And then there were five.
Sorry, Western Michigan; the only way you would get a shot in the College Football Playoff is if we saw it expanded beyond four teams.
So, as we await the release of the College Football Playoff’s first rankings Tuesday, the current scenario appears to be playing right into the four-team system’s favor.
There are four Power 5 conference teams that are still unbeaten, with the SEC’s Alabama, the Big Ten’s Michigan, the ACC’s Clemson and the Pac-12’s Washington all sitting at 8-0.
What a perfect scenario. There’s only one problem: There’s still four games to go.
Therefore, I am going to predict that at least two of those teams won’t ultimately be in the College Football Playoff.
The only shoo-in for me is Alabama. I don’t see Alabama losing twice in its last four games, and I think even a slip-up against either LSU, Mississippi State or Auburn wouldn’t be enough to keep the Crimson Tide out of the playoff.
The other three have much more to lose.
On paper, the Tigers have the easiest road to the College Football Playoff.
With Florida State in the rear view, Clemson has three of its last four games at home – vs. Syracuse (4-4, 2-2 ACC), vs. Pittsburgh (5-3, 2-2), at Wake Forest (5-3, 2-2) and vs. South Carolina (4-4, 2-4 SEC).
If the Tigers keep their focus, those should all be two-plus-touchdown victories.
Yes, South Carolina just beat Tennessee and has the rivalry factor in the final game, but I just don’t see the Gamecocks pulling the stunner.
And then there’s the ACC championship game, where the Tigers will likely take on the likes of Virginia Tech (6-2, 4-1) or North Carolina (6-2, 4-1).
I don’t see Clemson slipping up there, either.
The Huskies have probably the most frail chance as their conference hasn’t helped them out.
Looking rather mediocre, the Pac-12 has just one team with fewer than two losses, and that’s Washington. And those squads still have four more weeks to beat each other up.
Therefore, one loss could potentially be enough to keep the Huskies out. They still have games against California (4-4, 2-3 Pac-12), Southern California (5-3, 4-2), Arizona State (5-4, 2-4) and Washington State (6-2, 5-0).
While the conference overall is down, Southern Cal always has plenty of talent, so the Trojans on a given day could get in Washington’s way.
Simply put: Washington needs to run the table.
The Wolverines probably have the most to gain – along with much to lose.
In its last four games, Michigan has road trips to Iowa (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten) and Ohio State (7-1, 4-1). The other games are home contests against Maryland (5-3, 2-3) and Indiana (4-4, 2-3), games it should win.
On the plus side, should the Wolverines run the table – and then win the Big Ten championship game – they could have a case to be No. 1 when it comes to the College Football Playoff.
Conversely, simply losing to Ohio State could potentially end Michigan’s chances.
Who’s in, who’s out
I believe Alabama and Clemson will both ultimately get in, and both will likely be undefeated as Nos. 1 and 2 in the playoff like they were last season – but in reverse order.
I’m going to count Michigan and Washington out at this point, with Ohio State sneaking in with a big win over the Wolverines in the final week of the regular season and Louisville sleep walking its way to the No. 4 spot when the Huskies slip up against Southern Cal.
Who: Syracuse at Clemson
When: 3:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: Memorial Stadium
TV: ABC or ESPN2
Line: Clemson by 26