NCAA Football Playoff Picture: Who’s In The Hunt?

Eight weeks into the NCAA Football season, only four unbeaten teams remain, and three out of those four were hardly expected to be in the discussion for the inaugural College Football Playoff. The first set of rankings for the playoff will be announced on October 28.

 

Only Florida State (7-0, No. 2, AP), despite immense scrutiny regarding their star quarterback Jameis Winston, has managed to live up to the preseason hype, running the table thus far including three close calls (against Oklahoma State, Clemson and most recently, Notre Dame).

 

Two teams from the Magnolia State—Mississippi (7-0, No. 3, AP) and current AP No. 1 Mississippi State (6-0)—have defied the odds to become contenders for the playoff.  Mississippi State’s resurgence is perhaps the most surprising, ranked seventh by ESPN in their pre-season SEC rankings. While the Bulldogs returned 18 starters including leading Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Dak Prescott, not many predicted them to beat LSU on the road and Texas A&M and highly touted Auburn at home.

 

Ole Miss was ranked just sixth in the SEC in the aforementioned preseason ESPN rankings but their résumé to date is even more impressive. The Rebels defeated preseason playoff favorite Alabama and Texas A&M on the road convincingly (35-20).

 

The other remaining unbeaten, Marshall (7-0, No. 23, AP) will need a lot of help to find its way into the top four teams eligible for the playoff. The Thundering Herd hail from a non-power conference, Conference USA, and have a very weak strength of schedule (147th).

 

While the new playoff format was designed to be more inclusive of teams like Marshall, one-loss teams from power conferences are almost certain to get more consideration. Of these, Notre Dame (6-1), Alabama (6-1), Auburn (5-1), Oregon (6-1) and Michigan State (6-1) are currently the best on offer. But with six weeks of regular season action and conference championships still remaining, it is far too early to project who will make it into the four-team playoff bracket.

 

 

It’s always fun to predict, though, and Florida State appears to be the best bet to make it into the playoff considering their remaining schedule. Mississippi faces crucial tests at LSU and at home to Auburn and Mississippi State while the Bulldogs have an even tougher route with road games against Alabama and Ole Miss left on the schedule.

 

Here are the four teams we currently project to make it to the playoff:

 

Florida State

Mississippi State

Alabama

Oregon

 

-M.F. DiBella

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