You thought you could live without it. But as the opening weeks of this season passed and losses mounted for contenders and pretenders, admit it, the question crept into your mind.
Whose hopes to qualify for the College Football Playoff are already dashed?
The Eliminator returns to provide the answers you need to know. One month in, 84 of the 130 FBS teams are out -- as in chewed up and spit out by the Eliminator. Forty-six remain in play for the Dec. 29 semifinal games, including quite a few teams whose chances to actually make it appear much worse than the likelihood that Old Dominion could beat Virginia Tech.
For this first 2018 edition of the Eliminator, it's too early for widespread subjectivity. Too much can happen over the next 10 weeks.
So a few ground rules: Every Group of 5 team with a loss is eliminated. That includes an independent like BYU. After the CFP selection committee speaks on Oct. 30, we'll see about any remaining Group of 5 unbeatens. For now, let's just say it doesn't look good.
Every Power 5 team with one loss or fewer is still alive. Even the aforementioned Hokies. And Maryland, which lost to Temple. And Texas and Minnesota, which lost to Maryland. You get the point.
A single two-loss team has escaped elimination.
Contenders are listed by record and in order of FPI rank.
Still in contention
Alabama Crimson Tide
Nick Saban wants the media to write and say bad things about the Crimson Tide so his players don't think too highly of themselves. If only all coaches had such problems. Sorry, but Bama's 22-point win over a Texas A&M squad that lost to Clemson by two only widens the Tide's edge on all other contenders.
Ohio State Buckeyes
The production of Dwayne Haskins Jr. rivals any QB nationally after he threw five touchdown passes in the first half against Tulane, the first Big Ten QB to do so in 14 years. The Buckeyes' biggest test before Thanksgiving arrives Saturday at Penn State.
The Bulldogs played below their standard on offense in the first half and allowed Missouri to run for four touchdowns. Not a problem, as Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes produced non-offensive touchdowns in a 14-point win.
Penn State Nittany Lions
The matchup Saturday in State College has a history of shaping the CFP picture, though not as the Nittany Lions would prefer -- even when they win. FPI favors PSU to beat the Buckeyes after consecutive 60-point showings in Weeks 3 and 4.
The time has arrived for Trevor Lawrence to take over at QB. He has accounted for more than twice as many touchdowns as Kelly Bryant and figures to make the Tigers nearly unstoppable on their path through a weakened ACC toward the playoff.
The upcoming Red River Showdown looks more interesting after Iowa State and Army offered something of a blueprint to beat the Sooners. An OT win over the Knights won't score points with the CFP selection committee if OU finds itself in a fight for the fourth spot.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Irish, behind Ian Book, produced a 14-year high of 56 points in a win over Wake Forest. And with Stanford up next in South Bend, it's not hard to envision a storybook season. Notre Dame's 35 percent chance to reach the playoff is the sixth-highest nationally.
The Cardinal will have a lot to say about those Notre Dame dreams after QB K.J. Costello and linebacker Joey Alfieri brought Stanford back from brink of its first defeat in the second half Saturday night at Oregon.
West Virginia Mountaineers
This might just be the year the Big 12 is there for West Virginia's taking. If the Mountaineers contain freshly energized Texas Tech this week in Lubbock, a relative soft spot in the schedule could leave WVU unbeaten at the open of November.
We're about to find out if Coach O's squad is for real. After a visit from Ole Miss, the Tigers face a four-game stretch that rates as the third-toughest for any team nationally this season.
Duke Blue Devils
Speaking of for real, Duke is ranked for the first time since 2015 after a 4-0 start that includes three wins over respectable nonconference foes. Wounded Virginia Tech is up next at home. The Devils might stay unbeaten for a while.
NC State Wolfpack
Life in the ACC Atlantic sets up nicely for the Wolfpack, who get Virginia, Boston College and Florida State at home. There's also a Week 8 trip to Clemson that looms, though NC State has taken the Tigers to the wire the past two years.
Duke is unbeaten, so Kentucky's gotta keep up. Look at the Cats, 2-0 in SEC play for the first time since 1977 with a star in running back Benny Snell Jr. And even if Kentucky comes back to earth, hey, it beat Florida.
Seems that the Orange, 4-0 for the first time since 1991, are about to get handed a big, ugly dose of reality, what with a trip to Clemson on tap this week. Then again, you do remember what happened last year in this game?
California Golden Bears
Cal started 3-0 a year ago, just like this season, then lost five of six -- the lone win by five scores over unbeaten Washington State. The Pac-12, even when down, can be a wild place. Conference play opens Saturday at home against Oregon.
