Ranking the one-loss teams by playoff potential

Georgia coach Kirby Smart summarized his team's status last Saturday before he even left Tiger Stadium, reminding everyone the Bulldogs "still have an opportunity to do everything we want to do" even after the 36-16 loss to LSU.

"The margin for error is just smaller," he said.

It's so small, in fact, it might just be nonexistent.

The same can be said for every one-loss Power 5 team still desperately clinging to playoff hopes while knowing a two-loss conference champion has yet to finish in the College Football Playoff selection committee's top four.

The ACC (Clemson and NC State), the Big Ten (Ohio State) and the SEC (Alabama) have the only remaining undefeated major conference teams, along with independent Notre Dame and American Athletic Conference rivals UCF, South Florida and Cincinnati. NC State travels to Clemson on Saturday for what will be a season-defining game in the ACC Atlantic Division and a potential playoff-elimination game.

At the very least, one more undefeated Power 5 team is guaranteed to join Georgia in the one-loss club this week. Here's a look at which of those current club members are currently in the best position to make a playoff run:

1. Michigan Wolverines (6-1)
This week:
at No. 24 Michigan State (noon ET, Fox)
Toughest remaining test: Nov. 24 at Ohio State

The scenario: Given how poorly Georgia played in its loss to LSU, and the Bulldogs' difficult upcoming schedule, it seems -- at least for now -- more likely that the Wolverines win their league, rather than Georgia winning its. Michigan might wind up having the best loss in the country -- the season-opener to Notre Dame. It certainly wouldn't keep the Wolverines out of the selection committee's top four if Michigan were to win out. The Wolverines can't afford to overlook the Spartans this week, though, as Michigan State just knocked Penn State out of the conversation and has embraced its role as spoiler. Michigan, which racked up a season-high 320 rushing yards in the win over Wisconsin last week, will face the nation's top rushing defense. The Spartans are limiting opponents to just 62.3 rushing yards per game.

The odds: The Big Ten has an 11 percent chance to get multiple teams into the playoff, second-best to the SEC. There's a 21 percent chance Michigan will be 10-1 and Ohio State will be 11-0 when the teams meet in Columbus on Nov. 24.

2. Georgia Bulldogs (6-1)
This week:
Toughest remaining test: Oct. 27 vs. Florida

The scenario: Georgia is ranked ahead of LSU on this list in spite of the head-to-head win simply because Georgia doesn't have to play Alabama during the regular season and LSU does. It's more statistically feasible for Georgia to win the East than for LSU to win the West, and even if the Tigers find a way to beat Alabama (LSU has a 24.4 percent chance to win, according to FPI), it would be extremely difficult for LSU to beat Georgia a second time in the same season in the SEC title game. Still, Georgia has to win out and win the SEC, likely beating Alabama or LSU in the process. There's no margin for error because of the Bulldogs' weak schedule, which currently features no wins against opponents over .500, and rival Georgia Tech (3-4) as their lone Power 5 nonconference opponent. Georgia is fortunate the SEC East is better this year, with both Florida and Kentucky legitimate contenders for the division and potential résumé boosters -- but that also means the division is tougher to win. With Florida and Georgia both off this week, they will each have one loss when they play Oct. 27 in Jacksonville.

The odds: There's a 16 percent chance the Bulldogs win out. If they do, there's a 94 percent chance they reach the playoff, according to ESPN's Playoff Predictor.

3. Oklahoma Sooners (5-1)
This week:
at TCU (noon ET, ABC)
Toughest remaining test: Nov. 23 at West Virginia

The scenario: Not only do the Sooners have to win out, they also need some upsets in the rankings ahead of them -- arguably the most important being Notre Dame. As long as the Irish remain undefeated, their spot in the top four will likely come at the expense of the Big 12 and Pac-12. It's not inconceivable, though, so don't rule out the Big 12 just yet -- especially if OU can show some defensive improvement after the firing of coordinator Mike Stoops. Oklahoma had a bye week this week to regroup from the loss to Texas and the staff change before going on the road to TCU.

The odds: Oklahoma's 20 percent chance to win out is the best of any one-loss Power 5 team. The Sooners have a 77 percent chance to reach the Playoff if they finish 12-1.

