College Football Playoff Power Ranking — The 20 teams with the best chances to make the playoff

College football is back, and even though no games have been played yet, we already have a sense of which teams have the best shot to make the fifth installment of the 4-team playoff at the end of the season.

We still don't know precisely how the committee picks the final four teams, but we have learned a few things over the years. We know they like the SEC and Alabama. We know they generally prefer conference champions if most other criteria are in the same ballpark. And we know they don't like to give bids to Pac-12 and Big 12 teams in the same year.

With what we have learned so far, we have some idea of what teams need to do to make the playoff. Below, we ranked the top 20 teams in the country based on their chances to make the playoff.

21 PHOTOS
Teams with the best chances to make the College Football Playoff
See Gallery
Teams with the best chances to make the College Football Playoff
20. Florida State

AP Rank: 19

Key games: The Seminoles get a tough test right out of the gate against Virginia Tech. They also have road games against Miami, Notre Dame, Syracuse, and Louisville. Oh yeah, and there are home games against Clemson and what should be an improved Florida team.

One thing to know: New coach Willie Taggart has a lot of talent to work with, but it might take a season for them to adjust to his style, and for the team to recover from their 2017 debacle. The good news is that the path to the ACC title game is pretty clear if they do rebound: beat Clemson at home.

(Photo by Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
19. UCF

AP Rank: 21

Key games: UCF does not face a team ranked in the preseason top 25, but does close the season on the road against South Florida.

One thing to know: After missing out on the playoff in 2017, UCF could put pressure on the playoff committee if they run the table. But if they do, they will have to do it without head coach Scott Frost who left for Nebraska. But maybe just as huge was not promoting either of Frost's coordinators and letting both follow him to Nebraska.

(Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
18. Mississippi State

AP Rank: 18

Key games: The Bulldogs have Auburn at home in early October and then play road games at LSU, Alabama, and Ole Miss.

One thing to know: New coach Joe Moorhead inherits a lot of talent from Dan Mullen, who left for Florida. That includes dual-threat QB Nick Fitzgerald. On the flip-side, they are still in the same division as Auburn, Alabama, and LSU.

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
17. Stanford

AP Rank: 13

Key games: Stanford gets a tough test in Game 2 against USC. That one is at home, but they later must travel to Oregon, Notre Dame, and Washington.

One thing to know: Stanford has a Heisman favorite in Bryce Love and were better last season behind QB K.J. Costello. Still, they need to get past Oregon and Washington in their division and both games are on the road.

(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
16. Michigan

AP Rank: 14

Key games: Michigan starts the season on the road against Notre Dame and ends it on the road against Ohio State. In between, they have a three-game stretch against Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Penn State. Yuck.

One thing to know: The good news is that Don Brown's defense could be even better this season and this could be Jim Harbaugh's best Michigan team yet. The bad news is that Michigan has the toughest schedule of any team in this ranking and there are other good teams in their division.

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
15. USC

AP Rank: 15

Key games: The Trojans have games on the road against Stanford and Texas in September and then finish the regular season at home against Notre Dame.

One thing to know: USC may turn to 18-year-old freshman J.T. Daniels to replace Sam Darnold at quarterback. Daniels should still be in high school but reclassified so that he could start college a year early. Still, the Pac-12 South is wide open so getting to the conference championship game is realistic. The question will just be: how many losses will they have when they get there?

(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
14. West Virginia

AP Rank: 17

Key games: If the Mountaineers can get past Texas on the road in early November, they might be undefeated heading into a 3-game stretch that includes TCU and Oklahoma at home and Oklahoma State on the road.

One thing to know: The offense is going to score points behind QB Will Grier who will likely get some Heisman buzz this season. The problem is that the other team is going to score also. WVU is not as good as a few teams below them in the ranking, but the good news is that they have a chance to be 9-0 heading into their final three games of the regular season. If they go 2-1 in those games, they might be playing in the Big 12 title game for a shot at the playoff.

(Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)
13. Michigan State

AP Rank: 11

Key games: Michigan State gets Ohio State at home in November, but the key to the schedule might be a 3-game stretch in October against Northwestern, Penn State (on the road), and Michigan.

One thing to know: The Spartans are another team that is probably a top-10 squad, but are being penalized here just because their division is so tough. When you might only be the third- or fourth-best team in the division, it hurts the playoff hopes.

(Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
12. Auburn

AP Rank: 9

Key games: Auburn opens the season against Washington and two weeks later has LSU at home. The back-half of the schedule is even worse with a home game against Texas A&M, and road games against Mississippi State, Georgia, and Alabama.

One thing to know: Auburn is a top-ten team, but their schedule is just too brutal this season. If they make it to the playoff, they will have certainly earned it.

(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
11. TCU

AP Rank: 16

Key games: TCU might have been a tad higher if not for a tough schedule that includes Ohio State in Dallas, and Texas and West Virginia on the road.

One thing to know: If you are looking for a surprise team outside the AP top 10 to make the playoff, TCU is a good bet. Sophomore Shawn Robinson and Penn transfer Michael Collins will share QB duties to start the season and will have to do it behind four new starters on the offensive line. But, there is a lot of talent at the skill positions and a good defense — a rarity in the Big 12 — and that should help.

(Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
10. Penn State

AP Rank: 10

Key games: The Nittany Lions have four teams on their schedule ranked in the preseason top 14, including Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Their playoff hopes may ride on a 3-week stretch against Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin. They also have Ohio State and Michigan State back-to-back, but they are both at home and with a bye week in between.