FPI does not believe in the Buffs, placing them 20 spots below the second-lowest-ranked Power 5 unbeaten. A visit from UCLA this week won't improve matters. CU will just have to keep winning, like it did two years ago en route to the Pac-12 title game.
The Wolverines have hit 45 points in three straight games, capped by a 56-10 rout of Nebraska, the Huskers' third-worst loss in the past half-century. With Notre Dame's profile rising, Michigan is poised to remain in solid position as a contender.
The Huskies are winning the way they want to win in the Pac-12, with tough defense and smart play after the Week 1 loss to Auburn. UW might just run the table, which ought to be good enough to earn a playoff spot. Unless it's not.
A 34-3 win Saturday over Arkansas marked the first Auburn victory since 2011 in which the Tigers didn't run for 100 yards. They've got this week against Southern Miss to straighten it out before diving back into the SEC grind.
Two touchdowns in the final minute at Iowa saved the Badgers from early elimination and earned coach Paul Chryst a 10th straight road win, the second-longest streak nationally.
Redshirt freshman N'Kosi Perry took over for Malik Rosier at QB, throwing for 224 yards and three touchdowns against FIU. He's the future. And perhaps the future is now for the Hurricanes, whose path in the ACC looks manageable.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Before Saturday night at Kentucky, none of the more high-profile first-year coaches at flashier programs had navigated the transition as smoothly as Joe Moorhead.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Is it the Patrick Mahomes effect? Seriously, what was that on Saturday, the first Tech win at Oklahoma State since 2001 and its first in 17 games against a ranked foe? And 41-17? Freshman QB Alan Bowman has thrown for a Mahomes-like 1,002 yards in the past two games.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
The flat performance against Tech might have constituted a letdown after the rout of Boise State -- or maybe these are the 2018 Cowboys. Still, FPI gives OSU an edge in every remaining game but the Bedlam battle at Oklahoma.
QB Feleipe Franks posted Tebow-like numbers in the blowout win at Tennessee. But do the Gators pose a real threat to Georgia in the SEC East? Meetings first with Mississippi State and LSU should provide an answer.
The rush is again on to declare the Longhorns as officially back after consecutive wins over ranked opponents. Give it two weeks. First, Texas visits struggling Kansas State, where it last won in 2002, then Oklahoma beckons.
The Hawkeyes just can't get past Wisconsin, which won for the fifth straight time in Iowa City. This one was set up for Iowa, but it'll now need help -- likely from Big Ten East heavyweights Michigan and Penn State -- to resurface in the West race.
Washington State Cougars
Gardner Minshew continues to impress, but the Cougars failed to hold a 13-point, second-half lead at USC. The Pac-12 North is no joke, especially for Mike Leach's team in the second half of this season.
See the above commentary on Moorhead and Mississippi State. The same applies to Mario Cristobal, though his Ducks, of course, bring the flash. And their Week 4 loss to Stanford defied football logic.
Boston College Eagles
Raise your hand if you predicted the unbeaten Eagles losing by three scores at winless Purdue. It marked the Boilermakers' first win in 20 games over a ranked opponent and the beginning of the end of BC's faint playoff vision.
Will the real Maryland please stand up? The Terps looked dreadful in a 21-point loss to Temple, but more than solid against Texas and on Saturday against Minnesota, rushing for 315 yards in the latest win.
Look, Baylor is not headed to the playoff. Or perhaps even a bowl game. But until it loses a second game -- likely this week at Oklahoma -- it's not eliminated. Why? Because a win is a win, even when it comes against Kansas.
A nice 27-3 win for the Cavs over Louisville, holding the Cardinals to their lowest points total in eight years. Enjoy it before the road gets treacherous.
It's going to get better before it gets much worse for the Hoosiers, who face Rutgers, Ohio State, Iowa and Penn State, in that order, over the next four weeks.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
The road was not nice to P.J. Fleck and the Gophers, stomped by Maryland after three home wins over Group of 5 competition.
Michigan State Spartans
The FPI computer somewhat surprisingly loves the Spartans, ranking them 12th nationally, one spot behind Stanford. MSU figures to go to Penn State in two weeks at 4-1. And leave at 4-2.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Flying under the radar because of a big loss to Georgia and a hurricane-related cancellation, the Gamecocks possess weapons alongside QB Jake Bentley. They might pose a late-season threat to Clemson.
Virginia Tech Hokies
What do you even say? The 49-35 loss at Old Dominion rates by FPI as the largest upset in 14 years of tracking such events in a game between two FBS foes. The Monarchs at kickoff had a 1.8 percent chance to win -- higher now than Tech's likelihood to win out and make the playoff.
