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Which teams outside the Top 5 can get into the College Football Playoff?

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

By Ryan Decker for Now On Deck

College football is nearing the midway point of its season.

Conference play has begun, Heisman candidacies are becoming real, and ranked teams continue to drop like flies each week.

It’s also at this point in the year that teams’ playoff résumés begin to take shape.

With Week 7 of the season taking place this weekend, it’s a good time to start looking at the playoff picture. Below are the teams currently outside of the Top 5 with the best chances of making it into the College Football Playoff.

(Editor’s Note: We’re looking at teams outside of the Top 5 due to the fact that there are two teams from the Big Ten Conference inside the Top 5, and in the young history of the CFP, no conference has had multiple teams selected for the Playoff in one season.)


The Louisville Lamar Jacksons (Cardinals) definitely still have a shot to make it to the playoff.

The toughest part of their schedule is out of the way, whereas Clemson – the only ACC team ranked above them – still has to travel to Tallahassee in three weekends to take on No. 14 Florida State.

If Clemson stumbles against the Seminoles, a team Jackson and company absolutely destroyed earlier this year, Louisville should be in the driver’s seat in the ACC, even though the Tigers did beat the Cardinals two weeks ago in a tightly contested game.

The only thing standing in Louisville’s way would be Clemson not losing a game, or a tie-breaker to determine which of the two teams would play in the ACC Championship game, as both are in the same division.

It doesn’t hurt that Louisville has the Heisman front-runner either.


Wisconsin is in a really nice spot as far as Big Ten teams go.

Even though the Badgers are just the third-best team in the conference, two things are in their favor: 1) After this week, the toughest part of the schedule will be behind them. 2) The two teams above them still have to play one another.

As for the first point, Wisconsin faces No. 2 Ohio State this weekend in Badger country and has only one other tough game remaining on their schedule.

As for the second point, Ohio State has to travel to Wisconsin, to Penn State (bad team, but tough environment), to Michigan State and ends the season against No. 4 Michigan. Michigan’s schedule is a little easier, but the Wolverines still have to go to MSU and to OSU to end the year.

Not only that, but Wisconsin is in the Big Ten division opposite of Michigan and Ohio State. That’s another advantage for the Badgers.


*See Wisconsin and adjust to the Cornhuskers‘ schedule.


As weak as the Big 12 is, there is still a slight chance that the Baylor Bears could wind up making it into the CFP.

The disclaimer here is that College Football Fan Realism is about realistic expectations in college football, and Baylor getting in the playoffs is unrealistic at this point. However, the disclaimer to the disclaimer is that college football has been so unpredictable this year, and with seemingly no Top 10 being safe, the Bears could get all the help they need.

As of now, Baylor has just two ranked games remaining on its schedule. Both games are on the road in tough environments – in Norman against the No. 19 Oklahoma Sooners and then in Morgantown against No. 20 West Virginia in the final week of the regular season.

That last game, potentially, could be this year’s de facto Big 12 Championship if the Bears and Mountaineers remain atop the Big 12 until December.

What Baylor has in its favor is this: ahead of the Bears in the AP rankings are three teams from the SEC, four teams from the Big Ten, and two from the ACC. Some of those teams will simply eliminate one another from contention. With no one ahead of BU in the Big 12, the Bears could potentially sit back and watch themselves move up the rankings week by week.

The first official College Football Playoff rankings are set to be released for Week 10 of the season in three weeks. Between now and then, you have to believe at least a few ranked teams will suffer losses.

Any of those losses could set any of the aforementioned teams in control of their own destiny for a playoff run.

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