CFP Power Rankings: Which Teams Will Make the Playoff?

College Football Playoff power rankings from BetMGM

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You don’t have to be an expert in online sports betting to know that Georgia and Ohio State are all huge playoff favorites at this point in the season.

That leaves an obvious question that will play out throughout the rest of the year: Who are the other two teams most likely to be included in the 2022 College Football Playoff?

Here, I’ll look at some of the most likely candidates every week.

College Football Playoff Rankings

Here are the teams I consider the most likely contenders for the final three playoff spots. They are listed in descending order.

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Michigan: Win and You’re In

Michigan’s path to the playoff was the simplest of any team on this list.

The Wolverines needed to beat Ohio State in Columbus to win the Big Ten East and go to the conference championship game. They did.

If they win the Big Ten championship and finish the season undefeated, they’ll certainly be in the College Football Playoff.

Given the events of the last few weeks, Michigan likely has a path to the CFP even with a loss in the Big Ten championship game. However, it’s unlikely that Purdue (+16) will stand in the way of Michigan’s return to the postseason.

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TCU: Big 12 Championship Game Still Matters

It’s not fair to TCU, but we have too much evidence that Big 12 playoff contenders outside of Norman, Oklahoma don’t get the benefit of the doubt.

TCU has assembled an impressive playoff resume, in part because the Big 12 offers true 1-to-10 depth this year that no other conference can match.

History tells us that likely won’t be enough for the committee unless most other contenders self-sabotage and remove themselves from contention. TCU needs to be 13-0 with a conference title in hand to truly feel safe.

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USC Playoff Chances

Personally, I am wildly unimpressed by USC this year. Caleb Williams and the offense have been sensational, but the Trojans have played bad teams uncomfortably close. They’ve also failed to show any semblance of a playoff-caliber defense.

In other words, it’s a classic Lincoln Riley team.

If USC can finish as a 12-1 Pac-12 champion while other teams fall around them, there’s a chance the Trojans could hear their name called in December. The fact that USC can avenge its only loss in a Pac-12 championship rematch against Utah is the kind of added narrative detail that the media and CFP committee will love.

That said, USC has spent most of the year overrated by college football odds markets, and I think most analysts and committee members likely feel the same way. The body of work just isn’t there.

Its current position is thanks to other teams’ shortcomings, not necessarily its own accomplishments.

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Ohio State Football: Playoffs Suddenly Out of Reach

The Buckeyes were a lock for the playoff, and CJ Stroud was considered one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy.

All that quickly melted away as the Ohio State defense surrendered up score after score, at home, to Michigan.

Ohio State still has a great shot at making the field thanks to a chaotic final month of the season. Multiple SEC teams have removed themselves from contention, and the ACC champion will have two losses.

If USC or TCU stumble in conference championship games, Ohio State has a very realistic shot at inclusion. Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren is (predictably) lobbying for a two-bid year for the conference.

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A couple of weeks ago, I enumerated the long wish list that Alabama needed to see in order to return to CFP relevance. They were:

  • An improbable regular-season loss from Tennessee at the hands of South Carolina or Vanderbilt
  • Another loss from LSU or a total blowout in the SEC Championship Game
  • Further chaos in the ACC that would make the conference totally non-viable for playoff contention
  • An embarrassing loss either Michigan or Ohio State when they played each other
  • A loss by TCU in the Big 12 Championship Game
  • A loss by USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game

Alabama has gotten almost all of these, and we haven’t even crowned a conference champion yet.

It’s extremely possible that Alabama makes the field as a two-loss non-champion. Its top wins (Texas/Ole Miss/Mississippi State/Arkansas) stack up well against fellow non-champion Ohio State (Notre Dame/Penn State/Maryland/Iowa).

The committee may decide that Alabama’s two losses by a combined four points – both on last-second plays – are less egregious than Ohio State losing emphatically at home to the only great team it played all season.

For what it’s worth, the committee may also decide that it’s not willing to delegitmize its own platform by sticking two-loss Bama in the field when the overall national fan base is dealing with 15 years of Alabama fatigue.

It’s hard to say. Fortunately, with this particular one-on-one matchup, we’ll have a near-certain answer from the updated rankings on Tuesday, November 29. Neither Ohio State nor Alabama will play another game after that.

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Grab Your Clemson/UNC Football Tickets Now

Could Clemson become the first two-loss team to make the Playoff?

In short: Probably not. The ACC is very weak this year, which means the Tigers are lacking in quality wins. Losses to Notre Dame and South Carolina are likely to keep Dabo & Co. out of the CFP for another season.

However, with so many teams continuing to lose, it’s hard to write them off entirely. Clemson is a playoff-caliber brand that the committee could make a misguided argument for… assuming this week’s conference championships go to absolute chaos.

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Hendon Hooker Injury Squeezes Tennessee Football Out of Playoff Picture

The Vols might not have controlled their destiny, but a 1-loss team with good wins in the SEC East would have commanded a certain degree of respect in the final playoff rankings. That’s true even without the added data point of a conference championship game.

Saturday’s Hendon Hooker injury and the Tennessee/South Carolina football score changes all that.

Knoxville was the toast of this year’s college football season, but the Vols are all but eliminated from contention at this point.

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Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.