The picture of the college football playoffs looks pretty clear ahead of Saturday’s championship.
With three teams undefeated at the end of the 2022 regular season, three four-team playoff berths look almost guaranteed no matter what happens on the first Saturday in December.
But the fourth place can intrigue. USC would be the castle for this seat if they won the Pac-12 title match. What if the Trojans lose? Everything can get confusing.
Here’s how we assess the picture of the CFP after the last week of the season and the chances of each contender to play for the national title.
Georgia (12-0): 100%
It’s hard to imagine the Bulldogs falling out of the top four during an SEC title game. Yes, it took Georgia a while to get going on Saturday, but its dominance was on full display in the second half of the victory over Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs will be a big favorite against LSU in Atlanta on Saturday, and even if it falls short, it seems almost impossible for Georgia to drop out of the top four.
Michigan (12-0): 95%
The Wolverines will also be favorites on Saturday against Purdue in a Big Ten title match. But just like in Georgia, it’s hard to see how Michigan is out of the college football playoffs even if the Boilers have one of the season’s upsets. The reason Michigan isn’t 100% like Georgia is because the Wolverines don’t hold conferences. He was ridiculously soft. In the end, it shouldn’t matter.
TKU (12-0): 75%
The Horned Frogs capitalized on every Iowa State blunder en route to 62 points on Saturday to end an undefeated regular season. TCU will have the toughest title game in the conference of three undefeated teams with Kansas State next week, but we’re not sure a Wildcats win will be that devastating unless it’s a blast. The committee showed that during the season it highly regards the state of Kansas.
OSK (11-1): 60%
The Trojans could be the top one-loss team in the playoffs with a Pac-12 title win over Utah. This victory is easier said than done given Utah’s victory over the Trojans earlier in the year and USC’s defense problems. The Trojan team depends too much on forcing staff turnover. But it is clear that USC is in a win-win scenario.
Ohio State (11-1): 35%
The Buckeyes may not have completely retired from the CFP race despite a crushing loss to Michigan on Saturday. If USC loses in the Pac-12 title game, fourth place will be up for grabs. And wouldn’t Ohio be first in line? Everyone else has at least two defeats. And no team that has suffered two defeats has ever reached the playoffs. We’d be surprised if Ohio State missed any two-loss team that didn’t play in the championship on Saturday.
Alabama (10-2): 10%
Crimson Tide have won 10 or more regular season games for the 15th consecutive season since defeating Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Alabama will be ahead of both teams it lost to on Tuesday and likely just behind Ohio State. If the Crimson Tide outperforms the Stags on Tuesday—and we don’t completely rule it out—then those chances need to be improved.
Clemson (10-2): 10%
The Tigers would be in a decent playoff position after defeating South Carolina on Saturday. But two special teams doomed Clemson to a 31-30 defeat. Add two losses to an ACC title game against a team from North Carolina that has lost to reserve quarterbacks every single of the past two weeks, and it’s hard to see Clemson making it to the playoffs 11-2.
Tennessee (10-2): 5%
We’d like the Vols’ chances of capitalizing on playoff chaos a little better if star quarterback Hendon Hooker was healthy. But it isn’t, and Tennessee is lagging behind Alabama. Unless the committee updates its rankings after Saturday’s championship and decides that UT deserves to be ahead of Alabama, UT will not make the playoffs in any chaotic scenario.
LSU (9-3): 5%
The Tigers would need to beat Georgia hard and hope the committee decides to take a three-loss team that had the best game of the season against the No. 1 team in the country. The chances of winning 55-10 LSU are very slim. But since it’s possible, we’ll give the tigers a small chance.
Here are the winners and losers of this week.
Michigan: For the second season in a row, the East’s Big Ten was a showdown between Michigan and Ohio. And for the second season in a row, Michigan wiped out the state of Ohio. Last year in Ann Arbor it was a 42-27 tag team match. This year in Columbus, it was a 45-23 beatdown. The offensive burst from Michigan was fueled by 263 passing yards, 27 rushing yards, and four total touchdowns from JJ McCarthy, as well as 216 yards and two points from Donovan Edwards. Now Michigan is heading to the Big Ten title game where it will be a huge favorite. A trip to the college football playoffs is almost certain.
