College Football Playoff Picture: Appalachian State Outlasts Michigan

2019 College Football Playoff Picture

There weren’t all that many upsets this weekend, but a handful of big ones (hellooooo, Lovie Smith!) caused some seismic shifts in the field of likely College Football Playoff teams.

In just three weeks, the list of potential Playoff contenders has been cut in half from 36 to 18. And yes, Appalachian State is still one of those 18 while Michigan is not. When have you ever seen something like that happen before?

Things are about to get another big shakeup this weekend, when seven of the 18 remaining contenders have to go on the road. Two of those games are head-to-head matchups with another Playoff contender, meaning we’re guaranteed to see some movement on this list when Auburn travels to LSU, and Wisconsin visits Ohio State.

Below we’ll take a look at which teams still have a realistic shot to get in to the College Football Playoff, based on the criteria the committee has used before. Basically, we’ll assume a team is still alive until they cross a threshold which has definitively eliminated teams in the past.

As a quick reminder, here are the criteria that it normally takes to get one of those top four spots.

Your program is named Alabama

The Crimson Tide have made the Playoff in each of the five seasons. They did it in 2017 despite not winning their division, not winning their conference, having zero wins over top-15 teams, and entering the postseason off of a two-score loss in their regular season finale.

The normal rules don’t apply.

Until you see the Tide on the outside of the Playoff looking in, just assume they have an auto-bid every year.

You are an undefeated Power 5 conference champ

No unbeaten Power 5 champion has ever been left out of the field.

Major independents like Notre Dame or BYU would either possibly or likely qualify as well.

You are a one-loss Power 5 conference champ

Oklahoma got in this way in 2018 and 2017, Georgia did it in 2017, Clemson and Washington did in 2016, Alabama, Michigan State, and Oklahoma in 2015, and Ohio State, Alabama, and Oregon did in 2014.

TCU and Baylor didn’t in 2014, but they were co-champs and didn’t play a conference title game.

Last year, Ohio State was the first team to finish 12-1 with a Power 5 Conference Championship Game win to be left out. And that required three unbeaten teams, plus another 12-1 major conference champion.

It’s worth noting that the 2018 Buckeyes were also ranked behind an 11-2 Georgia team that didn’t win its conference. So if you’re a team in this category hoping to get in, try not to lose to Purdue by 29 points.

You are a one-loss non-champion Power 5 team

If your regular season resume is strong enough and your loss is early enough in the year, you can overcome not winning your conference.

Ohio State got in this way in 2016, thanks to road wins over top-10 Oklahoma and Wisconsin and a home win over top-5 Michigan.

Wisconsin missed out after losing to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game in 2017.

Alabama got in this way in 2017, despite losing its last game and having zero wins over top-15 teams. (See “Your Program Is Alabama” above)

You are a two-loss Power 5 conference champ

No two-loss team has ever made the College Football Playoff, but they have gotten close. Penn State was an 11-2 Big Ten champ in 2016 and finished No. 5 in the rankings. Ohio State did the same thing in 2016.

Once you lose your second game, you are all but eliminated from the Playoff discussion. Again, we’ll mention that a two-loss Georgia was ranked No. 5 last season without even winning the conference. But as far as the Playoff field is concerned, No. 5 and No. 25 in the final rankings are functionally the same thing.

In a 2007 scenario, where the season devolves into a Thunderdome of massive upsets and everyone has two losses, you’d probably have a decent shot. But that doesn’t happen often.

Right now, two-loss teams aren’t listed below. If things start to get crazy later this year, that category could get added.

You are an undefeated Group of 5 conference champ

UCF went 12-0 and was ranked No. 12 in 2017. They were behind a three-loss Auburn team, and one spot ahead of 9-4 Stanford.

Houston went 12-1 in 2015 and was ranked No. 18.

This is ridiculous and unfair to basically half of FBS.

But theoretically, an unbeaten Group of 5 champ could get one of the top four spots.

The season started with all 130 FBS teams having at least some shot at making the final four. Three weeks ago, there were 36 teams listed below. Now, that list is down to 18.

So who is still alive for the 2019 College Football Playoff race?

Unbeaten Power 5 Teams (8 remaining)

Clemson, Baylor, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, Alabama, LSU.

Wisconsin suffered a shocking upset to Illinois to fall out of this group one week before what was shaping up to be a matchup of unbeatens in Columbus. 

One-loss Power 5 Teams (8 remaining)

Wake Forest, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Utah, Oregon, Auburn, Florida, Georgia.

Michigan, Arizona State, and Missouri all suffered their second losses of the season and fell out of this group.

Wisconsin is now in here, and on the cusp of dropping out of the Playoff picture entirely.

Unbeaten Group of 5 Teams (2 remaining)

Southern Methodist, Appalachian State

Boise State suffered an upset loss to BYU, falling behind 28-10 to the Cougars’ third-string quarterback Baylor Romney. And yes, that IS the most BYU name ever. The Broncos scored a couple late touchdowns to make it close, but couldn’t finish the comeback. SMU and App State continue to cruise, and at least have a theoretical shot to make the field. However, they have to run the table, get a lot of help, and then have the committee decide to do something it has shown zero inclination to do at any point in history.

2 Responses

  1. I’m looking forward to NOT seeing tsun mentioned on this page anymore. Same for Wisky after this Saturday.

  2. nice choke job by Wisconsin, despite a pretty good day for Taylor and Coan throwing for 75%…was hoping theyd be unbeaten when playing OSU

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