One thing to know: Penn State lost six players in the NFL Draft, including Saquon Barkley and tight end Mike Gesicki. Quarterback Trace McSorley is already great, but he will need to be even better.

(Photo by Kevin French/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
9. Oklahoma

AP Rank: 7

Key games: The four toughest games on the OU schedule could end up being Iowa State, Texas, TCU, and West Virginia and none of those games are in Oklahoma.

One thing to know: The Sooners have a new QB in Kyler Murray who can run. But without Baker Mayfield, the defense will need to be better, and there are concerns that it might actually take a step back. That's not good in the Big 12 where two or three other teams could challenge for a playoff spot.

(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
8. Notre Dame

AP Rank: 12

Key games: Notre Dame has five teams on the schedule that start the season in the AP top 25, including Michigan, Stanford, Virginia Tech, Florida State, and USC. But none of those teams are ranked higher than 13th (Stanford) and three of the games are at home.

One thing to know: Notre Dame never does themselves any favors with their schedule. But 11-1 seems possible and that might be enough to get in for a team with their influence, even without a conference title game to boost the resume.

(Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
7. Ohio State

AP Rank: 5

Key games: While everybody is looking at the scandal involving former assistant coach Zach Smith as a reason Ohio State might trip up, it is easy to overlook how tough their schedule is. They face four teams ranked in the preseason AP top 16, including TCU, Penn State, Michigan State, and Michigan. Of those, only Michigan is at home. That also doesn't include a potential matchup against Wisconsin in the B1G title game.

One thing to know: Ohio State is the wild card at the top to start the season. The school was ranked third in the coaches' poll, which came out before the scandal, and fifth in the AP poll, which was released after.

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
6. Miami

AP Rank: 8

Key games: The schedule is in Miami's favor this season, with Florida State at home and LSU at a neutral site to start the year. Their toughest road game is Virginia Tech late in the year.

One thing to know: Miami caught some breaks last season, and it's easy to assume they will take a step back. But the team should be better and the schedule is probably easier. They might not need the breaks this season if Malik Rosier steps up at quarterback. If the Canes go 2-1 against FSU, LSU, and VaTech (doable), they will likely face Clemson again in the ACC title game with a trip to the playoff on the line. Unfortunately for Miami, they are not yet in Clemson's class.

(Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
5. Wisconsin

AP Rank: 4

Key games: If Wisconsin is going to run the table in the regular season, they will have to win games on the road against Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern, and Penn State.

One thing to know: The Badgers play in an easy division, have a good defense and are returning all their offensive linemen and their 2,000-yard running back. As a result, many believe Wisconsin has one of the easiest paths to the playoff. But their schedule is more difficult than many realize and winning the B1G title game won't matter if they enter the game 10-2.

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
4. Washington

AP Rank: 6

Key games: Washington starts the season against ninth-ranked Auburn. After that, their toughest game is Stanford at home. They also don't have to face Arizona or USC.

One thing to know: The Huskies are not the third best team in the country, but they do have a veteran QB in Jake Browning and an easier path to the playoff than some better teams in other conferences. Their season might be on the line in Week 1 against Auburn. If they pass that test, they could run the table. The committee won't leave out an undefeated Pac-12 champ.

(Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
3. Georgia
 

AP Rank: 3

Key games: Georgia has an easy schedule with Auburn at home and LSU on the road as their toughest regular-season games. But it may all come down to a potential matchup against Bama in the SEC title game.

One thing to know: Georgia lost a lot of talent to the NFL with four players drafted among the first 35 picks. But Kirby Smart had one of the top recruiting classes each of the past two years so there should be little, if any, drop off.

(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
2. Alabama

AP Rank: 1

Key games: They get a lesser Louisville team to open the season. Their only games against teams in the preseason Top-25 are LSU, Mississippi State, and Auburn, and only the LSU game is on the road.

One thing to know: Clemson has the easier path to winning their conference title, but as we saw last season, Bama doesn't need to win the SEC. The Tide would probably have to lose twice to miss out on the playoff and it is hard to find two losses on their schedule, even with the potential for a QB controversy (the veteran Jalen Hurts vs the hero Tua Tagovailoa) and the loss of several assistant coaches.

(Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)
1. Clemson

AP Rank: 2

Key games: Clemson has an easy schedule with the only obviously tough game being on the road against Florida State. They also get Louisville and South Carolina at home in the final month.

One thing to know: Despite Kelly Bryant leading the Tigers to the championship game last season, he doesn't have a firm hold on the starting QB job. He will likely be the starter early on, but there is also not a lot of confidence that he can hold on to the job all season. Expect to see true-freshman Trevor Lawrence take over at some point as Dabo Swinney has said they will use multiple quarterbacks this season. Still, assuming Clemson gets by FSU on the road, even if they have their typical mid-season hiccup against a middling team, they should cruise to the ACC title game where they will likely once again face an overmatched Miami team.

(Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The best of the rest (in no particular order).

  • Virginia Tech
  • Texas
  • Oregon
  • LSU
  • Florida
  • Texas A&M
  • Oklahoma State
  • Arizona

(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

All of these teams have big question marks, and no team from outside the AP preseason top 20 has made the playoff yet. But if you are looking for a long-shot to shock the college football world, it will probably come from this group. A few impressive wins to start the season and any of these teams could quickly jump into the power ranking.

Now check out all the new uniforms for the 2018 season.

Here are the new college football uniforms for the 2018 season

See Also:

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.