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Who can make the College Football Playoff? Paths for the 6 remaining contenders

Six teams will battle for four spots over Championship Week.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 28 CFP Semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl - Clemson v Ohio State Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Before Rivalry Week we had eight teams all in the playoff mix, but after Ohio State and Oklahoma each took a second L, their playoff hopes were dashed.

Now we are left with just six teams that have a realistic shot at competing for a national championship (while some can make up a really crazy scenario where either Baylor, Iowa, Oregon, and even Ohio State squeeze in the playoff, their odds are so C-3PO can’t compute them, and they don’t need to be mentioned here. They, for all intents and purposes, are eliminated).

Who will make it in? Championship Week will be the teams’ last chances to move into the top four if they are still on the outside looking in, and if things shake out a certain way we might have a playoff with none of last year’s CFP teams in it.

The Six Contenders Ordered by Odds of Getting in:


The 12-0 Bulldogs are locked in the top four ahead of the SEC Championship game, where they will face Alabama in pursuit of an SEC title and the #1 seed.

What they need to get in: Nothing—they’ve clinched


After finally defeating Ohio State in a football game, the Wolverines are on the cusp of their first ever playoff appearance. All they need to do is beat Iowa in the Big Ten championship, and they will be in. If they lose though, even if total chaos breaks out they probably won’t be able to stay in the top four.

What they need to get in: Beat Iowa


The good news is that Cincinnati mostly controls their destiny and only has to beat Houston in the AAC title game to finish 13-0 and stay in the top four. The bad news is that it would not be impossible for them to get jumped at the last second by Oklahoma State, who if they beat Baylor in the Big 12 title game might snag the 4th spot and kick the Bearcats out. If Alabama takes a loss to Georgia in the SEC Championship though, OK State won’t matter—the Bearcats will leap Bama and become the first Group of 5 playoff team in one of their final seasons as a Group of 5 school.

What they need to get in: Beat Houston and hope Alabama or Oklahoma State loses


The Tide control their destiny, but winning the SEC Championship this year will be harder than ever before. Never has Nick Saban’s Tide faced a Georgia team quite like this one, who makes mighty underdog?! Unless teams below them lose also, Alabama’s hopes of getting back-to-back national titles hinge on beating undefeated Georgia.

What they need to get in: Beat Georgia or hope Cincinnati or Oklahoma State loses

Oklahoma State

I still can’t believe that the Cowboys are competing for a playoff spot, but if they beat Baylor in the Big 12 title game all they need is for Alabama or Cincinnati to lose and they’ll swoop into the top four. What a dream season the Pokes are having.

What they need to get in: Beat Baylor and hope Alabama or Cincinnati loses

Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish are likely done at this point, especially with Brain Kelly bolting for LSU in the midst of their playoff hunt, but if enough chaos ensues they might be able to still nab the fourth spot. It will take pretty much everybody up top losing though.

What they need to get in: Hope two (and maybe three or four) of the following lose: Alabama, Oklahoma State, Cincinnati, Michigan.