The Utes took a break after a disappointing home loss to Washington in Week 3. Check back in this spot if they turn it around and win consecutive road games at Washington State and Stanford.
Texas A&M Aggies
If a two-loss team ever does make the playoff -- and someday it'll happen -- look for it to be a Power 5 league champion with early-season losses to the likes of 2018 Clemson and Alabama.
Buffalo Bulls, Cincinnati Bearcats, North Texas Mean Green, UCF Knights and USF Bulls
These programs, all undefeated, deserve better. Sure, they're alive -- but barely. Unless the selection committee dramatically changes its thinking about the Group of 5's merit, one of these teams or Boise State (see below) will get a premier bowl spot in Atlanta or Phoenix. And that's it. They won't receive consideration for the playoff. FPI says no team in this group owns better than a 0.1 percent chance to reach a CFP semifinal. If an undefeated team remains among the Group of 5 on Oct. 30, when the first playoff poll is released, watch its placement. Then watch, if that team or teams stay perfect, as one- and two-loss Power 5 teams leap them in subsequent rankings. You'll know what that means.
Better luck next season
Arizona State Sun Devils
Herm Edwards' NFL model produced solid results in this first month against a challenging schedule. Despite back-to-back losses, the Devils rate as an immediate contender in the jumbled Pac-12 South.
Boise State Broncos
The committee might have looked more favorably than expected on a spotless Boise squad because of the backlash over the treatment afforded UCF a year ago. We'll never know.
Florida State Seminoles
Despite the 2-2 start, an improvement over 2017, FSU's 36-year bowl streak appears in jeopardy with a schedule that takes a tough turn in early October and never lets up.
Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors
This is the highest-ranked team out of contention, at No. 22, according to FPI. Yes, that seven-point loss, six time zones from home at Army, foiled the impossible dream.
The Group of 5 receives no margin for error in the playoff chase -- similar to a defensive player's Heisman campaign. Texas Tech laid waste to both such bids in Week 3, as Ed Oliver and the Cougars were torched for 704 yards.
The Huskers are 0-3 for the first time in 73 years after committing at least 10 penalties in every game. And now they're a home underdog against 1-3 Purdue.
Ole Miss Rebels
The 20-point win over Texas Tech looks better now. The 55-point loss to Alabama does not. Doesn't matter, though, as Ole Miss is serving the second half of a two-year postseason ban.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
With consecutive losses to Kansas by 41 points and to Buffalo by 29 -- the fourth-largest margin ever for a MAC team against the Big Ten -- luck's really got nothing to do with it, this season or next.
TCU Horned Frogs
What hurts worse for coach Gary Patterson than watching an eight-point lead over Ohio State turn to a 12-point deficit in less than 10 minutes of the third quarter? Getting knocked out of playoff contention a week later by Texas.
The Vols have struggled to keep up with Power 5 competition. Do not look at the upcoming schedule.
Alongside Nebraska as the only winless team in the Power 5, the Bruins are not favored by FPI to win a single game this year. Coincidence that the Huskers' Scott Frost worked under UCLA coach Chip Kelly at Oregon? Well, yes, it probably is.
Growing pains with a true freshman QB in coach Clay Helton's fourth season weren't supposed to include a blowout loss at Texas. It was too late on Friday to impress the committee with a fourth-quarter rally to beat Washington State.
Others who won't make it
Eliminated after Week 4: Akron Zips, Illinois Fighting Illini, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, Marshall Thundering Herd, Pitt Panthers, Vanderbilt Commodores, Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Eliminated after Week 3: Arkansas Razorbacks, Eastern Michigan Eagles, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Iowa State Cyclones, Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns, Northwestern Wildcats, Ohio Bobcats, Oregon State Beavers, Toledo Rockets, UL Monroe Warhawks
Eliminated after Week 2: Air Force Falcons, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Ball State Cardinals, BYU Cougars, Charlotte 49ers, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia State Panthers, Liberty Flames, Memphis Tigers, New Mexico Lobos, Nevada Wolf Pack, North Carolina Tar Heels, Purdue Boilermakers, Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers
Eliminated after Week 1: Appalachian State Mountaineers, Army Knights, Bowling Green Falcons, Central Michigan Chippewas, Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, East Carolina Pirates, FIU Golden Panthers, Kent State Golden Flashes, Miami Redhawks, Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, Northern Illinois Huskies, Old Dominion Monarchs, Rice Owls, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, Temple Owls, Texas State Bobcats, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, UConn Huskies, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, Utah State Aggies, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wyoming Cowboys