College Football Playoff, 2022 Bowl Predictions: Paths the Seven Remaining Contenders Must Follow

We’re left with the Magnificent Seven: The seven teams with a realistic chance of making the ninth College Football Playoffs. The group consists of the four remaining undefeated teams, the only two teams to lose…and LSU. Those seven also include the reigning national champions, a program aiming to achieve its second consecutive CFP after missing out on the first seven entirely, another hoping to become the lowest-ranked team that ever made the playoffs, and another aiming to become the first two-losing team to ever advance into the four-team field.

Not on the list is Alabama, eliminated from playoff competition for the second time in CFP history. We also know that the CFP Selection Committee could have an extraordinarily tough time deciding between the champions of the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 should they all emerge in defeat.

Tennessee was Week 12’s biggest casualty. His second loss by such an embarrassing margin against an opponent so inferior (ranked) that the Volunteers were eliminated from the playoffs. South Carolina was underdogs at home by 24 points and then won by 25 points. That’s a 49-point difference between perception and reality.

An extended playoff will be a blast whenever it comes to fruition. If there are seven teams alive for four spots at this point in the season, that means there are 20 teams in the running for 12 spots when the playoffs expand. For comparison purposes, it was there this time last year as well eight teams in the race.

College football playoff contenders

No. 1 Georgia (11-0): The only lock unless it loses twice. The Bulldogs can seemingly “afford” a loss to either Georgia Tech or LSU and still remain in the top four. Her season was so dominant. Almost silently, the Dawgs have won a national lead 13 straight years. Stetson Bennett is better at quarterback. Defensive lineman Jalen Carter is a massive force at center after missing a significant time with an injury. We now need to consider a possible all-time run for the Dawgs. There has only been one team to win back-to-back national championships since Nebraska won three of four in the mid-1990s. That was in Alabama in 2011-12. Georgia would be only the second in the last 27 years. Too little is said about this possibility. The Bama dynasty is not over yet. but the first road to a championship is through Athens, Georgia.

No. 2 Ohio State (11-0): Win Saturday and the Buckeyes are in…at least the Big Ten Championship Game for the fifth time in six years. They still have to beat the Big Ten West winner (probably Iowa) to earn a CFP spot. Of the teams ranked 2-4, the Buckeyes have the best chance of surviving a loss on Saturday, but it’s a slim chance. It starts with losing a tight game against Michigan. Then TCU, LSU, USC and Clemson would all have to lose at some point. Even then, TCU could win the Big 12 with a loss. LSU would create major problems if it won, most likely giving up two spots to the SEC. If two of those four win, there would be problems too. That would create a decision for the committee. In this scenario, the four spots would be Georgia, Michigan, and any combination of two of TCU/LSU/USC/Clemson as conference champions. It would be difficult to pick a losing Ohio State that hasn’t won its league (but ranked in the top three all season) against one of these.

No. 3 Michigan (11-0): Basically, the Wolverines have to win. Ohio State is in a similar situation, but Michigan is easier to dismiss as a one-loss team. The deciding factor for the committee may be the Wolverines’ weak non-conference schedule (Hawaii, Colorado State, UConn). We’re splitting hairs, but that’s where we are this late in the season. In the event of a loss, the contest for a playoff spot could include three Power Five Conference champions: TCU, USC, Clemson. Let’s just say Michigan should be big fans of Iowa State (vs TCU), Notre Dame (vs USC), and South Carolina (vs Clemson) this week.

#4 TCU (11-0): One of just four unbeaten teams, the Horned Frogs still have a lot of work to do — pesky Iowa state to finish off the season, then most likely No. 12 Kansas state in the Big 12 championship game. The Wildcats will be motivated; At the first meeting on October 22, they took a 28-10 lead. If TCU lost to Iowa State and still won the Big 12, that would be the highlight brand differences what TCU suffers from. To date, TCU has beaten five ranked teams at kickoff time. Ohio State and Michigan have hit three overall. And speaking of close games—five TCU wins were decided by eight points or fewer—no one had a problem elevating Ohio State to the 2002 BCS Championship Game. This team won half of their 14 games by a touchdown or less.

