College Football Playoff 2015 Preview: Fringe Teams Most Likely to Get InBy Russell Westerholm, UniversityHerald Reporter
Unbeaten or one-loss teams in the top half of the College Football Playoff's (CFP) first ranking of the season may be out of the picture and facing an uphill climb, but it is the best time to be in that position.
This time last year, the CFP released its first ever rankings. Using its own criteria and standing completely apart from any other poll, the committee also chose to only release six rankings starting after the season's midway point.
In that first ranking the eventual champion was ranked 16th overall and did not crack the Top Four until the final rankings were released. Last season the Ohio State Buckeyes perfectly illustrated why the CFP works.
While it would be unlikely to see a similar story unfold a second season in a row, there are still unbeaten and one-loss teams outside the Top Four that can find their way into the CFP.
Most obviously: Baylor (6), Iowa (9), and Florida (10)
Like Ohio State last season, Baylor and Florida lost their starting quarterbacks before the end of the season, which is exactly the kind of factors the CFP committee considers that the AP voters may not. Florida has a relatively weak schedule remaining, but they also have the inside track to win the SEC East and therefore a shot at the SEC title.
Baylor, on the other hand, have Oklahoma (15), Oklahoma State (14), and TCU (8) on their schedule, the latter two on the road. Winning two out of those three and finishing the season with the one loss would be impressive.
The SEC and Big Ten title games could well secure a CFP spot given how good both conferences are this season. Iowa does not have a currently-ranked opponent left on their schedule and should be considered the favorites for the Big Ten West.
Outsiders: Oklahoma State (14), Oklahoma (15), and Florida State (16)
Big 12 team have strength of schedule on their side this season and at the right time. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State both have Baylor (6) and TCU (8) left to play before playing each other. Coming out with one loss (Oklahoma already has one) or none (as is possible for Oklahoma State) will be difficult, but potentially rewarding.
Florida State can also force their way into the CFP conversation, but also with great difficulty. Their loss to Georgia Tech hurt them, but beating Clemson (1) this weekend and Florida (10) for the season finale would be convincing.
The darkest of horses: Memphis (13) and Ole Miss (18)
Memphis is unbeaten with wins over Power Five teams (including Ole Miss), but they will have to stay unbeaten just to be considered for the CFP. They have two currently ranked opponents on their schedule and both are road games, but even winning out will guarantee nothing.
If any two-loss team can make the CFP it would be an SEC West team. Ole Miss is tied for second in the division and the two teams ahead of them - LSU (2) and Alabama (4) - play each other this weekend. To put their loss to Memphis behind them, they will have to beat LSU and Mississippi State (20) and win the SEC title game.