The College Football Playoff focus has rightly been on the top five teams, which all control their destiny for a chance to win a national championship. Alabama and Georgia, Clemson, Michigan and Notre Dame all will have a strong case if they win out.
But what happens if they don't? Who's the next to make a run?
Ohio State: The Buckeyes likely have the best shot at forcing their way into the playoff by virtue of a head-to-head game against Michigan. A win over the Wolverines would have the two-pronged effect of pushing the Wolverines out of the race and bolstering Ohio State's résumé. The problem? The Buckeyes sure haven't looked much like a playoff team of late, with a blowout loss to Purdue, a near-miss against Nebraska and an offensive struggle against Michigan State. ESPN's Football Power Index gives Ohio State about a one-in-three chance to win the Big Ten, but even then, the eye test might keep the Buckeyes out of the playoff if some of the other top contenders also add big wins.
Oklahoma: Let's be clear: OU has a championship offense. The defense on the other hand? The Sooners have allowed 298 points so far, 24 more than last year's group had through 10 games, and last year's Sooners D was the worst of the playoff era by a team that made the final four. What helps Oklahoma is that it potentially gets a marquee title game -- something the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 aren't going to have given the lopsided division strength in each league.
Washington State: The analytics don't love Washington State, giving the Cougars just a 25 percent chance to win the Pac-12. That's nothing new. Mike Leach's team has been proving the doubters wrong all year. Washington State's defense is coming into its own of late, and Gardner Minshew has the offense humming. The biggest hurdle might be the fact that the hurdles simply aren't big enough, with the remaining schedule offering relatively minimal opportunity to impress the committee. That likely means Washington State's best hope is winning out and watching chaos unfold around them.
West Virginia: All four of the playoff contenders mentioned here bring legitimate offensive attacks to the table. But West Virginia may be alone among them with a defense that can also hold its own. The Mountaineers' D is tops among the four in efficiency, yards per play and points per game. Add in Will Grier and, potentially two shots at Oklahoma, and West Virginia should have a solid case by year's end if it wins out. Moreover, if the committee starts parsing resumes, West Virginia may also have the most impressive loss, given Iowa State's strong finish to the year.
Who do you think has the best case?
Which of these teams has the best shot to make the playoff?— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 12, 2018
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