This week, the CFP picture looks perfect. Four pristine, unbeaten teams taking up the spots for college football’s Final Four. But if you had to guess, one — and maybe more than one — of these teams will suffer a loss.

With that in mind, we look to the teams that have already lost one game, or might end up with one loss, and guess which could end up still crashing the Final Four CFP party. We make their case, and ultimately call them in or out.

The Already-Lost-One Club

Ohio State

Sure, Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes lost to Penn State. But they absolutely brutalized Nebraska on Saturday, and have that shot at Michigan in a couple of weeks at home in the Horseshoe. Ohio State wouldn’t fear a Big Ten title game matchup with Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Nebraska, who are tied atop the West division. How good are the Buckeyes’ chances. used their stat analysis to give OSU a 39 percent chance at the playoff — and a 10 percent shot at the national title, which is fourth best in the country.

In or out with one loss? In.


The Cardinals’ bad luck was to lose in their division to Clemson. So only two Clemson losses could get Louisville to the ACC title game. The Cardinals’ remaining schedule — home against Wake Forest and Kentucky, with a Thursday night game at Houston in between, probably doesn’t help them jump the Buckeyes, unless OSU suffers a second loss, to Michigan or otherwise.

The experts from project Louisville with a 27 percent shot at the playoff, and a 6 percent shot at the national title, which is the sixth-best ranking, but also makes the Cardinals the last team with a greater than 2 percent chance.

In or out with one loss? Just barely out.

West Virginia

From Jim Carrey’s “So your telling me there’s a chance?” school of thought: If the Mountaineers beat Oklahoma and Baylor at home AND Washington gags up a remaining game, AND Ohio State loses to Michigan, AND Louisville loses to Wake Forest or Kentucky AND nothing crazy happens in the Big Ten title game AND Alabama and Clemson stay unbeaten, then maybe, just maybe WVU could sneak in. gives them a 4 percent shot at the playoff, right below two-loss Pac 12 schools Colorado and Washington State.

In or out with one loss? Out.

The Could-Lose-One Club

Alabama: The Tide remain the best team in football, and were they to stumble — for instance, to Auburn at home in Week 13, or in the SEC title game against Florida, they would almost certainly recover to still claim a playoff spot.

The Auburn game would present some difficulties, but if other unbeatens also lost and Auburn won the SEC title, Alabama would have a convincing argument to be the SEC’s second playoff team. On the other hand, an Alabama loss, say, at home to Mississippi State or miraculously to Chattanooga, or to Tennessee or even Kentucky in the SEC title game, would be harder to overcome. Still, of the unbeaten teams, Alabama would have the easiest time not getting derailed by a loss.

In or out with one loss? In.

Michigan: Suppose the Wolverines hold serve for the next two weeks, and lose a heartbreaker at Ohio State. Given the number of high ranking Big Ten teams in the CFP results, it would be hard to turn away a one-loss Wolverines team in favor of, say, an undefeated Washington squad.

It would be less difficult if Michigan beats Ohio State, but then gags on the Big Ten title game against Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Nebraska. In that circumstance, Washington could stay in, although UM probably trumps a one-loss Louisville squad.

In or out with one loss? In.

Clemson: Should Clemson choke up a late regular-season loss to Pitt, Wake Forest, or South Carolina, the Tigers would probably still stay in by virtue of winning the ACC title game against North Carolina or Virginia Tech.

You could see a field of Alabama, one-loss Michigan, Ohio State, and unbeaten Washington leaving out the Tigers. Clemson is really in much better shape if Michigan stays undefeated and hands OSU a second loss, because a one-loss Clemson team has a great argument over a one-loss Louisville team — that Clemson defeated.

In or out with one loss? Barely in.


If Wazzou loses — first it would help to lose to USC or Arizona State and not co-division leader Washington State — or even to Colorado in the Pac 12 title game, they would definitely need some help. A one-loss Washington team gets in if and only if Bama, Michigan, and Clemson stay undefeated and Louisville suffers another loss. The Huskies’ path is rough enough even if they don’t lose, so they’d be well-advised to keep winning.

In or out with one loss? Out.