Halfway through the 2016 football season, there are just 12 teams remaining with a realistic chance at earning one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff. These are all the major conference teams with fewer than two losses.
It is possible, but not terribly realistic, for a two-loss team to get a place in the CFP. After all, LSU once played for the BCS title with two losses -- and that was only a two-team playoff. It took a lot of chaos for that to happen though, and short of that, it probably won't happen this year either.
Also, there is no realistic Group of Five candidate. It will be a rare season when there is a legitimate playoff candidate from the Group of Five. It takes a combination of a strong nonconference schedule and the talent to win every single game on the schedule for such a thing to even be considered. Most years, there won't be such a team identifiable before the season starts. That wasn't the case this year, as many felt Houston was capable of such a run. Unfortunately for the Cougars, a loss to Navy ended those hopes. It doesn't matter how good you are, going undefeated for an entire season is difficult.
It takes a combination of talent and schedule for the major conference teams to make the playoff also. With that in mind, here are the teams with the best chance to make the CFP, in order of likelihood.
1. Ohio State: The Buckeyes' schedule looks easier now that the wheels have fallen off at Michigan State. It now appears that this week's tilt with Penn State is their toughest true road game left. Of course, they still have Michigan at the end of the season in Columbus, and a Big Ten title game -- possibly against the Wisconsin team that just took them to overtime last week.
2. Alabama: The Tide have been rolling since a scare against Ole Miss. It's the SEC, so there are tough games left, starting with Texas A&M at home this week. A loss this week doesn't necessarily eliminate Alabama, but it makes winning the conference title unlikely. The Tide's only remaining road game is at LSU.
3. Clemson: The Tigers have played with fire at times this season but have yet to get burned. Their toughest game of the season -- at Florida State -- is next. Clemson figures to be well favored the rest of the way after that.
4. Texas A&M: If the Aggies can get by Alabama, it's relatively smooth sailing to the SEC Championship Game. That's the biggest "if" in college football, though.
5. Michigan: The schedule makers were kind to the Wolverines. Road games at Michigan State and Iowa looked a lot more daunting two months ago, but Northwestern has won at both of those places now. The biggest road block is that season-ender in Columbus, Ohio, but if that is Michigan's only loss, it doesn't necessarily eliminate it as a CFP contender.
6. Washington: In a normal year, the games against Stanford and Oregon would have been the meat of the Huskies' schedule. This season though, it's the games coming up at Utah and Washington State. The others are not exactly cupcakes either.
7. Louisville: The Lamar Jackson show has been fun to watch, but Louisville cannot afford to lose again. Unless Clemson loses twice, the ACC title is out of reach. However, the Cardinals do have a big game at Houston coming up in November that could help make an impression on the CFP Selection Committee.
9. Baylor: The Bears' strength of schedule is so bad, in part because the league did so poorly in nonconference play, that even an undefeated season may not be enough. Going undefeated will mean winning at both Oklahoma and West Virginia.
10. Nebraska: The Cornhuskers aren't the best team in the Big Ten West -- that's Wisconsin -- but they have a more favorable overall schedule than the Badgers. That is, if you consider back-to-back road games at Wisconsin and Ohio State relatively favorable.
12. Florida: The Gators would have to win out against a schedule that includes road games against LSU, Arkansas, Florida State and an SEC Championship Game, likely against Alabama. Good luck with that.