2018 College Football Playoff Projections, Week 9: SEC Showdowns Loom Large

2018 College Football Playoff Projections, Week 9: SEC Showdowns Loom Large article feature image

Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Georgia Bulldogs running back Elijah Holyfield (13) and quarterback Justin Fields (1) react after Holyfield scored a touchdown against the Austin Peay Governors during the first half at Sanford Stadium.

  • The first 2018 College Football Playoff rankings will come out Tuesday, and we've got projections to hold you over until then.
  • A pair of potential top-10 showdowns in the SEC featuring LSU-Alabama and Georgia-Kentucky will highlight an excellent card next week.

Next week, we’ll have two top-10 SEC matchups that will have major College Football Playoff implications and decide the conference’s two divisions.

One of those games will feature Kentucky. What a time to be alive.

The first iteration of the 2018 College Football Playoff rankings will come out Tuesday, so until then, we’ll hold you over with our projections and breakdown.

You can debate the past entrants to the College Football Playoff all you want, but it’s simply come down to which Power 5 teams have the fewest losses. That’s all that matters, and that’s how we’ll be judging these teams, for the most part.

Percentages from FiveThirtyEight.com’s College Football Playoff prediction model.

2018 College Football Playoff Projections

1. Alabama

  • Record: 8-0
  • Playoff Chances: 67%

College football is weird. Kentucky is going to have a home game as a top-10 team in November, after all. Nothing is a sure thing.

But Alabama returning to the College Football Playoff for a fifth straight season feels like a sure thing.

The Tide were off in Week 9 and will play at LSU this coming weekend in a top-five showdown.

2. Clemson

  • Record: 8-0
  • Playoff Chances: 86%

Clemson struggled a bit early on relative to expectations, but seems to be finding its groove after blowing out N.C. State and Florida State in the last two weeks.

The Tigers play at Boston College in two weeks, but that’s their only real test before the ACC Championship Game, which may not be much of a test either.

3. Notre Dame

  • Record: 8-0
  • Playoff Chances: 52%

Notre Dame took care of business against Navy, and faces a tricky spot at Northwestern next week. The Irish just need to keep winning, and they’ll get in.

4. Michigan

  • Record: 7-1
  • Playoff Chances: 25%

Michigan was off this week, but has solidified itself as a College Football Playoff contender in the last month. The Wolverines have a loss — Week 1 to Notre Dame — so they need to be perfect the rest of the way.

Outside Looking In, But Still Alive

5. Georgia

  • Record: 7-1
  • Playoff Chances: 34%

The Bulldogs took it to Florida on Saturday and setup an SEC East-deciding game against Kentucky in Lexington next weekend.

If Georgia wins out, it will surely be in the College Football Playoff, because winning out would mean a victory over Alabama. With two losses, it will be tough for the Dawgs to get in barring major chaos elsewhere.

6. LSU

  • Record: 7-1
  • Playoff Chances: 17%

The Tigers continue to surprise people, and have more quality wins than anyone in the country. But a loss to Alabama will make it really difficult for LSU to reach the College Football Playoff, unless there’s tons of chaos elsewhere.

They’re No. 6 because you can’t discount their résumé, but may not be here much longer with the Tide looming on Saturday.

I think the College Football Playoff committee puts LSU at No. 4 this week behind Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame, but since we’re expecting a loss this week, we’ll put the Tigers at No. 6.

7. Oklahoma

  • Record: 7-1
  • Playoff Chances: 35%

Texas losing to Oklahoma State leaves the Sooners and West Virginia as the only one-loss teams in the Big 12. But Oklahoma has a much better chance to win out and reach the College Football Playoff.

If the Sooners do win out, they’ll need Notre Dame to lose, or Michigan to fall to Penn State or Ohio State to have a chance.

8. Ohio State

  • Record: 7-1
  • Playoff Chances: 24%

Ohio State was off this week after losing to Purdue. Despite that bad loss, the Buckeyes can still reach the College Football Playoff if they run the table. That would require a win over Michigan and a win in the Big Ten Championship Game.

9. Washington State

  • Record: 7-1
  • Playoff Chances: 14%

Sorry I haven’t moved you up, Cougars. The fact that you’re 8-0 against the spread should mean a whole lot.

And the schedule isn’t bad — Wazzu hosts Washington to end the season. We should probably be talking more about the Cougars, but the Pac-12 doesn’t get much love from the College Football Playoff committee.

10. Kentucky … ?

  • Record: 7-1
  • Playoff Chances: 7%

Kentucky. Yes, that Kentucky, will host Georgia with a shot to clinch the SEC East with a win. Seriously.

After Georgia, the Wildcats’ two toughest games are at Tennessee and at Louisville. Then, of course, Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.

11. West Virginia

  • Record: 7-1
  • Playoff Chances: 7%

The Mountaineers are 6-1 and still very much alive in the Big 12 race, but it will be tough for them to win out against Texas, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, then the Big 12 Championship Game.

Sorry, You’re Not Getting In

12. UCF

Last season the College Football Playoff committee made it very clear that teams need quality wins to get in. UCF will not have many quality wins even if it runs the table this season.

The playoff just wasn’t designed for a team like UCF to get in.

All But Eliminated

Florida played itself out with a loss to Georgia. As did Iowa, which now has two losses after dropping one to Penn State. Same goes for Texas.