College Football Playoff party crashers: Seven teams that can invade the exclusive field this season
Breaking down which first-timers can join the the 10 teams that have played in the CFP
The College Football Playoff has been an exclusive club. How exclusive? Of the 20 available slots (four per year for five years), only 10 teams have played in the CFP.
How exclusive? Three of those 10 teams have accounted for all five CFP National Championships. How exclusive? The No. 2 (Alabama), No. 3 (Ohio State) and No. 4 (Clemson) teams in this week's AP Top 25 own all those titles.
That makes No. 1 LSU an "outlier."
Maybe in this Season of Chalk there can be some variety. With a week to go until the first release of the CFP Rankings, CBS Sports had an idea. We decided to determine which teams actually have the best chance to break through the ceiling to the playoff for the first time?
This is hope, sort of. If you don't think your team has a chance to gain access, consider this: Of the 20 total teams that debuted in the top four in Week 1 of the CFP Rankings historically, only 11 have survived their remaining schedule to make it the playoff field at the end of the season.
Almost two-thirds of the way through the regular season and seven days until those first rankings, here is a ranking of teams that can become party crashers to that exclusive CFP club.
Teams ranked in likelihood of order to crash the CFP party | Schedule strength listed below is the NCAA's regular-season cumulative ranking
|8-0||38th||The Tigers deserve every bit of their No. 1 ranking. They're the only program to beat three top 10 teams at the time of kickoff (Texas, Florida, Auburn). They've successfully transitioned to the spread offense. They have arguably the best player in the game, quarterback Joe Burrow. Ed Orgeron is a coach of the year candidate. A loss at Alabama in 11 days might not even knock them out of the top four. In fact, Oklahoma's loss made it more likely the SEC gets two teams in. Hide the good china if the Tigers make it. Yeah, Baton Rouge will be that crazy. The title game just happens to be 70 miles down the road in New Orleans. Ranked teams to play: 1 (Alabama)|
|8-0||8th||The Nittany Lions are the surprise team in the Big Ten East. Michigan was the prohibitive preseason favorite. Ohio State was the traditional power. Coach James Franklin has built a sneaky-good powerhouse with a killer defense and an offense that is good enough. Don't sleep on the Big Ten getting two in if Penn State is the only loss on Ohio State's schedule. Whatever happens, the schedule will be a strong one. Counting the Big Ten Championship Game, PSU would play five ranked teams (already beat Iowa, Michigan). Ranked teams to play: 2 (Minnesota, Ohio State)|
|7-1||23rd||Saturday's game against Georgia (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS) is a playoff elimination game with no guarantee of a CFP berth. The Gators are the nation's best one-loss team. Injury-riddled Florida hung with No. 1 LSU deep into the second half at Death Valley before losing. It has already beat then-ranked Miami and Auburn. Adding to the intrigue, Dan Mullen gets those three stars back from injury this week -- defenders Jabari Zuniga and Jon Greenard, plus wideout Kadarius Toney. A CFP appearance is based on running the table. That means beating Georgia and either LSU or Bama in the SEC Championship Game. A berth would be quite an accomplishment for Mullen in Year 2. Ranked teams to play: 1 (Georgia)|
|7-1||T27th||Yes, we know the Ducks wouldn't be a party crasher. They were in the first CFP five years ago. But it's been so long and the Pac-12 has fallen so far that we're using executive privilege. Coach Mario Cristobal has built a program in the image of an SEC powerhouse. A couple of close wins against Washington and Washington State have made playoff dreams possible. If it wasn't an annoying loss to Auburn in the opener, the Ducks might be in the top four. Oregon has to hope it gets Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Ranked teams to play: 0|
|7-1||91st||If the Utes get far enough in the playoff discussion, a loss to USC (5-3) in Week 4 will weigh them down. Coach Kyle Whittingham has Utah off to its best start since 2010 (it's best start ever as a Power Five team). The nation's No. 3 defense is for real, but Utah's only ranked win is Arizona State. Utah has to win out against Washington, UCLA, Arizona and Colorado … and pray. Ranked teams to play: 0|
|7-0||85th||Matt Rhule is performing his second consecutive miracle turnaround. It's taken Rhule three years in Waco, Texas, going from 1-11 in 2017 to 7-0 now, though Baylor doesn't have a ranked win yet. The schedule sets up for the Bears to make a CFP run. They host Oklahoma and Texas in back-to-back weekends. Win those and then back it up with a Big 12 Championship Game in a rematch (over some Big 12 team). How do you keep a 13-0 Big 12 champion -- even if it is Baylor -- out of the playoff? Ranked teams to play: 2 (Oklahoma, Texas)|
|8-0||48th||Give the ultimate college football hype man his credit: P.J. Fleck has Minnesota off to its best start since 1941. It's unlikely the Gophers run the table given the backloaded schedule. Minnesota's is a resume largely built on "misses." The Gophers don't play Ohio State, Michigan or Michigan State. That doesn't make them frauds, but they have plenty of prove-it games left. If Minnesota somehow gets through, it would have to beat presumable East champion Ohio State. How impressive would that be? Wins against four ranked teams would match Alabama at that point. Good luck. Ranked teams to play: 3 (Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin)|
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