An Early Look at the College Football Playoff Picture

Chase O'Brien-Steele, Maroon-News Staff

With SEC and ACC schedules already in full swing, this weekend saw Big 10 teams take the field for the first time. Although there’s still a lot of football to play, now’s a good time to evaluate performances from strong mid-season contenders and from fledglings of the 2020-21 season to try to get an idea of what the College Football Playoff picture may look like. 

  1. Alabama — Alabama gets on this list after a hiatus last year; Joe Burrow frankly stole the mantle of SEC dominance from usual suspects Alabama. However, this year won’t be an anomaly; the CFP is automatic for Nick Saban’s Alabama teams. They’ve had an extremely impressive start, most notably with their 41-24 win over fellow SEC challenger Georgia. They’ve also beaten other ranked opponents Tennessee and Texas A&M. 
  2. Clemson — Clemson would be at the top of this list if not for the opponents they’ve faced. It’s always a debate about how Clemson would do if they were in a stronger conference, but instead, they’ve gone 27 straight games without losing in the conference. Clemson has thumped every team they’ve faced, and if they keep it up, they may be in the top spot come selection time. 
  3. Ohio State — Ohio is a pretty safe pick for the third spot after their big win versus Nebraska. Ohio State is always the best bet for a playoff spot out of the Big 10, which has had a hard time getting two spots like the SEC has in recent years. The Big 10 has strong contenders besides Ohio State, like Wisconsin and Michigan, but nothing like what the SEC has to offer. Ohio State should get in barring any upsets.
  4. Georgia — The Bulldogs look primed to sneak in this year after missing out last year. They’ve looked good in every game, even though they couldn’t get by Alabama. It looks like this year’s CFP, like many other years, will feature two SEC teams. If they can beat Florida and get to the SEC championship, they’ll probably need to win to guarantee a spot. And if that game is against Alabama, that’ll be a tough task.
  5. Notre Dame — If Georgia does indeed get to the SEC championship and loses to Alabama, then they’ll be a tough admission to the playoff as a two-team. However, while Notre Dame will be looking to sneak into the last spot, they’re competing against the second-best team in the SEC, which could be considered the second-best team in the nation. They most likely will lose to Clemson, judging by their performances so far, and that will probably be enough to see them out of the picture. They’ve scraped by weaker teams like Louisville this season but with that being said, if they can shock everyone and beat Clemson, their outlook would be much different.  
  6. Oklahoma State — Oklahoma State looks to be the favorite in the Big 12. If they run the table, they very reasonably could be included in the top four. However, it’s hard to see OSU going undefeated in a still very competitive Big 12. 
  7. Wisconsin — The Badgers looked incredibly impressive in their first game. They’ve always challenged Ohio State for Big 10 supremacy in recent years, but have always fallen short. But with the second tier of SEC teams being a mix-up between Florida and Texas A&M, Wisconsin can sneak ahead of them. If Wisconsin can run the table in the Big 10 West, they will most likely face the Buckeyes in the Big 10 championship. If they lose and end up with one loss, they still have a real argument to get into the playoff. However, precedence has favored SEC teams over a second Big 10 team, so Wisconsin will probably be dropped. 
  8. Texas A&M — Could be Florida or the Aggies, but Texas A&M already won their matchup so they’d be ranked ahead of them in the final rankings. Three SEC teams in the top eight doesn’t feel like too much of an imbalance. A&M was steamrolled by Alabama — they’re certainly a second-tier SEC team, but that doesn’t preclude them from making the top eight.