It was just two seasons ago many around the college football world declared the Big Ten’s playoff hopes dead after just two weeks of college football action. Obviously, that turned out to be false. Ohio State went on a tear and hit a hot streak at the best possible time to sneak into the first College Football Playoff as Big Ten champion, then proceed to take out SEC champion and No. 1 seed Alabama in the Sugar Bowl semifinal and then Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and Pac-12 champion Oregon for the national championship.
So here we are once again, analyzing the thin ice a number of conferences and perceived playoff contenders continue to march forward on after two weeks of football action. The question remains, what one-loss teams still have a glimmer of hope to make a playoff run? Here are some worth watching, in no particular order.
The Sooners get a chance to redeem themselves after losing the opener against Houston. Oklahoma hosts Ohio State this weekend in one of the top games of the week. Having already lost once in Week 1, it is pretty safe to suggest Oklahoma has to win this week in order to keep any hope of a second straight playoff berth alive. A win against Ohio State would still probably have to be followed up by an undefeated run through the Big 12, which is no guarantee given that will include games against undefeated West Virginia, Texas and Baylor, not to mention Oklahoma State and TCU. Even if Oklahoma does win all of their remaining games, if it comes down to handing a playoff spot to a one-loss Oklahoma and an undefeated Houston, which way would the selection committee go?
The Fighting Irish have a load of key games that can help generate a playoff push. They get Michigan State this week and still have games against Stanford, Miami, Virginia Tech and USC on the schedule to help provide some likely quality wins. A road loss in overtime against Texas may not end up looking too bad if the Longhorns continue to show they are improving. But like any team from the Big 12 playing a 12-game schedule, the margin for error is very thin after taking an early loss for the Golden Domers.
When it comes to UCLA being a legitimate playoff contender, I will believe it when I see it. UCLA can keep themselves on the radar this week with a win at BYU to generate some momentum, but losing on the road at Texas A&M and still having games against Stanford, Utah and USC after playing BYU this week means UCLA will have to be on top of its game the rest of the way. The Bruins cannot afford another loss, and running through the Pac-12 without a loss for any team (including Stanford and Washington) is no easy task. Keep in mind, UCLA might be in a position in which it has to defeat Stanford twice, once in the regular season and again in a Pac-12 championship game (or Stanford in the regular season and Oregon or Washington in the championship game). Do you like those odds? Neither do I.
And just to note, I’m taking a hard pass on USC after being obliterated by Alabama and still having to play at Stanford this week and then Oregon later on followed by road trips to Washington and UCLA before hosting Notre Dame. Nope. Not happening.
Ole Miss and LSU each lost against power conference opponents away from home in not-so-neutral fields in Week 1, and each still has to play each other and Alabama. If either one of these two can go 2-0 against the other and the Crimson Tide, that is all that will be needed to get back in the playoff hunt. Of course, this is no small feat. Ole Miss gets their first crack to jump back in the fun with a home game against Alabama this week. Win that and then it is on, starting the following week at home against Georgia. Back-to-back road games against Arkansas and LSU later also pose a serious threat to Ole Miss’ playoff hopes if Alabama doesn’t crush them first. LSU has a more favorable path to making a playoff with one loss and has the luxury of getting both Ole Miss and Alabama at home, albeit in back-to-back weeks later on. If LSU has figured out its passing game and Leonard Fournette comes back healthy soon, LSU could enter those two pivotal SEC West matchups with just one loss and have momentum to work with. A road game at Florida should be the only real threat before that.
Nah, I’m just kidding.
Do you think any other one-loss team through the first two weeks of the season has any real chance to remain in the playoff picture in November, or is all hope already lost?