TCU: It’s been a season full of close games for TCU, but the Horned Frogs didn’t mess with Iowa State on Saturday. The Horned Frogs finished the regular season undefeated, beating Iowa State at home, 62–14. TCU took a 24-0 lead after the first quarter and never looked back to take another step towards the college football playoffs. Next on the agenda is the Big 12 title game against Kansas State. A win there would have secured a place in the playoffs. And even with the loss to the Wildcats, it’s hard to make a convincing argument that TCU shouldn’t be in the final four.
USC: USC passed another test. The Trojans took care of business at home against Notre Dame, winning 38-27 after another incredible effort from QB Caleb Williams. Williams threw for 232 yards, rushed for 35 yards, and threw for four touchdowns for the win. USC is now 11-1 on the year with the Pac-12 title game on deck. By winning there, USC will almost certainly earn a place in the college football playoffs. And Williams can get the Heisman trophy.
Tulane: No. 19 Tulane will host the American Athletic Conference championship game thanks to a 27-24 road win over No. 24 Cincinnati on Friday. Cincinnati rallied from a 20-10 deficit to take a 24-20 lead with 6:27 to play. But Tulane reacted quickly when Michael Pratt found Deuce Watts behind the Bearcats’ defense for a 30-yard touchdown. It was a winning score. Tyjae Spears was the star of Green Wave with 181 yards and two touchdowns. Tulane’s win snapped Cincinnati’s 32-game home win streak and Tulane’s 61-game losing streak against ranked opponents, a streak that began in 1984.
State of Florida: Florida State made a huge leap forward in 3rd grade under Mike Norvell. The Seminoles had eight wins in Norvell’s first two seasons as head coach, but are now 9-3 this season after a 45-38 home win over rival Florida. In this win, FSU received 270 passing yards, 83 rushing yards, and three total TDs from Jordan Travis, who had several long runs after he incredibly avoided a Florida pass. In addition, Trey Benson gained 111 yards and scored three quick runs in the win.
Alabama QB Bryce Young: Alabama is likely heading towards a New Year’s Six Bowl game, but it’s fair to wonder if Alabama’s 49-27 Iron Bowl victory over Auburn was Bryce Young’s last college game. Young won the Heisman last year and was instrumental in Alabama’s 10-win season in 2022. He was the best player on the field in Saturday’s win. He threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns, adding 48 yards and hitting on the ground. He is unmistakable in the top 10, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he decides not to play the Tide bowl. If that’s the case, then we should enjoy Young’s last top-notch performance in Alabama uniform.
Texas RB Bijan Robinson: In what was almost certainly his last home game in Texas uniform, Bijan Robinson was successful. The Longhorns running star rushed for 179 yards and two touchdowns in the Texas No. 23’s 38–27 win over Baylor. Texas trailed in the half and then trailed 27-24 early in the fourth, but the Longhorns rallied with two touchdowns in the final at 8:25 to take the win. For the season, Robinson has 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Perdue: Purdue will play in a Big Ten title match for the first time. Due to Iowa’s loss to Nebraska on Friday, the Boilermakers needed to post a road win over Indiana to secure the West’s big ten. After a slow start, that’s exactly what they did. Perdue was actually down 7-3 at halftime, but made some good shots in the second half to come out of Bloomington with a win and a division title. Purdue, now 8-4 on the year, will be a huge underdog against Michigan in Indianapolis, but that shouldn’t detract from that accomplishment.
Arizona: Arizona owns a territorial cup for the first time since 2016. Thanks to two late defensive stops – a strip bag and an interception – Arizona was able to win 38-35 over rival Arizona State. Offensively, Michael Wiley was Arizona’s star. He ran for 214 yards and three touchdowns in just 12 carries. Arizona finished the year with a 5-7 win, which was a big step forward in their second season under Jedd Fish.
Duke: Duke’s coup under Mike Elko was great. Having won five games together in 2020 and 2021, Duke…