The games mentioned below all have a direct impact on the College Football Playoff. The list of the most important games left has changed since Week 0 and will change significantly as the weeks go by. Not every game between current unbeatens will be listed and only a few games that include blue-blood teams with one loss will be referenced. Sorry fans of Missouri, Kentucky, Louisville, Duke, North Carolina, and Kansas. Yes, you’re undefeated but you have too many land mines to go through the season without a couple of blemishes to make the playoff.
These games are listed by conference and in most cases will serve as elimination games. At least for this year while only four teams get into the playoff.
The Biggest College Football Games Left
Penn State at Ohio State, October 21st. Ohio State has been inconsistent so far this season opening up with an unimpressive win at Indiana. A convincing win over the highly ranked Nittany Lions would boost their perception with the college football playoff committee. For Penn State, fans they think this is their year. However, they have two huge tests on their schedule and this is the first one. To have any chance at the playoff, they will need to win at least one of them and find their way into the Big Ten Championship Game and win that.
Michigan at Penn State, November 11th. Michigan is very likely to come into this matchup unbeaten. For Penn State, they could practically clinch a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game with a win if they take down the Buckeyes a few weeks earlier. A Michigan loss in this one spells trouble for winning the East and could knock them out of national championship contention. The winner keeps hope alive.
Ohio State at Michigan, November 25th. The final game of the Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State round robin. This game might decide the Big Ten East and it may not depending on the outcome of Penn State’s games against each of these teams. The loser of this year’s annual showdown in Ann Arbor is almost certainly out of the Big Ten Championship Game and out of national championship contention.
The Big Ten championship game may be anti-climactic once again with power consolidated in the East.
Two-time defending national champs Georgia Bulldogs have a couple of regular season games remaining that directly impact the playoff. The two biggest games left on the schedule for the Bulldogs are against Florida in the “Cocktail Game “ on October 28th and at Tennessee on November 18th. Both of Georgia’s opponents could knock them out of the SEC championship game if they run the table in their other games. That’s a tall order as both teams have been offensively challenged at times this year.
The SEC championship game could give the Alabama or LSU winner a shot at the playoff if they win all of their remaining games and beat Georgia in the SEC championship.
The Last Hurrah for the Pac-12
Currently, this is a five-team race between USC, Washington, Oregon, Utah, and Washington State. USC avoids Washington State and has home games against Washington and Utah. The Utes are probably not a legitimate threat unless quarterback Cameron Rising comes back and stays healthy. He is close to returning. Oregon may have the most difficult path with three tough games in a row in October. They visit Washington on October 14th, then host the Cougars the following week with a game at Utah on deck. Rising should be good to go and have some game action under his belt by then. The Ducks also have November home games against USC and Oregon State in The Civil War two weeks apart.
The Washington Huskies host Oregon in a couple of weeks but it could be a revenge game for the Ducks after Washington took them down in a close one in Eugene last season. But Penix, Jr. and company finish with a brutal four-game stretch beginning November 4th at USC followed by a home game against Utah then at Oregon State with a home game against the Cougars in The Apple Cup.
The Cougars only have a home game against Oregon and the road matchup at Washington. They avoid USC and Utah. The PAC-12 figures to get only one team into the playoff if that. We will find out soon enough if they knock each other out in some very intriguing games.
A little more on Kansas. They’re 4-0. Another feel-good story like last year. They are not running the table. That pretty much leaves Texas and Oklahoma. Sorry again Missouri. Yes Kansas State and TCU could mess things up for the big two but neither is playoff-worthy. The winner of the Red River Rivalry has a leg up to the playoff and is certainly guaranteed a spot if they remain unbeaten. If the loser of the matchup in Dallas gets a rematch in the BIG-12 championship game then things get very interesting and potentially complicated.
If that happens the computers and the talking heads are going to go crazy. One thing we know for certain is that the BIG-12 is not getting two teams into the playoff. Not this year anyway. The question is whether they can get one.
Clemson is out already. Duke is good and could keep Florida State out of the playoff by beating them but they are not likely to win every game. One loss for the Blue Devils and their playoff chances go up in smoke. The lack of a football pedigree hurts them. Similar situation for North Carolina. While their pedigree is better than Duke’s they simply don’t look strong enough to go unbeaten and win the ACC championship. We haven’t mentioned Louisville who also hasn’t lost yet. It’s a no for the Cardinals.
Since the ACC got rid of divisions beginning this season, the only game that might matter is the championship.
Florida State has Duke on its schedule but not North Carolina or Louisville. Duke would probably have to beat the Seminoles twice to get into the playoff while the Tar Heels and Cardinals need to run the table and beat Florida State. Those things are not happening. It’s Florida State or bust for the ACC’s chances of getting a team in the playoff this year.
Group of Five
Fresno State is trending up, Boise State is trending down. Memphis is a nice story. Nope, not this year. The Group of Five will not be sending a team to the playoff.
There you have it. The best remaining games of this year’s college football season after week four. Soon enough we’ll all know the answer to the question-who’s in?