How 10 one-loss Power 5 teams can get back into the Playoff discussion
In College Football the regular season matters, every game is significant and one loss can potentially put a teams’ Playoff aspirations in jeopardy.
However, it’s better to lose early on than to fall and climb back into the mix late. Ohio State proved that scenario during its’ 2014 season and lost to Virginia Tech in week two, but ran the table afterwards and eventually won the National Title. Heading into week eight Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Washington State and West Virginia all have a loss. The Pac-12 and Big 12 no longer has an undefeated team, but there’s a lot of football left to be played and all 10 teams are still in the hunt.
If these teams can make it to their Conference Title Game it’ll help their cause. They all control their own destiny from this point on. Strength of schedule and style points will play a huge role in deciding all 10 teams’ post season fate. If Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State or Notre Dame happens to lose, it’ll put these 10 programs back in the race. The first rankings of the College Football Playoff will be announced in two weeks and now we’ll all see which teams are ready to walk that thin line.
Florida: The Gators are chomping down hard since their loss to No. 14 Kentucky in the conference-opener and have won five-straight games. Florida has put together a good resume’ and beat No. 5 LSU in the Swamp and No. 22 Mississippi State on the road. Dan Mullen has his team a year ahead of schedule and seems like the right coach for the job. Florida will likely have a top-10 battle with rival Georgia next week. With a win in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party the Gators will be smooth sailing to their third SEC Championship game in four years and will face-off against a potential top-five opponent from the West.
Georgia: The No. 8 Bulldogs will need to pick up the pieces after their blowout loss on the road to the Bayou Bengals last week. Last season Georgia suffered a similar loss at Auburn, but eventually went on to win the SEC Title. With the week off Head Coach Kirby Smart will need to use the extra time to get his boys healthy. A Top-15 showdown with Florida and Kentucky looms on the schedule and it will be a great opportunity for Georgia to secure the SEC East. If the Bulldogs win those two games and defeat the SEC West Champion in the Conference Title Game, it’ll be hard for the Committee to keep them out of the Playoff.
Kentucky: It may sound crazy, but the Wildcats are in the driver’s seat in the SEC East. Kentucky already knocked off No. 11 Florida on the road, No. 22 Mississippi State at home and lost to No. 17 Texas A&M on the road. The Wildcats are coming off of a bye-week and Head Coach Mark Stoops should have his team focused for the second half of the season. No. 14 Kentucky may seem like overachievers to some, but Stoops team has arguably one of the toughest schedules in the East division. The home game with Georgia will be Kentucky’s toughest hurdle. A win against the Bulldogs and the Wildcats will raise some eyebrows. The rest of Kentucky’s remaining schedule is cake.
LSU: The Bayou Bengals seem like the best one-loss team in the nation at the moment with their No. 5 ranking in the latest AP Poll. The resume’ is legit and LSU beat Miami, Auburn, Ole Miss and most notably No. 8 Georgia. The Bayou Bengals face off against No. 22 Mississippi State at home this Saturday and then has the week off to get prepared for No. 1 Alabama. If LSU wins those two games, a regular season finale on the road at Texas A&M will be the only team that stands in its’ way to a berth in the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2011. Head Ed Orgeron has already surprised everyone with how good LSU has played this season. The Bayou Bengals have a clear cut path to the College Football Playoff, but can they deliver?
Michigan: Everyone counted the Wolverines out after their opening-season loss on the road at No. 4 Notre Dame. However, Jim Harbaugh went back to the drawing board to correct everything and Michigan has won six-straight games, including a victory over No. 23 Wisconsin. Michigan is one of two undefeated teams in conference play from the Big 10 East. Michigan has an important game this Saturday with in-state rival No. 24 Michigan State for the Paul Bunyan Trophy. Harbaugh knows the pressure is on him and needs to silence his critics with a win over the Spartans. If the No. 6 Wolverines win Saturday, they’ll have the week off to prepare for No. 18 Penn State. Everything comes down to the regular season-finale on the road against the hated Buckeyes. A win over No. 2 Ohio State and another in the Big 10 Championship Game should secure Michigan a berth in the program’s first College Football Playoff.
Oklahoma: The No. 9 Sooners were very angry from their loss to the Longhorns and fired their defensive coordinator. Oklahoma had a week off to absorb their loss to No. 7 Texas. Now Oklahoma is on the outside looking in, but the opportunity is still there to make a push by playing TCU, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State in the next four weeks. All three of those teams have a winning record to boost Oklahoma’s credibility. The winner of the season-finale at No. 13 West Virginia should decide which team goes to the Big 12 Title game. If the Sooners win that game, there might be a first-ever rematch with the Longhorns. A win there would put Oklahoma right in the thick of things and make it hard for the Committee to overlook them if they finish the season as the one-loss Big 12 Champ.
Oregon: The No. 12 Ducks are an overtime loss to Stanford from being undefeated. The Duck’s weak non-conference schedule is what could come back to haunt them. However, Oregon is coming off a win over No. 15 Washington and has a Top-25 showdown with Washington State this Saturday, which should decide the Pac-12 North. A win in the Conference Title Game over a ranked team from the Pac-12 South should help the Ducks. Still, the team is a long shot at making the College Football Playoff and will need teams ranked ahead of them to lose in order to be considered.
Texas: The No. 7 Longhorns are primed for their first Big 12 Title Game since 2009. Since Texas’ opening-season loss to Maryland, the team has won six-straight games, including wins over USC, TCU and No. 9 Oklahoma. Head Coach Tom Herman has done a marvelous job coaching his team and the Longhorns are a year ahead of schedule. Texas has the week off to prepare for its’ last five games of the regular season, which includes three road games. No. 13 West Virginia visits Austin in three weeks and a win there would put the Longhorns in first place in the Big 12 and possibly a rematch with the Sooners in the Conference Title Game. If Texas runs the table from this point on it will have a strong argument to make the College Football Playoff.
Washington State: Out of all 10 teams on this list, the No. 25 Cougars has the toughest hill to climb at making the College Football Playoff. The Cougars only loss was on the road at USC by three points. Washington State is the lowest ranked one-loss team. Still, the opportunity starts this Saturday with a Top 25 showdown with Oregon in Pullman. ESPN’s College Gameday will be there and this game has the nation’s attention. Head Coach Mike Leach needs his team to seize the moment and take control of the Pac-12 North division. Washington State’s schedule gets tougher for the next five games after Saturday, with clashes against Stanford and Colorado on the road, the season-finale at home against No. 15 Washington and possibly a berth in the Conference Title Game against a ranked South division foe. If the Cougars win all of those games they’ll definitely have a legit argument.
West Virginia: The No. 13 Mountaineers are coming off a road loss to an unranked Iowa State team and now have the week off to let that defeat soak in. Senior signal-caller Will Grier had his worst game of the season against the Cyclones and West Virginia scored a season-low 14 points. The Mountaineers aren’t out of the Playoff race with games against No. 7 Texas and No. 9 Oklahoma looming on the schedule. West Virginia will need to run the table and win the Big 12 Title to be strongly considered and Head Coach Dana Hologorsen should have his team ready for their last five games of the regular season. Leaders need to emerge and the offense needs to play lights out in order to accomplish this feat.
Iowa: Penn State is the only ranked team remaining on the Hawkeyes’ schedule, so even if they run the table it won’t be enough. The Big 10 West is really down this season and Iowa avoids Ohio State and Michigan from the East.