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2018 College Football Playoff Projections: Debates Rage Entering Championship Weekend

Nov 26, 2018 8:00 AM EST
  • We're just one week from the College Football Playoff release.
  • Ohio State, Oklahoma and Georgia will all have a chance to make their case during championship weekend.

Even though most of the teams vying for College Football Playoff spots still have a game remaining, we can still yell about who has the better case until those games are actually played.

With Michigan losing and Notre Dame locking up its spot this weekend, the debate gets a little more interesting. Ohio State and Oklahoma will likely be vying for the final spot, while Georgia can get in with a win over Alabama.

These aren’t what I expect the College Football Playoff rankings to look like come Tuesday, but a breakdown of who is still alive and how they can get in.

2018 College Football Playoff Projections

All odds via FiveThirtyEight.com.

1. Alabama

  • Playoff Odds: 71%
  • Record: 12-0
  • Next week: vs. Georgia

Clemson is certainly making a case for the No. 1 spot, but it belongs to the Tide until further notice. They rolled Auburn 52-21 in the Iron Bowl on Saturday, covering the 24.5-point spread.

Alabama is the first team since 1888 Yale to beat their first 12 opponents by at least 20 points (that Yale team didn’t give up a point all season, though — step your game up Nick Saban).

The Tide’s schedule hasn’t been a gauntlet, but blowing everyone out like that is a sign of greatness no matter the opponent, so they deserve the top spot as of now.

2. Clemson

  • Playoff Odds: 95%
  • Record: 12-0
  • Next week: -23.5 vs. Pitt

If Alabama is No. 1, Clemson is pretty much 1B. Based on resume, and the eye test, there is a significant gap between the Tide and Tigers and the rest of the country.

South Carolina did expose Clemson’s secondary a bit on Saturday night. We thought that might be a weakness heading into the season.

Let’s have some fun, though. What if Clemson loses to Pitt in the ACC Championship Game next week? Do the Tigers still get in? I say yes.

3. Notre Dame

  • Playoff Odds: 77%
  • Record: 12-0
  • Next week: Off

We’ve been saying it for the better part of two months — Notre Dame just needs to win out and it will reach the College Football Playoff. The Irish did it.

In all likelihood, they’ll be the No. 3 seed, unless Georgia upsets Alabama, then they might move to No. 2. But a date with Clemson in the semifinals is looking likely.

4. Georgia

  • Playoff Odds: 39%
  • Record: 11-1
  • Next week: vs. Alabama

It’s simple for Georgia — win the SEC Championship Game, get into the College Football Playoff.

Where things get complicated (depending on your definition of complicated; I think it’s actually pretty clear who would get in) is what happens to Alabama should the Dawgs pull off the upset.

If Georgia wins, I think the playoff would be No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 Georgia, No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 4 Alabama. The Big Ten and Big 12 should pray for an Alabama blowout.

5. Oklahoma

  • Playoff Odds: 50%
  • Record: 11-1
  • Next week: vs. Texas

The debate between who deserves the No. 4 spot will get interesting if Alabama beats Georgia. It will be between Ohio State and Oklahoma, should both of them win.

My favorite chaos scenario is this. If Ohio State, Georgia and Oklahoma all lose next weekend, who gets in? Texas? Michigan? Dare I say UCF? It would have been LSU before the Tigers lost to Texas A&M.

The College Football Playoff committee hasn’t always been kind to the Big 12, and may knock the Sooners for their complete disregard for defense. But Oklahoma needs to beat Texas before we start having any of these debates.

6. Ohio State

  • Playoff Odds: 60%
  • Record: 11-1
  • Next week: vs. Northwestern

Ohio State has a better win than Oklahoma (a rout of Michigan vs. a squeaker against West Virginia), but a much worse loss (at Purdue vs. neutral to Texas).

The College Football Playoff committee has typically valued quality wins more so than dinged teams for bad losses. We’ll see if that continues this year.

The Dark, Dark Horses 

7. Michigan

  • Playoff Odds: Less than 1%
  • Record: 10-2
  • Next week: Off

As I outlined, there’s one scenario in which Michigan re-enters the debate — Ohio State, Oklahoma and Georgia all lose next weekend. That leaves a spot open for a two-loss team, and Michigan would have somewhat of a case, though I think Texas would have a better one.

8. Texas

  • Playoff Odds: 3%
  • Record: 9-3
  • Next week: vs. Oklahoma

Texas has an outside shot at the College Football Playoff. It needs Georgia and Ohio State to lose and a win over Oklahoma, to get back in the conversation. But that’s certainly possible.

The committee would probably favor a three-loss, conference champion Texas over a two-loss Michigan or Washington State, especially since those two got beat handily in Week 13.

9. UCF

  • Playoff Odds: 3%
  • Record: 11-0
  • Next week: vs. Memphis

I think UCF finally had a slim chance to make a case for the College Football Playoff. It needed a Texas A&M win over LSU this week, and Alabama, Northwestern and Texas to all win next week. That would leave no one-loss Power 5 teams for the final spot.

But quarterback McKenzie Milton is done for the season after suffering a brutal leg injury this week against South Florida. That’s a big blow to the Knights.

10. Washington

  • Playoff Odds: 3%
  • Record: 9-3
  • Next week: vs. Utah

Like Texas, there is a chaos scenario in which a three-loss conference champion gets a little consideration, but it’s an extreme long shot. The Huskies probably regret losing to Cal right about now.

Eliminated Saturday

11. LSU

  • Playoff Odds: Less than 1%
  • Record: 10-2
  • Next week: Off

There was that one scenario in which LSU got in — Ohio State, Oklahoma and Georgia all lose next weekend. The Tigers had the best resume of any two-loss team, but a third loss suffered at A&M on Saturday ends those slim hopes.

Credit:

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports Pictured: Oklahoma Sooners defensive end Ronnie Perkins and teammates

Follow Steve Petrella on Twitter
@steve_petrella

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