The final weekend of the 2016 college football regular season is upon us. Contenders have come and gone, new teams have risen to the top, and well Alabama is still #1. This was a season where Michigan St., Notre Dame, Texas, Ole Miss, and Baylor were all thought of as CFP contenders at some point, and now only one of those is even bowl eligible (*note that bowl eligible team is Baylor and I don’t think anyone is too envious of their situation at the moment). We are not here to discuss the failures though, we want to discuss the ten teams that says have a >1% chance of making the playoff.


#1 Alabama


**Key wins—#11 USC, #14 Auburn, @ #21 LSU, @ #22 Tennessee (how are they ranked exactly?)


The 2016 version of the Crimson Tide is a juggernaut. They could lose the SEC Championship Game and still probably be in the playoff, although 538’s projection model says a loss sinks Alabama’s odds to under 50%. Does anyone really believe ‘Bama will be left out? This is a team that has allowed as many touchdowns on defense as said defense has scored (12 each). Speaking of defense, Texas A&M was the last team to score a TD on them, and that was on October 22nd. The offense isn’t too bad either, freshman QB Jalen Hurts has accounted for 33 TD’s while completing nearly 66% of his passes.

Path to playoff—Win the SEC Championship game, or lose and probably still get in anyway.

#2 Ohio St.


Key wins—#5 Michigan, @ #6 Wisconsin, @ #9 Oklahoma

Losses—@ #7 Penn St.

It’s hard to find a more impressive resume in the country than Ohio St. They have knocked off three of the current CFP top ten and their loss was on the road to yet another top ten foe. Despite the lack of a conference championship game to play in, the Buckeyes enter the weekend with a 94% chance to make the playoff, which is the highest among all teams. WR/RB Curtis Samuel has been their spark plug on offense, with 704 rushing yards, 822 receiving yards, and 15 combined TD’s. First year starter at safety, Malik Hooker, has had 6 interceptions to lead the defense.

Path to the playoff—Scoreboard watch, the only scenario where the Buckeyes really sweat it out is if Penn St. wins the Big Ten Championship Game. That causes the Buckeye’s odds to fall to 84%. Although may I remind you computers aren’t humans (Nate Silver’s 538 election predictions anyone?).

#3 Clemson


Key wins—@ #14 Auburn, #13 Louisville, @ #12 Florida St.


I’ve seen articles recently stating that Clemson has “turned a corner” after their shocking upset loss to Pitt. Well if turning a corner is beating Wake Forest and South Carolina in back-to-back weeks (both 6-6 teams) then I’m all aboard the bandwagon. It’s no secret that Clemson has been sloppy at times en route to their 11-1 record, but they won the big games and their resume will be complete with a win in the ACC title game. The defense has given up big chunks of yards at times, but QB Deshaun Watson has and a deep group of receivers have keyed the offense. Watson has accounted for over 4,000 yards of offense and 38 TD’s.

Path to the playoff—This one is rather simple, win and you’re in, lose and you’re out. Clemson’s current odds sit at 81%. With a win, they go to >99%, and a loss sends those odds tumbling to 6%.

#4 Washington


Key wins—#18 Stanford, @ #20 Utah

Losses—#11 USC

Yes, Washington played a cupcake nonconference schedule. Yes, the committee punished Baylor for such an offense two years ago. No, Baylor did not play in a conference championship game. And that is the opportunity Washington has tonight to solidify their resume. I personally do not believe Washington is one of the best four teams in the country, but if they win the Pac-12 title game it won’t matter and they will be heading to the playoff. Former Boise St. coach Chris Petersen has the Huskies playing physical defense and the offense has been explosive. Sophomore QB Jake Browning leads the nation in passer efficiency and WR’s John Ross and Dante Pettis combine for 30 TD receptions.

Path to the playoff—Like Clemson, a win in their conference championship game gives the Huskies a likely spot in the playoff (98% chance). A loss gives them odds of less than 1%. Put simply, it’s all on the line for UW in Santa Clara on Friday night.

#5 Michigan


Key wins—#8 Colorado, #7 Penn St., #6 Wisconsin

Losses—@ Iowa, @ #2 Ohio St.

Michigan quietly has three top ten wins as well. That comes in part because two of those wins were against unranked opponents at the time (Colorado and Penn St.). While their resume has grown in strength, the team itself failed two crucial November road tests in Iowa City and Columbus. Jim Harbaugh’s offense is nothing special, although QB Wilton Speight has been a good game manager.