4. Florida Gators (6-1)
This week:
Toughest remaining test: Oct. 27 vs. Georgia

The scenario: Florida needs 5-1 Kentucky, which beat the Gators in Week 2, to lose again to win the SEC East, and Kentucky still has to play Georgia (Nov. 3). For Florida, which has won five straight, it all boils down to the game against Georgia. FPI gives the Gators a 30.2 percent chance to win -- the only remaining game on their schedule they're not favored to win. Any team that has a chance to win the SEC has a shot at the top four.

The odds: The Gators have a 4 percent chance to win out. If they finish 12-1, there's an 83 percent chance the Gators reach the playoff. That falls to 35 percent if they go 11-1 and fail to reach the SEC championship.

5. LSU Tigers (6-1)
This week:
vs. No. 22 Mississippi State (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Toughest test: Nov. 3 vs. Alabama

The scenario: LSU has already exceeded expectations. (Remember when Ed Orgeron was on the hot seat? Neither does he.) But three of their last five opponents are ranked, including Saturday's game, which is hardly a gimme. Last year, Mississippi State hammered LSU 37-7, and the Bulldogs had a bye week to prepare for this one. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow has a completion percentage of 50 percent or less in four games this year, and he has been sacked 16 times in seven games -- second-most in the SEC. If LSU slips, the big win over Georgia will be an afterthought.

The odds: The Tigers only have a 3 percent chance to win out, but if they do there's an 89 percent chance they reach the playoff.

6. Texas Longhorns (6-1)
This week:
Toughest remaining test: Nov. 10 at Texas Tech

The scenario: The ideal situation would be for Texas to win out and beat rival Oklahoma a second time in the Big 12 title game, having gone undefeated in league play. The problem for the Big 12 continues to be Notre Dame, though. Assuming an undefeated Irish team is in the selection committee's top four, at least two other Power 5 teams are left out. The Pac-12 is in the worst shape, but a one-loss Big 12 champ is also unlikely to be chosen ahead of undefeated Notre Dame. The season-opening loss to Maryland is certainly forgivable, considering the emotions of the Terrapins in that game following the death of Jordan McNair and that Maryland is having a respectable season. Committee members should acknowledge the improvement Texas has made since that game, but the Horns still need some upsets to get any serious consideration.

The odds: The Longhorns have a 3 percent chance to win out, and even if they do there's just a 45 percent chance they'll reach the playoff.

7. Iowa Hawkeyes (5-1)
This week:
vs. Maryland (noon ET, ESPN2)
Toughest remaining test: Oct. 27 at Penn State

The scenario: When Wisconsin lost to Michigan last week, it opened the door for Iowa to win the West division (Iowa's only loss this season is to Wisconsin). Iowa still needs the Badgers to lose again, and it's possible they will, with three difficult road trips to Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue still remaining. Iowa also has to survive back-to-back road games against Penn State (Oct. 27) and Purdue (Nov. 3). It's a tall task, but if the Hawkeyes can win out and upset the East division winner in the Big Ten title game, there could be a big surprise in the final top four.

The odds: The Hawkeyes have a 2 percent chance to reach the playoff and 2 percent chance to win out. If they finish 12-1, there's a 66 percent they reach the playoff.

8. Oregon Ducks (5-1)
This week:
at No. 25 Washington State (7:30 p.m. ET, Fox)
Toughest remaining test: Nov. 10 at Utah

The scenario: Oregon would need to win out and hope other Power 5 conferences produce two-loss champions, a similar situation that helped Washington into the semifinals in 2016 in spite of a lousy nonconference lineup. Oregon doesn't have any nonconference wins against Power 5 opponents (Bowling Green, Portland State and San Jose State) and that portion of the schedule ranks last in FBS. Should Oregon get into a résumé battle with another one-loss Power 5 champion, the nonconference strength of schedule could be the difference.

The odds: FPI gives Oregon a 38.5 percent chance to win on Saturday and a 31.3 percent chance to win at Utah. Two-loss Washington remains the frontrunner to win the Pac-12 North, but the winner of Saturday's game in Pullman, Washington, will emerge as its top challenger.