the 43-42 thriller against Utah the first time around – be enough to stay ahead of Ohio State? Would two close losses to the same team and 12 wins be better than 11 wins and a relative blowout home loss?
Will USC make the College Football Playoff? Call this lean USC.
Utah isn’t great against good teams away from Salt Lake City, and it got out alive by the skin of its teeth in the first meeting. This is a program that knows how to rise to the occasion and play well, but its best road win this season was at Arizona State.
2022 USC isn’t 2021 Oregon.
3. TCU Horned Frogs (12-0)
What’s Next: Big 12 Championship vs Kansas State
What TCU has to do to make the College Football Playoff: Beat Kansas State, and TCU is no worse than the No. 3 seed. Win, and Georgia and Michigan lose, TCU will be the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff.
Even if it loses it would still likely get in. 12-1 probably beats Ohio State’s 11-1 with a blowout home loss to Michigan. As long as the loss is close and tasteful, TCU probably still gets the nod helped by the 38-28 win over Kansas State earlier in the season.
Will TCU make the College Football Playoff? Unless it gets rolled, then yes.
Here’s the concern.
Kansas State has won nine games this year and most of them have been blowouts. On a roll, it won three straight since the loss to Texas beating Baylor and West Virginia on the road and Kansas at home by a combined score of 126 to 61.
Here’s the other problem. There isn’t any win on the slate that’s that great.
Beating Texas is fine, but whatever. Outside of taking down Kansas State the first time, there isn’t a win as good as Ohio State’s victory over Penn State.
2. Michigan Wolverines (12-0)
What’s Next: Big Ten Championship vs Purdue
What Michigan has to do to make the College Football Playoff: Show up.
Beat Purdue and it’s no worse than the 2 seed – 2 or 3 doesn’t matter – and it will be the 1 if it wins and Georgia loses to LSU. Even if it loses to Purdue it’s still in – the College Football Playoff committee won’t put in Ohio State.
And no, Alabama doesn’t get in over Michigan even if it’s a stunning blowout.
Will Michigan make the College Football Playoff? Yes. Start booking tickets for the greater Phoenix metropolitan area (and probably Los Angeles, too).
1. Georgia Bulldogs (11-0)
What’s Next: SEC Championship vs LSU
What Georgia has to do to make the College Football Playoff: Get comfortable.
It’s in, but it still has to beat LSU for one key reason – the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
The College Football Playoff committee would love nothing more than to put a No. 1 seed Georgia in Atlanta, but if it loses to LSU, and Michigan and TCU win their respective conference championship games, Georgia could slide down to the 3 seed.
At that point, it wouldn’t be fair for the 2 seed to have to play Georgia in Atlanta. It would still probably happen, but lose to LSU and there’s a chance it’s Michigan vs USC/Ohio State in Atlanta and TCU vs Georgia in the Fiesta Bowl.
As long as the Dawgs are 1 or 2, they’ll enjoy the home surroundings.
Will Georgia make the College Football Playoff? Done, over, in.