- College football reporter
- Joined ESPN.com in 2007
- Graduate of Indiana University
The College Football Playoff selection committee will reveal its first top 25 ranking of the season on Nov. 24, and because of the Pac-12’s late start, Notre Dame’s fall fling with the ACC, and a bizarre Big Ten, there is a wider field to discuss in the top half of the ranking.
Six weeks before the selection committee’s final ranking was announced last season, there were five teams with at least a 50% chance to make the playoff and no other teams with more 15%, according to the Allstate Playoff Predictor. This year, there are still eight teams with at least a 15% chance to reach the playoff — and that includes every Power 5 conference but the Big 12, and independent BYU.
But what about Cincinnati? Wisconsin? Oklahoma State?
It’s time for a deeper dive into what each team needs to do to improve its playoff chances between now and Selection Day on Dec. 20. For Clemson, it’s crystal clear — recover from the program’s first regular-season loss in 39 games — and don’t let it happen again.
“We’re 7-1,” coach Dabo Swinney said after the Tigers’ double-overtime loss to Notre Dame. “Nobody was handing out a trophy tonight. Nobody was rolling a stage out there tonight. We got a ways to go. We have a lot of guys that have grown and learned a lot from this year. It’s obviously been challenging on everyone. The only thing we can’t be is 11-0. We can still be 10-1, that’s the best we can be. But you can’t win 10 ’til you win eight.”
Here’s a look at Clemson’s path to the playoff, along with every other contender, ranked in order of their current spot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll:
Where they stand now: The Tide should have a comfortable spot in the committee’s top four. Alabama is currently No. 1 in ESPN’s strength of record metric, which reflects the chance an average Top 25 team would be able to achieve the same record given the schedule. It typically aligns with how the committee views résumés. If multiple teams finish undefeated, Alabama’s schedule will be further scrutinized in that No. 1 debate, but there’s no reason to think the Tide won’t run the table. ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Alabama at least an 87% chance to win in each of its remaining games.
Biggest obstacle to the playoff: Florida. With their win against Georgia on Saturday, the Gators took the lead in the SEC East and are on track to face Alabama in the SEC championship game. It takes only one upset to change the playoff picture, and if Florida can run the table and win the SEC title, nothing is guaranteed for Alabama. It’s possible the committee could choose both Florida and Alabama, but what if there is an undefeated Pac-12 champion? What if Clemson and Notre Dame are both in the top-four discussion?
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