2016 College Football Season: Conference Champions & Playoff Team Projections (Pre Rivalry Week)

With rivalry week and then conference title games coming up, it’s a good opportunity to see which teams can make the playoffs, and who can still win the conference. Alabama, Clemson, Washington and Michigan are still the favorites to be in the Final Four, but depending on different scenarios developing, Ohio State, Florida, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, Penn State or even Colorado could end up making the College Football Playoff.

If This Team Wins the Conference, They’re In the Playoffs:

Alabama, for sure. Undefeated, and probably will be after the game against Auburn. Number one since the season began, on every poll, including the committee’s. If they beat Florida for a second straight season in the championship game, they’re in.


Clemson, for sure. They’re #4 due to just one loss (Pitt) but also wins over the other good teams in the conference (Louisville, Florida State). They win the ACC (not quite clear who they’ll be playing), and they’re in.

Washington. Yes. They’re ranked above Oklahoma for a reason. Right now, the committee has the SEC, Big Ten, ACC and the Pac-12 champions ahead of the Big 12 champions, if the right teams win it. The Huskies need to beat Washington State and whoever comes from the South (Colorado, probably) to make the final four.

Ohio State. Right now, the Buckeyes need to beat Michigan, for Penn State to lose against Michigan State and win the conference championship game (Against Wisconsin?). Seems like a bit of a stretch putting your hopes on the shoulders of Spartans players. But if Ohio State wins the Big Ten with their one loss (at Penn State by 3 points), they’re in the playoffs.

Michigan. It’s a bit simpler for Michigan: They need to beat Ohio State and they’re in the conference title game. One loss to Iowa doesn’t look good on the CV, but it won’t stop them from a top 4 finish.

Could be in the Playoffs if They win the Conference:

Florida. Frankly, I find it hard to believe an SEC champion, even one with two losses, will be left out of the playoffs. However, Florida’s losses were against Arkansas and Tennessee by double digits. On the other hand, if they’re in the discussion two weeks from now, it means they beat both Florida State and Alabama. They won’t be placed above a one-loss ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 champion, but above a two-loss Oklahoma or Oklahoma State?

Oklahoma football

Oklahoma. The Sooners are undefeated in the Big 12, heading into Bedlam for a de facto conference title game. Their two losses this season were against Ohio State and Houston. However, I think that unless there’s an upset in the ACC or Pac-12, they’ll be left out. I think the committee will take a two loss Wisconsin team over the Sooners if the Badgers win the Big Ten.

Oklahoma State. Same as Oklahoma, and an even more difficult situation, because they lost to Baylor and Central Michigan. In short: It doesn’t look good for them. 

Wisconsin. As we explained before, if they do win the Big Ten, I see the committee preferring them over Oklahoma, maybe even Florida, who isn’t getting a lot of love from the polls.

Penn State. Similar situation to Wisconsin. They need Michigan to lose while they beat Michigan State. Not too far fetched of a scenario to get into the title game. But a two-loss Penn State team will need is probably good enough to make the playoffs if either Clemson or Washington don’t win their conference.

Colorado. The Buffaloes need to beat Utah, win the Pac-12 against Washington, and then hope for Clemson, Alabama and the Big Ten East team to lose in order to be considered.

Could be in the Playoffs Without Winning the Conference:

Alabama. If they don’t win the conference, they’ll be with either one or two losses. I can see the committee putting them over some two-loss conference champions, especially from the ACC and Pac-12.

Ohio State Football

Ohio State. The Buckeyes might very well finish the season with just one loss and not get in the conference title game, something that’s happened to them before. But if Clemson and Washington don’t win their conferences, you’ll see the Buckeyes making a very strong and public push to be included. I frankly believe they are one of the 4 best teams in the nation, but opinion shouldn’t have that much of an influence.

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