College Football Playoff race - What the contenders need to make the top four - ESPN
Oct 17, 2021 3 mins, 33 secs
In the ideal scenario for the Big Ten, the selection committee would have considered both the conference champion and its one-loss runner-up, had Iowa managed to finish the regular season undefeated before losing a close game in the Big Ten title game.

The same can be said for fellow one-loss teams Oregon, Penn State, Ohio State and Alabama.

Some teams have a far more difficult path to the playoff, while others -- like undefeated Cincinnati -- might not need as much help as you think.

The loss to Oregon can be overcome easily with wins against Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and a conference title.

If both Ohio State and Oregon finish as one-loss conference champions and the selection committee considers them comparable teams, head-to-head is one of several tiebreakers they use.

Toughest remaining game: Nov.

What the Bearcats need: An undefeated season and a two-loss Alabama.

The Bearcats need to avoid that debate with an undefeated Big 12 champion.

Toughest remaining game: Nov.

What the Sooners need: Finish as undefeated Big 12 champion, or finish as a one-loss conference champion and hope that Georgia eliminates Alabama, Cincinnati loses, and there's chaos in the Big Ten.

Oklahoma wants to avoid a scenario in which the top four looks like Georgia, Alabama, the Big Ten winner and a big debate between undefeated Cincinnati, one-loss Oklahoma and one-loss Oregon.

Toughest remaining game: Nov.

The Sooners should still be favored to win this game, but it caps an extremely difficult November that also includes a trip to Baylor and a home game against Iowa State.

What the Crimson Tide need: Win the SEC or hope for absolute chaos, including a two-loss Pac-12 champ, a Cincinnati loss, and a two-loss Big 12 champion.

As it stands, it would be extremely hard for the committee to justify a two-loss Alabama in a semifinal with a field that could include Georgia, the Big Ten champion, undefeated Cincinnati and a one-loss or undefeated Big 12 champ.

If by chance Alabama loses a close game to Georgia in the SEC championship and finishes with two losses, the nonconference games against Miami, Mercer and New Mexico State will come under heavy scrutiny.

Toughest remaining game: Clearly the SEC championship game against Georgia, should they meet as expected.

What the Wolverines needs: Finish as a one-loss or undefeated Big Ten champion, or lose a close game to Ohio State and pray for some chaos?

Then they'd need Cincinnati to lose.

They'd also need Oregon to finish with two losses because the Ducks would have accomplished something Michigan could not -- a win against the Buckeyes.

Without Alabama, Cincinnati, the ACC or Oregon in the picture, though, Michigan might stand a chance of joining Georgia, Ohio State and Oklahoma in the top four without winning its division.

Opponents to keep an eye on: Washington, juuuust in case one-loss Michigan gets into a résumé debate with one-loss Oregon if they're both conference champions.

30 at rival Michigan State and Nov.

Toughest remaining game: Nov.

Toughest remaining game: Oct.

But the second half of their schedule is backloaded with Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State.

6 for Michigan State, too.

Toughest remaining game: Nov.

a Cincinnati loss would also help, along with a one-loss Big 12 champion.

And if Oregon finishes as a one-loss conference champion, the committee will have to consider that head-to-head result if they deem those teams comparable.

It could help separate Oregon from another one-loss conference champion or possibly undefeated Cincinnati.

Toughest remaining game: Nov.

What the Cowboys need: Finish as an undefeated Big 12 champion, or finish with one loss and hope that Georgia eliminates Alabama, Cincinnati loses, and there's chaos in the Big Ten.

But consider this scenario: Alabama wins the SEC, handing Georgia its only loss, Cincinnati goes undefeated, and the Big Ten East produces an undefeated or one-loss conference champion.

Opponents to keep an eye on: There isn't one in particular, but if the Cowboys finish as one-loss conference champions, where the rest of the Big 12 teams are ranked in the final CFP top 25 will enter into any debate.

Toughest remaining game: Nov.

ESPN's FPI actually projects Saturday's game at Iowa State to be more difficult (18.5% chance to win), but while that road trip won't be easy, the rival Sooners are the tougher out.


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