The defense has been lights out and led the Big Ten in scoring defense. Jabrill Peppers has been a game changer is all three phases of the game and CB Jourdan Lewis was spectacular en route to first team All-Big Ten honors (like this—

Path to the playoff—Michigan represents an intriguing option for the committee should anyone ahead of them falter. They have the head-to-head win against each of the three teams directly behind them in the rankings. However, the best I could do in the simulation was get them to a 31% chance to make the playoff. Their best chance of getting in is hoping Clemson and Washington lose ahead of them, and for the committee to value head-to-head more than a conference championship when comparing them to Wisconsin/Penn St. or Colorado.

#6 Wisconsin


Key wins—#21 LSU

Losses—@ #5 Michigan, # 2 Ohio St.

Wisconsin has played five games against teams ranked in the top ten at the time of the contest. The problem is the three games they won have come against teams who have since fallen well outside the top ten. That’s not to say wins against Michigan St., Nebraska, and LSU are meaningless, they just mean slightly less in hindsight. They also trailed in the 4th quarter against Minnesota which I happen to believe is a CFP disqualifier (sorry Penn St. that’s you too). All jokes aside, this is a very good team led by outstanding linebacker play on defense. The offense is nothing flashy, and at times inconsistent, but they are the type of team that will rarely get blown out and can be competitive with almost any team in the country.

Path to the playoff—Win the Big Ten Championship Game, and pray for someone ahead of you to lose (63% chance at least). A loss by Clemson or Washington should get the Badgers in the playoff, assuming the committee isn’t going to take two Big Ten teams that didn’t even reach the conference’s title game (strangers things have happened).

#7 Penn St.


Key wins—#2 Ohio St.

Losses—@ Pitt, @ #5 Michigan

Penn St. is one of those teams that you look at and say, “How did they get here?” And yet as winners of 8 straight games they are potentially one win away from an improbable playoff run. I think this is a much better team than the one that lost 49-10 to Michigan in September, but how can we be sure? The last three Big Ten opponents they faced combined for five conference wins this year (and 4 of those were Indiana). Tomorrow we should find out if their win over Ohio St. was a fluke, or if it was legit. One thing that is legit about this team is RB Saquon Barkley, who ran for 1,219 yards and 15 TD’s this season to win Big Ten offensive player of the year. Barkley is questionable to play in Indianapolis, which would obviously hamper Penn St.’s chances.

Path to the playoff—Win the Big Ten Championship game, hope the committee looks past the head-to-head matchup with Michigan, and hope for a loss by Clemson or Washington. A loss by either team combined with a Penn St. win sends their odds to at least 66%.

#8 Colorado


Key wins—@ #18 Stanford, #20 Utah

Losses—@ #5 Michigan, @ #11 USC

Colorado has been a fun story to follow this year, and I won’t hide my bias in saying I am rooting for them to win the Pac-12 title game. Should they accomplish that on Friday night, it would setup a marquee Saturday for the teams with playoff chances. Senior QB Sefo Liufau has been solid for the Buffs, but even when he went down the team didn’t miss a beat under Freshman QB Steven Montez. The pair have combined for over 3,000 passing yards and 28 total TD’s. Even with a win, they are a long shot for the playoff, but the future appears to be bright in Boulder.

Path to the playoff—Colorado goes into the weekend with a 10% chance to make the playoff. A win over Washington gives them at least a 24% chance. Should Clemson also lose, The Buffs chances are at 60%.

Big 12 combined (#9 Oklahoma and #10 Oklahoma St.)

The Big 12 does not have a conference championship game, although for the second time in recent memory the Bedlam Rivalry will be the de facto title decider. Both squads need massive chaos in front of them to reach the playoff, but it certainly is possible (see Week 11 of this season). Oklahoma (did someone say Choklahoma?) has won 8 straight games within the conference after starting 1-2. Their nonconference losses to Houston and Ohio St. are certainly forgivable, but they really do not have a signature win. Even with a win over OSU, their resume doesn’t quite stack up to those ahead of them, despite the 9-0 conference record. Oklahoma St. is an interesting case because of their controversial early season loss to Central Michigan where the Chippewas were granted an extra play they didn’t deserve. Personally, I don’t think it much matters as once again even at 11-1 OSU’s resume would be fairly weak compared to those in front of them. The Big 12 was on the outside looking in all year with regards to the playoff and that won’t change on the final weekend. Perhaps the conference becomes more relevant with the return of its conference championship game in 2017.

Path to the playoff—When running a simulation with Oklahoma winning and Alabama, Clemson, and Washington all losing, the Sooners still have less than a 50% chance to make the playoff. Put Oklahoma St. in that same scenario, and even the simulator will tell you the result is not going to happen. That’s how slim the Big 12’s odds are.

All projections from (check it out if you want to run your own projections—it’s a cool model)

[2016 College Football Predictions]

All stats from

**key wins and losses reflect current ranking of opponent