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College Football Playoff scenarios: How each contender makes the top four

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Stephen A. has no problem with Ohio State being ranked ahead of LSU (2:15)

Stephen A. Smith explains why he has no problem with Ohio State being ranked ahead of LSU in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. (2:15)

Even with just two weeks of games left (including the conference title games), some paths to the College Football Playoff remain foggy.

The Allstate Playoff Predictor is here to help. While there are no certainties when it comes to a group of committee members selecting college football's semifinalists, the model can certainly be our guide.

Questions over strength of schedule, injuries and narrow victories mar the road for some of these teams, but each at least has hope.

This is what each remaining contender needs to happen to reach the playoff.

Ohio State: Win one of its next two games
Chance to reach the playoff: 95%

The Game has lost a little luster this season because the result ... almost doesn't matter? For the playoff race, at least.

Ohio State can lose to its rival but then turn around and beat Minnesota or Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game and remain a slam-dunk, no-questions-asked playoff team.

Even the other way around very likely works. A victory over Michigan and a loss the week after still puts the Buckeyes at an 89% chance to get in (though OSU should root for Wisconsin to win Saturday just in case). Ohio State is going to the playoff.

Clemson: Win out
Chance to reach the playoff: 87%

Note that our directive for Clemson is different from what Ohio State faces. Because Clemson definitely shouldn't be able to afford a loss and it probably can't.

If the Tigers somehow were to lose to South Carolina this weekend but go on to win the ACC, they would have only a 20% shot to reach the CFP, per the Allstate Playoff Predictor. The issue is Clemson's schedule.

From an average top-25 team's perspective, Clemson has the 79th most difficult schedule in the FBS, and that's including the conference championship game. That's an easier slate than Southern Miss or Middle Tennessee.

An average top-25 team would have a 55% chance to go 12-1 against Clemson's schedule this season. That's how soft it is. For comparison, that same team would have only a 14% chance to go 12-1 against Ohio State's schedule.

For simplicity: All of the following scenarios include the assumption that Ohio State and Clemson win out.

LSU: Win one of its next two games
Chance to reach playoff: 87%

Like Ohio State, LSU can afford a loss down the stretch.

We really don't have a great precedent for a playoff contender like this losing in the conference championship game, but there's a very solid chance LSU becomes the guinea pig. Fortunately for the Tigers: At 12-1, with a win at Alabama listed at the top of its résumé, it would be a disservice by the committee to leave LSU out. It won't. The Allstate Playoff Predictor is 82% sure of it.

Georgia: Win out
Chance to reach playoff: 50%

We advised last week not to sleep on the chances of UGA taking down LSU in the SEC championship game. The Bulldogs play a less aesthetically pleasing brand of football and lack a Heisman Trophy contender, but their defensive advantage nears the Tigers' offensive advantage in the game.

The Bulldogs are the Jenga piece that makes the rest of the tower drop. Should they beat the Tigers, there's a nice, clean and easy playoff. It's the four teams we've touched on so far. But if Georgia can't upset LSU, that's when it all becomes a giant mess.

Side note: Georgia can lose to Georgia Tech and beat LSU for the SEC title and get in with a little luck and a little madness. But the Bulldogs aren't going to lose to Georgia Tech, so I wouldn't sweat it.

Alabama: Beat Auburn and LSU wins SEC and committee elects to reward regular-season résumé or Utah and/or Oklahoma lose
Chance to reach playoff: 48%

The Allstate Playoff Predictor doesn't explicitly know about Tua Tagovailoa's injury, so while Mac Jones now has a decent chunk of play under his belt, it's pretty clear that our model is overestimating the Crimson Tide's chances.

But don't take that to mean Alabama has no chance. It would hardly be unprecedented for the selection committee to take an 11-1 Alabama over a 12-1 conference champion Utah or Oklahoma. Assuming each of those teams ends up with that record, strength of record (SOR) tells us that going 11-1 against Alabama's schedule is much tougher than going 12-1 against Utah's or Oklahoma's.

I don't recommend using splits to look at schedules -- nonconference vs. conference, top-25 vs. not -- because the only thing that matters is the whole schedule. With that being said, I'm going to violate my own rule to make the point: Alabama has two tougher games (vs. LSU, at Auburn) than Utah's toughest (vs. Oregon on a neutral field), according to ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI).

Speaking of FPI: Alabama's rating is more than eight points better than that of either Oklahoma or Utah, which are both outside the top 10 now. Again, this is based on a track record that included Tagovailoa, but still.

This is why the Allstate Playoff Predictor is so confident in Alabama's chances: The Tide lack a conference championship but will have accomplished more on the field and are drastically better than their competition. Based on what the committee has done previously and what the model understands, it thinks not taking an 11-1 Alabama would be an upset.

Oklahoma: Win out and LSU wins SEC and committee falls in love with the Big 12 or Utah and/or Alabama lose
Chance to reach playoff: 12%

Tuesday's rankings certainly felt like the committee was setting up a case for Oklahoma to get in. Baylor made an unexpected jump. Oklahoma State and Iowa State are ranked above their strength of record. This could all be working in the Sooners' favor, despite Oklahoma's actual play slipping its FPI rank down to 11.

That's why the Allstate Playoff Predictor is skeptical of OU's chances even if it wins out (25% if LSU wins the SEC).

It's possible that mayhem can hit the college football landscape and Alabama and Utah both lose (in addition to LSU winning out). Then the Sooners can emerge from the rubble to walk into the fourth playoff spot. But it's probably more likely that Oklahoma's résumé is a point of contention on Selection Day.

Utah: Win out and LSU wins SEC and committee thinks running backs matter or Alabama and/or Oklahoma lose
Chance to reach playoff: 9%

My take: That Zack Moss missing a portion of the loss to USC is something the committee thinks about is completely baffling. That it considers any injuries is baffling -- imagine if the Chiefs missed the playoffs and the NFL said: You know what, Patrick Mahomes missed a little time so why not throw 'em in there -- but this is not the same as the Tagovailoa-Jones situation.

Quarterbacks are so much more important than anyone else on the field. And running back is certainly not the next-most important, anyway. If the committee considers Moss' injury, I sure hope the members are talking about every time a slot corner was banged up in the second half or the weakside linebacker wasn't at 100 percent. Oh, and by the way, USC was without Kedon Slovis for most of that day. Moss wasn't even the most important injury in that game.

Rant aside: Let's say we set up a showdown between Oklahoma and Utah, in that LSU wins the SEC, Alabama loses the Iron Bowl and OU and Utah win out. In that scenario, the Allstate Playoff Predictor gives Utah the tiniest of edges, actually. But let me tell you: The difference in SOR between these two in that situation is so slim that it's possible by the time Selection Day comes around, Oklahoma could have the better SOR, which would probably flip what our model thinks.

Baylor: Win out and LSU wins SEC and Utah and Alabama lose
Chance to reach playoff: 3%

If Baylor's going to get in, it might be weirdly obvious? This scenario involves so much chaos that there really is no one left standing. Who is going to get in ahead of the Bears? They probably end up in the playoff by virtue of attrition.

Other than that specific scenario, Baylor has no real shot.

Here's the exception to Ohio State winning out.

Minnesota: Win out and LSU wins SEC
Chance to reach playoff: 2%

The Golden Gophers need the second part of that equation to come to fruition, because the Allstate Playoff Predictor still thinks that a 12-1 Ohio State would more probably get in over the Gophers team it just lost to. That would be wild! But that matters only if Georgia beats LSU. Otherwise, both Big Ten teams (Ohio State and Minnesota) can get in as long as LSU is the SEC champion.