No. 5 LSU (9-2): Win and the Tigers are in…we think. If LSU beats Texas A&M and then upsets Georgia, it would be the third two-loss team to play for a national title since 1936 and the first in CFP history. But the committee would have to do a soul test first. If LSU doesn’t make the playoffs with two losses, it would be the first time since 2004 that the SEC champ hasn’t been in the BCS/CFP. If it ignored an SEC champion LSU, the committee would dismiss victories over Alabama and Georgia. This assumes that Georgia – as mentioned above – would remain in the top four with just one defeat. we are witness why Brian Kelly came to LSU.

#6 USC (10-1): A lot to do. No. 15 Notre Dame in the regular season finals will not be a cakewalk, especially after all the emotion expended against UCLA. Then it’s most likely No. 9 Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game. The teams did not meet in the regular season. We know there will be a defeat in the top four. It’s better than Michigan for USC purposes. But a deadlock occurs when TCU and Clemson also win their respective leagues. It’s fair to ask which of the three has the better resume in this case. For this view, it’s TCU (if undefeated), but we’ll see. Things get tougher for the Trojans as LSU upsets Georgia. Regardless, USC restored the Pac-12 to the living of the Power Five. The Trojans would be a dangerous matchup in the CFP. They have arguably the best player in the nation (Caleb Williams) and an opportunistic defense that has a national-leading 18 interceptions. USC would be the first Pac-12 team to make the playoffs since 2016.

No. 8 Clemson (10-1): Clemson, along with USC, was the biggest beneficiary of Tennessee’s loss. It also likely has the weakest resume if the competition for last CFP spot is TCU and USC. The Tigers’ best route to a seventh CFP spot in eight years is to win. It is a must-have. Then a loss in Georgia, a win in Ohio, and losses to TCU and USC (or both). When it comes down to the loss of Notre Dame, things are “better”. But a win over No. 17 North Carolina in ACC Championship Game looks ‘worse’ after Tar Heels loss to Georgia Tech. Should the Tigers make it, they would be the lowest-ranked team entering Rivalry Week to make the playoff field.

The Armageddon scenario

As a bonus – really, mostly for giggles — We also delved deeply into a possible Armageddon scenario where it’s possible that no conference champion makes the CFP. It could go down like this.

  • No. 1 Georgia loses its last two games (Georgia Tech, LSU) and moves to 11-2.
  • No. 5 LSU loses to Texas A&M but beats Georgia to move to 11-3.
  • No. 7 Alabama loses to Auburn, moving to 10-3.
  • No. 10 Tennessee loses to Vanderbilt, moving to 10-3.
  • No. 2 Ohio State beats No. 3 Michigan but is upset with Big Ten West winner as OSU advances to 12-1.
  • No. 4 TCU loses to Iowa State and No. 12 Kansas State, with TCU moving to 12-1.
  • No. 6 USC loses to No. 15 Notre Dame. No. 14 Utah beats Colorado to get to the Pac-12 Championship Game while No. 13 Washington beats Washington State, No. 21 Oregon State beats No. 9 Oregon and No. 18 UCLA beats California. The Trojans would draw to 10-3.
  • No. 8 Clemson loses to South Carolina and No. 17 North Carolina, moving to 10-3.

In this scenario, we would look at…

  • SEC Champion: LSU (10-3)
  • Big Ten Champion: Purdue, Iowa or Illinois (9-4)
  • Big 12 champion: Kansas State or Texas (9-4)
  • Pac-12 Champion: Utah (10-3)
  • ACC Champion: North Carolina (10-3)

Then we probably would have stuck with these top 4, none of which would have won their league…

1. Ohio State (12-1): The easiest decision given the straight win against Michigan.
2.Michigan (11-1): A relatively easy decision given the only loss would be number 1.
3. Georgia (11-2): The committee would have to weigh LSU’s head-to-head win and far worse losses with Georgia’s work.
4. TCU (11-2): Probably a reward for their string of ranked wins in the regular season.