As we enter the second half of this football season, eight teams remain undefeated. However, through the first three years of the College Football Playoffs, there has not been more than one undefeated team to reach the final four in a given year. Being that the number of undefeated teams is likely to change sooner rather than later, it is important that we take a look at the current one-loss teams with the best chances of reaching the playoffs.
Prior to the 2017 season, the majority of college football experts had the Buckeyes not only reaching the College Football Playoff this season, but also taking home the trophy in January. Many people thought those hopes were destroyed following an embarrassing home loss to the Oklahoma Sooners back in week two.
Although Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield may have put up outrageous numbers in Columbus that Saturday, the Buckeyes have responded appropriately ever since that loss. In the five games following the loss to Oklahoma, Ohio State has gone 5-0 and has scored an average of 53 points per game.
While the Buckeye offense may seem to be rolling on all cylinders, a matchup with second-ranked Penn State in a couple of weeks will provide Urban Meyer with a chance to prove that Ohio State’s season is far from over.
The next team on this list is the only team to knock off the aforementioned Ohio State Buckeyes. Following the victory at Ohio State, it was looking like the Sooners would not miss a beat after transitioning into the Lincoln Riley era. Heisman hopeful Baker Mayfield had the Sooners rolling, up until the disappointing home loss to Iowa State.
The loss to the Cyclones, as well as a close win at Baylor the week prior, proved that Oklahoma may have a recurring issue of playing down to their competition. Nevertheless, they were able to avoid upset against the Longhorns this past weekend and therefore still control their own destiny in the Big 12 with matchups still remaining against Oklahoma State, TCU, and West Virginia.
After the first six games of the season, it was clear to everyone that we were heading straight for another Alabama vs. Clemson rematch in a few months. Clemson put this idea in many football fans’ heads following their big wins over Auburn, Louisville, and Virginia Tech.
All of that was put on hold after the Tigers endured a tremendous upset last Friday night at Syracuse. However, it is important to note that Clemson did have a similar defeat last season (lost to Pitt 43-42) and still found a way to not only reach the National Championship, but to win it. Clemson’s season is far from over as they still have a road contest at NC State in a few weeks with a chance at regaining the top spot in the Atlantic division of the ACC. A win over the Wolfpack and a later date with a potentially undefeated Miami team in the ACC Championship could prove to be enough for Dabo Swinney’s Tigers to return to the playoffs for a third consecutive year.
Entering the 2017 campaign, Sam Darnold had many people in the college football world buzzing about USC being finally being back on the map. After avoiding an overtime upset at the hands of the Texas Longhorns, the Trojans looked poised to truly contend this season.
That reign of dominance took a hit following a Friday night loss at the hands of Mike Leach and the Washington State Cougars. Nevertheless, following a weekend where both Washington and Washington State were upset by conference opponents, the Trojans look to be right back in the driver’s seat in the Pac 12.
As long as they can avoid a letdown in their remaining conference games, this weekend’s rivalry game in South Bend against Notre Dame should be the toughest test left on the schedule for USC, aside from a potential conference championship matchup with either Stanford or one of the schools from the state of Washington.
With an undefeated start in conference play, along with Clemson losing at Syracuse last weekend, the NC State Wolfpack are currently alone atop the Atlantic division of the ACC. Although their conference wins over Florida State and Louisville do not look as impressive as one would have thought prior to this season, the next few games for the Wolfpack should be enough to prove whether they are truly contenders or pretenders this season.
If NC State can find a way to win their next two games over Notre Dame and Clemson, then that opening season loss at the hands of South Carolina will likely not be enough to keep them out of the playoffs this season.
At this point in the season, the NC State Wolfpack truly control their own destiny in regard to both the ACC Championship and the College Football Playoffs.
Another one-loss team that has a tremendous opportunity at reaching the College Football Playoffs at season’s end is the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Through their first six games of the season, the only blemish on their record is a one-point loss at home to an undefeated Georgia team that is only getting better and better each week. Aside from that loss, the Fighting Irish have handled their business each week winning by an average of 28 points per game.
With half of the season still left to be played, Notre Dame’s schedule only gets tougher with four of their last six games against ranked opponents, including a rivalry matchup this weekend against the USC Trojans.
Other one-loss teams with an outside chance: Oklahoma State, Washington, Michigan, Washington State, Virginia Tech
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