How the 10 teams still alive for CFP can make final 4

We’ve reached the final 10. Barring all-hell-breaks-loose chaos that would make the 2007 season look tame, there are 10 FBS teams with real—or even really slim—chances to make the College Football Playoff. So let’s examine what each team needs to do to make the bracket.

ACC

Clemson (9–0)

Remaining games: at Boston College, vs. Duke, vs. South Carolina, vs. TBD in ACC Championship (if qualified).

How to get in: The Tigers just need to keep winning and they’ll be one of the top two seeds. It doesn’t seem anyone in the ACC can slow Clemson now that it has reached playoff mode. This week’s trip to Boston College doesn’t fit the profile of Clemson’s random ACC losses in the past two years. Syracuse (2017) and Pittsburgh (’16) were not considered threats. The Orange didn’t make a bowl last year, and the Panthers were 5–4 when they headed down to Clemson. BC is still in contention for the ACC title and could potentially knock Clemson out of the ACC title game by beating the Tigers. Conversely, Clemson could clinch the Atlantic by beating the Eagles. So don’t expect Clemson players to assume this will be easy.

Big 12

Oklahoma (8–1)

Remaining games: vs. Oklahoma State, vs. Kansas, at West Virginia, vs. TBD in Big 12 Championship (if qualified).

How to get in: The Sooners have the clearest path to the Big 12 title game, but that path may require them to beat West Virginia twice in eight days. Here’s how that doesn’t happen. Iowa State wins out, which includes a win against Texas that would hand the Longhorns their third conference loss. Assuming Oklahoma and West Virginia won their previous two games, that would create a scenario where the Sooners could essentially choose their title game opponent based on the result of their Black Friday game in Morgantown. (That also assumes Iowa State beats Kansas State the day after Black Friday.) The Sooners would automatically choose the Cyclones in this scenario, because that would keep their playoff hopes alive.

It will be interesting to see what happens if three spots are filled and a one-loss Big 12 champ (either Oklahoma or West Virginia) are matched against a one-loss Big Ten champ (either Michigan or Ohio State) and/or a one-loss Washington State with a Pac-12 title.

In that scenario, one-loss Michigan probably gets the nod if the Wolverines win the Big Ten. If Ohio State emerges as a one-loss Big Ten champ, then the Big 12 champ will have an excellent argument. Oklahoma probably would get the spot. It would be curious to see what the committee would do with a West Virginia team that had its best non-conference game (at NC State) canceled by a hurricane. But that would be a West Virginia team that just beat Oklahoma twice in eight days.

West Virginia (7–1)

Remaining games: vs. TCU, at Oklahoma State, vs. Oklahoma, vs. TBD in Big 12 Championship (if qualified).

How to get in: I covered most of the Mountaineers’ scenarios in the Oklahoma section, but the gist is they need to just keep winning. There is a possibility they could get a rematch against Iowa State or Texas in the Big 12 title game if they win their last three. That would require Oklahoma to lose to Oklahoma State or Kansas. (So, Oklahoma State.) It also would require Texas or Iowa State to win out. If that title game opponent is the Cyclones, a chance to avenge their only loss could be attractive to the Mountaineers. But given how thoroughly Iowa State shut down West Virginia’s offense, the Mountaineers may not want to see Iowa State again.

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By: Andy Staples

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