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The only 11 teams that can still make the College Football Playoff - and their path to get there


Credit: Big Ten Network

We are in the home stretch of the college football season with the first College Football Rankings coming out last week. This season seems wider open than usual, and it will make the season that much better when we get to Selection Sunday.


Here is a list of teams that still have realistic paths to the Playoff, from the obvious and realistic to the more out there one, but still possible.



Ohio State:


The path for Ohio State is relatively straight forward. They’ve passed all their tests up to this point with a last second win at Notre Dame and an ugly win at home against Penn State. They must travel to Ann Arbor to face Michigan in the last weekend of the season. They need to keep winning and they are in. The Buckeyes defense is one of the best in the entire country, but the offense needs to be more consistent. They still have the best playmaker in the country in Marvin Harrison Jr. which will win them games by itself.


The Michigan game will be interesting because if it’s a close game and there’s chaos around them, there’s a possibility Ohio State could stay in the playoff, despite a loss.


Georgia:


Georgia almost has a clearer path than Ohio State to get into the playoff. Georgia has been seen as the best team in the country almost all year and hasn’t moved from the top spot in the AP Poll.


The biggest issue facing Georgia is that they face their toughest stretch of the season in the next two weeks with Ole Miss at home and then a road game against Tennessee. Both teams have offenses that can cause issues for Georgia, like how Missouri did the same thing last week.


Still, the Bulldogs are a juggernaut and that’s even without Brock Bowers at tight end where Carson Beck has proven himself under center for the Bulldogs. Georgia needs to win at least one of these next two big games, but they also can win those two and get to the SEC Championship and lose and STILL probably get in. Georgia needs to be careful, but they can get in and it might just be a matter of what seeding they are.


Michigan:


The Wolverines have looked incredible through eight weeks, but this week they face their biggest test yet with a road game against Penn State. Then they have a game against Maryland on the road and a game against Ohio State at home. Michigan is in a nice position because if they win out, they are in. However, they could potentially be in even if they split the two games against Penn State and Ohio State. '


The issue facing Michigan is what could be on the horizon from a punishment aspect with the Big Ten due to Michigan being involved in a cheating scandal. Rightly or wrongly, that could factor into this overall for the Wolverines. Michigan is in a prime position where they could maybe afford a loss, just depends.


Florida State:


The Seminoles have a clear path in front of them, but no margin for error. The ACC has taken a hit with North Carolina taking a pair of ugly losses in recent weeks and Miami not living up to its early hype either. Even worse, their signature win against LSU looks less significant after last week, and Clemson doesn't even count as a quality win at this point.


The key for the Seminoles is to not trip up. They play Miami at home next, and face what is realistically their biggest test at Florida to end the season. The Swamp isn’t an easy place to play in and there would be nothing more that the Gators would want than to knock Florida State off and out of the Playoff picture.


There’s not much margin, and in addition to winning, Florida State is probably rooting for teams like Texas, Washington and Oregon to take more losses, to make the Seminoles path - even with a loss - easier.



Washington:


Washington has been playing with fire ever since that big win against Oregon. They won that game and then have struggled in games against Arizona State, Stanford, and USC. The path for the Huskies revolves around winning the Pac-12. They have a tough game in front of them this week with Utah visiting Seattle, and then they finish with a tough road game against Oregon State and Washington State at home in the last Apple Cup.


Washington can lose one of their remaining games, but still get to the playoff with a Pac-12 championship win. They have land mines in front of them, especially with how this defense has played.


Still, the offense is going to cause issues for any team. The defense has shown its cracks and could be a major issue soon with their remaining schedule.


Oregon:


The loss to Washington feels like it was a turning point for Oregon. They’ve looked impressive in every game since, winning each by double digits, with the closest game being by 14 points. The schedule in front of Oregon is relatively easy before the Pac-12 Championship. They play a reeling USC team at home, then travel to Arizona State who’s struggled all year this season, and they play Oregon State in the last "Civil War" at home.


The biggest game for Oregon would be a Pac-12 Championship rematch against Washington. With their loss already, they need to win out and that includes the Pac-12 Championship. The Ducks have everything in front of them and should be in the Playoff if they win out.



Texas:


Texas needs to win out to get into the playoff. They own the best win of anyone this season with their win against Alabama on the road in Week 2.


However, Texas is facing an uphill battle right now without Quinn Ewers. They escaped last week against Kansas State and have two straight road games before ending the season against Texas Tech and then they have the Big 12 Championship game. These next two road games could be tough for Texas if they don’t have Quinn Ewers, especially the game on the road against Iowa State.


On paper, the Longhorns should win out and go to the Big 12 Championship game against Oklahoma State most likely. Still, without Ewers, Texas needs to be careful, but if they win out, they should be in.


Alabama:


The Crimson Tide are back to where they usually are. They struggled to figure things out at the beginning of the season with the loss to Texas, but now they look like a juggernaut once again. Still, they need to win out because the schedule in front of them isn’t that difficult. They play Kentucky on the road this week and then Auburn on the road in the last week of the season. Both games can be difficult, but Alabama is the better team, and their real test will be in the SEC Championship against Georgia if both teams win their next three.


The path for Alabama is very clear and with their offense getting better and better to complement their defense they can beat anyone.


The SEC season is rounding into form and it’s going to come down to the SEC Championship in Atlanta.


Ole Miss:


This weekend against Georgia will be Ole Miss’s biggest test since they played Alabama, and ultimately decide whether they're a College Football Playoff contender beyond this week. The Ole Miss offense has been great this season, but the defense needs work.


If Ole Miss can pull this off this weekend against Georgia, then the SEC gets even more interesting overall. Alabama would still hold the tiebreaker over them in the SEC title race, meaning even if Ole Miss shocks Georgia this weekend, they'd Alabama to lose either at Kentucky or at Auburn to make their first trip to Atlanta.


Still, an 11-1 Ole Miss team with a win at Georgia, and with their only loss at Alabama would seemingly jump to the front of any conversation involving teams that didn't win their conference at the end of the season.



Penn State:


Penn State’s biggest game of the season so far was a very ugly loss against Ohio State on the road. The Nittany Lions now have a massive test this weekend against Michigan, but it’s at home. If Penn State wins this game, then they shoot back up into the playoff rankings and can win out from there with games against Rutgers and Michigan State to end the season.


Put simply, they need to win this game for any other conversations to start.


They have a good shot this weekend because the home field advantage that Penn State has might be the best in the whole Big Ten. The Penn State offense feels like they finally figured out an extra gear after last week against Maryland, and the defense is still great overall. It might not be as unrealistic as people think, so keep an eye on Penn State to potentially jump a lot in the rankings.


It's also worth noting that as things currently stand, Penn State would hold a tie-breaker if the Nittany Lions, Ohio State and Michigan all finish 11-1.


Louisville:


While they're certainly the most unlikely of all the teams on this list, Louisville, by technicality, still has a shot at the College Football Playoff.


The Cardinals currently sit at 8-1 overall, and have a manageable stretch to finish the year, with Virginia at home, Miami on the road and Kentucky at home.


At that point they'd be 11-1 and almost certainly facing Florida State in the ACC title game. Win that and the Cardinals would be a 12-1 conference champ, with what would likely be a great win on paper (Florida State on a neutral).


Even then, the Cardinals - like the Seminoles above - would probably still need help with the Big 12 or Pac-12 playing itself out of playoff contention.


But the committee has never left out a 12-1, power conference champion, so it'd be interesting to see if an exception was made.


Follow Jake Faigus on Twitter - @Jake_Faigus




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