Who Makes the College Football Playoff If the Season Goes Off the Rails?

Three of the four spots for this season’s College Football Playoff will likely be some of the easiest decisions the playoff selection committee will ever have to make. If Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame finish the regular season undefeated with the Crimson Tide and Tigers winning their respective conference championship games, those three schools will clinch spots in the playoff.

But there’s a chance — a small one — that there aren’t any one-loss power conference teams left standing once the dust settles on December 1. Hypothetically, that would mean the playoff selection committee would have to choose between at least a half-dozen two-loss teams from a Power Five conference that didn’t win a conference title, undefeated UCF and three-loss conference champions for the No. 4 seed in the playoff.

Here’s how the last two weeks of the regular season could have the most chaotic (but somewhat realistic) ending possible:

  • Ohio State beats Michigan at home in Week 13, giving the Wolverines a second loss
  • West Virginia beats Oklahoma at home in Week 13, giving the Sooners a second loss
  • Washington beats Washington State on the road in Week 13, giving the Cougars a second loss
  • Alabama beats Georgia in the SEC Championship, giving the Bulldogs a second loss
  • Texas beats West Virginia in the Big 12 Championship, making the Longhorns a three-loss champion
  • Northwestern beats Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship to become a four-loss champion
  • The Pac-12 Championship Game features a pair of 9-3 teams in Utah and Washington


Outside of Northwestern winning the Big Ten Championship, none of the individual scenarios listed above are hard to imagine, but even the Wildcats only lost 20-17 to Michigan earlier this season. Washington, West Virginia and Ohio State are less than five-point underdogs in their respective games this weekend, with two of the three teams playing at home.

If the Chaos Scenario listed above were to happen, here’s the group of teams that would finish in some order behind Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame in the final College Football Playoff, listed alphabetically:

  • Georgia (11-2)
  • LSU (10-2)
  • Michigan (10-2)
  • Northwestern (9-4), Big Ten Champion
  • Ohio State (11-2)
  • Oklahoma (10-2)
  • Texas (10-3), Big 12 Champion
  • UCF (12-0), AAC Champion
  • Utah/Washington (10-3), Pac-12 Champion
  • Washington State (10-2)
  • West Virginia (9-3)


There wouldn’t be a single two-loss Power Five conference champion, so the committee would have to choose between a two-loss team that either lost in its conference championship game or didn’t even make its conference championship game, a three-loss conference champion, or UCF.

Any of those selections would be unprecedented in the College Football Playoff era and your guess is as good as ours as to which school would earn the final spot in the playoff.