One of the problems I used to have with College Football was that teams had to go undefeated to make the BCS Championship Game. One loss was all it took; the margin for error was incredibly slim.
But, the BCS Bowl era is over, and we now have the College Football Playoff. The four-team playoff (in my opinion) saved college football.
It allowed people not to feel like their season was over after one loss. It allowed underdogs who might’ve otherwise not had a chance to win a National Championship. (I’m looking at you 2014 Ohio State.)
Down but Not Out
So in tribute to those teams who in years past would likely be gone and done after their one loss, I am going to show how four one-loss teams could potentially still make the CFP.
Of the four teams, I think that Clemson has the easiest path to make the CFP.
Their only loss thus far in the season is to the #2 Bulldogs, in a narrow 10-3 neutral-site loss. Assuming Georgia stays undefeated and defensively dominant, that is a good loss.
Clemson also has an easy path to both the ACC Championship game and winning out.
They play at NC State, then Boston College, at Syracuse. After Syracuse, they play against Pittsburgh, host FSU, then back on the road against Louisville. They wrap up their season home against Connecticut, then Wake Forest, and close the season on the road against the Gamecocks.
That is an easy regular-season schedule for Clemson, despite their offensive problems. It should be easy for Clemson to win out and make the ACC Championship game.
Assuming Clemson makes the ACC Championship, they will likely face either North Carolina or Virginia Tech. If Clemson faces Virginia Tech, I am not that worried about the Tigers. I think that Clemson will struggle against a good Hookies defense but should be able to shut down their offense.
North Carolina, on the other hand, could be problematic. UNC has an offense that can go toe-to-toe with Clemson’s defense. But either way, I would expect the Tigers to win the ACC Championship and at the very least be in the mix for a CFP berth.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Of the teams I picked, Ohio State has the most challenging remaining schedule. They will play home to #6 ranked Penn State, as well as #20 Michigan State. The Buckeye then travel to Ann Arbor to end their season against the #19 University of Michigan Wolverines.
Realistically, the Buckeyes CFP hopes hinge on their game against the #6 Nittany Lions. Both teams are in the East, and I don’t anticipate losing to other opponents, so OSU must have the head-to-head victory.
Assuming Ohio State makes it past their line-up of ranked opponents, they would likely face the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big 10 Championship.
Should the Buckeyes make it that far there is no reason they wouldn’t make the CFP. As Big10 Champions with only a loss to presumptive PAC12 Champion Oregon, the Buckeyes could even earn the #2 seed.
My expectation going into this assignment was that Florida would likely have to battle through a demanding SEC schedule. However, that isn’t the case.
Now that the Gators have already played #1 Alabama, the only remaining ranked team on Florida’s schedule is #2 Georgia. Not to minimize that challenge, hosting Georgia is never a treat. But if the Gators can beat the Bulldogs, they should win the SEC East.
That, of course, would lead to a rematch of Gators Crimson Tide, which would be a fascinating game to watch. The Gators would have to win it, but if they did, they would be a lock to make the CFP.
If they lost a close one, I could see Georiga being a one-loss team that makes it in.
I did not have the Iowa State Cyclones in the CFP mix, but they were ranked #9 at one point in the season. Their only loss comes to currently ranked #5 Iowa, so I don’t think it is crazy for the Cyclones to make a push. This could be the year the Cyclones win the Big 12. Let me explain.
The Cyclones only have two games against ranked opponents. They go on the road to face off against both Kansas State University and Oklahoma University, and I am not huge on either opponent.
Kansas State just entered the rankings, and their best win is over Stanford, far from impressive. Oklahoma is much less impressive; their best win is against Nebraska 23-16 (they were favored by -22.5).
There is no reason Iowa State can not win either game.
Assuming the Cyclones win out, they would likely face the Sooners in the Big 12 Conference Championship. I don’t know if I would take the Cyclones to beat the Sooners twice, but there certainly is a chance.