Who Has The Edge: Comparing Current College Football Playoff Outsiders

Right now in College Football, only six teams know that if they win out, they will be in the College Football Playoff come January. Those six teams are Clemson, Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Michigan State and Oklahoma. Alabama and Florida would meet in the SEC Championship and Iowa and Michigan State would meet in the Big Ten Championship, so only four of these six teams can actually win out.

Where things get more interesting is when, inevitably, some of these teams slip up. A handful of teams are waiting in the wings, just hoping that they get a chance to plead their case to be included in the Playoff. In this article, I will compare the resumes of different playoff contenders, currently on the outside looking in, and rank their resumes as if each of them won out. Again, since Notre Dame plays Stanford and Ohio State plays Michigan, it is not possible for every team on this list to win out. Keep in mind that current College Football Playoff rankings have little bearing on the final rankings. TCU was ranked 3rd up until the last poll of last year, won their last game and dropped all the way to 6th.

1. Notre Dame (Would be 11-1)

Notre Dame has only one win against teams currently in the AP Top 25, #25 Temple, but a win against Stanford on Saturday would do wonders to boost the Irish’s profile. The only blemish on an otherwise stellar season is a close, two-point loss to undefeated and undisputed number one overall Clemson. However, some potentially troubling news for the Irish is that standout Cornerback KeiVarae Russell broke his tibia and will not return until a possible National Championship game on January 11th. The committee takes long term injuries into account, and the loss of a key player may have some impact on their decision. 

2. Ohio State (Would be 11-1)

Given that Ohio State’s only loss on the season came on a last second field goal against Michigan State, you would think the Buckeyes would have a good shot at making the playoff if another team slips up. However, if Michigan State beats Penn State next week, Ohio State will be left out of the Big Ten Conference Title game. Anyone who doubts the importance of a conference title game should go talk to TCU or Baylor fans. What might save Ohio State is the eye test. The Buckeyes have a plethora of NFL caliber players in Braxton Miller, JT Barrett, and Ezekiel Elliot on offense to go along with Adolphus Washington, Joey Bosa, and Darron Lee on defense. If Ohio State can put together two dominant halves against Michigan in The Big House, the Buckeyes will be right on the brink of making the playoff. 

3. Stanford (Would be 11-2)

Until a deflating 38-36 loss to Oregon, Stanford appeared to control its destiny. Their only loss on the season up until then was a 16-6 disaster on the road in Evanston week one. Now with two losses, things are much different. That being said, Stanford appears to be in the best spot of any two loss team in the nation. Where Stanford holds an advantage over some one loss teams is that the Cardinals will be playing either a ranked USC or a ranked UCLA team for the Pac 12 Title. That means if Stanford wins out, they will have wins in the final two weeks of the season over a Top 10 Notre Dame team and a Top 20 team from LA. Also, who doesn’t want to see under-the-radar Heisman candidate Christian McCaffrey tear it up possibly in two bowl games instead of just one? 

4. Oklahoma State (Would be 11-1)

Oklahoma State's playoffs hopes were derailed last week in a home dud against Baylor. If Baylor wins out, Oklahoma State would like their chances even more, as this would mean their only loss on the season would have come against an 11-1 team. More importantly, a win on Saturday would add a huge boot to their resume, which due to TCU’s recent struggles, lacks a true statement win. However, the lack of a championship game hurts them immensely. There is nothing worse for a team than sitting and watching while other playoff hopefuls are making statements. 

5. Michigan (Would be 10-2)

Michigan is in a position very similar to Ohio State. If Michigan State beats Penn State, Michigan has essentially no chance of making the playoff, even if they beat Ohio State on Saturday. Although neither of Michigan’s losses, at home vs. Utah and Michigan State, are terrible, especially considering the circumstances surrounding the Michigan State loss, the committee would prefer a one loss team or two loss conference winner. Maybe Coach Jim Harbaugh’s tantrums can intimidate the committee into giving the Wolverines a spot. 

6. Baylor (Would be 11-1)

Baylor fans will wonder what could have been if star quarterback Seth Russell had not suffered a season ending neck injury. Freshman Jarrett Stidham has filled in admirably, save for a bad performance against Oklahoma. A win last week in Stillwater against a previously undefeated Oklahoma State team has given the Bears a sliver of hope, however, and I must sound like a broken record, not having a championship game could come back to haunt the Bears for the second year running. Baylor has two remaining games, but every single team ahead of them on this list has a tougher remaining game, so even a win against a good TCU team would not vault the Bears up the rankings, especially if TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin does not play. 

Now the only other question that remains is would any of the six “win and you’re in” teams make it with another loss. As far as I can tell, for any of those six teams, and especially the six outsider teams, another loss at this point all but eliminates them from playoff contention. 

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