2017 College Football Playoff: First Assessment and Odds

The Playoff Committee’s rankings come out on Halloween (because they have an excellent sense of how to get ratings), but we’ve got a pretty good idea of the teams still likely to make it. 

1. Alabama (8-0, 1st in SEC West)

Yawn. The only team to have made all three playoffs is currently 8-0 and wreaking havoc on maybe the toughest division in college football. They’ll end the season with no more than two losses, if that, likely a division title, and probably as national championship favorites.

What they need to do to make the playoff: beat Mercer, and win at least one of their other three games (LSU, Mississippi State, and Auburn) and the SEC Championship, and they’re likely through.

Odds to make the Playoff: 3/7

2. Penn State (7-0, 2nd in Big 10 East)

Denied last year in favor of Ohio State, 2017 has been a hell of a revenge tour for Penn State. They’ve fielded one of the best, most dangerous, and most fun offenses in the country, with running back Saquon Barkley the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman and quarterback Trace McSorley good enough to challenge teams that sell out to stop the run. He often overlooked defense might be one of the very best in the country, and with only Ohio State (and maybe Michigan State?) on the schedule as genuinely challenging games, it’s very likely that Penn State will end the season with either one or zero losses.

A fun scenario is that Penn State loses to Ohio State, but gets selected for the Playoff anyway, in a reverse of what happened last year. Bonus points if they get shut out by Clemson, too.

Odds to make the Playoff: 1/1

3. Georgia (7-0, 1st in SEC East)

It will be tough for Georgia to make the Playoff, because the committee (at least ostensibly) cares about conference championships in making its selections. Winning the SEC would require Georgia to beat Alabama (albeit in Atlanta), something any team would be very lucky to do indeed. As a team, Georgia have proven to be remarkably strong, with a long history of absolutely flattening good teams and an early season win against Notre Dame on the road that keeps looking better and better. A great defense, coupled with an offense run by a remarkably adept teenager, is promising just not for this year but the future.

Odds to make the Playoff: 3/1

 4. TCU (7-0, 1st in Big 12)

A sleeper pick! Denied the first Playoff because the Big 12 didn’t have a championship game, TCU is 7-0 and looking fantastic. Gary Patterson has built one of the few truly complete teams in college football, there’s no weaknesses to point to here and excellence in every phase of the game. Kyle Hicks runs well, Kenny Hill (formerly Kenny Trill) got into a shootout with Mason Rudolph at Oklahoma State and won, and the defense put up one of the most suffocating performances in the sport’s history just last week.

Odds to make the Playoff: 3/1

5. Wisconsin (7-0, 1st in Big 10 West)

Wisconsin, by virtue of its division and consistency, has this way of going 7-0 or 8-0 before anyone actually notices. They’re a fantastic team, with a run-first offense, one of the best lines in the country, and, critically, one of the easiest schedules. You won’t find a lot of analysts or bettors that are confident this team can survive whatever undead monster comes roaring out of the Big 10 East, and losing your conference title and making the Playoff anyway is a Ohio State-only maneuver.

Odds to make the Playoff: 5/1

6. Ohio State (6-1, 1st in Big 10 East)

Losing to Oklahoma isn’t a death sentence, and when it comes to Ohio State there’s nothing the Playoff Committee won’t forgive. With a chance to make a big move this weekend against Penn State, tOSU would then enter the end of their seasonw ith only Iowa, Michigan State, Illinois, and The Game to play. A win against Penn State would make a one-loss Big 10 championship not only possible but probable, even likely, and that’s as good a path to the playoff as any.

Odds to make the Playoff: 5/1

7. Clemson (6-1, 2nd in ACC Atlantic)

The reigning national champion has but one mark on one of the toughest schedules in the sport, a weird road loss to Syracuse that left everyone scratching their heads. Otherwise: they’ve beat a handful of bowl teams, at least two ranked teams, and enter the finishing stretch with Georgia Tech, a road game against NC State, a hugely disappointing Florida State, the other USC, and the Citadel, which is a blend of a service academy and an FCS team. Winning out would put them in the ACC Championship game, and very likely the Playoff.

Odds to make the Playoff: 5/1

A real niche playoff pick. Photo: Kasey Moody (CC License)

8. Miami (6-0, 1st in ACC Coastal)

The football schadenfreude dream scenario is Mark Richt and Miami either beating Georgia in the Playoff or keeping the Bulldogs out of it entirely. Getting to that point will be tough, with Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Virginia and Pitt still on the schedule, plus the ACC Championship game, against either Clemson or NC State. It’s tough to see the Hurricanes as the favorite in either of those games, but if they pull it off, they’ll be back to national relevance in record time.

Odds to make the Playoff: 8/1

9. Notre Dame (6-1, #1 on NBC)

The Playoff Committee, which wants more than anything to generate TV ratings, would love to put Notre Dame in. To their credit, they’ve done very well this season, losing only to (the very good) Georgia and beating USC handily. With a tough slate of games left on the schedule, including NC State, Stanford and Miami, Notre Dame’s star might be flying a little high right now, but if they manage to win out they’ll certainly be selected, and may even deserve it.

Odds to make the Playoff: 8/1