Playoff Contenders Ranked…by Losses

Prior to this past Saturday, the College Football Playoff picture was solidifying, as each week made it more clear which four teams would be duking it out for the title. Then week 11 arrived, a hurricane that left uncertainty in its wake. For the first time since 1995, the #2, #3 and #4 ranked teams all lost on the same day. These three losses left Alabama and Western Michigan as the only two undefeated teams remaining in the FBS. Six of the top 10 teams in this weeks’ AP Poll have just one loss. I’m going to rank them based on that loss.

Criteria: In ranking these six teams, I’m judging them based on how explicable their one loss is. I looked at who their opponent was, where the game was played, and how badly they lost.

#6- Clemson (Lost vs. Pittsburgh, 43-42): At 9-0 and with a light schedule ahead of them, Clemson looked like a lock for the Playoff. Then, this past Saturday, their luck finally ran out. The Tigers have made it a habit to let teams stick around in games this season. Five of their nine wins were by a touchdown or less. Pittsburgh rode a masterful performance from senior QB Nathan Peterman, then won on a last-second FG. Clemson has a great chance to head into the ACC title game at 11-1, but this loss hurts big time.

#5- Michigan (Lost @ Iowa, 14-13): This game was tabbed by the experts as a blowout waiting to happen. Michigan was supposed to roll right over Iowa on their home field. That did not happen. The Hawkeyes instead decided to throw yet another wrench into the playoff equation, converting a last-second FG of their own to win. Michigan will get a chance to reclaim the #3 ranking in 12 days, when they line it up against Ohio State.

#4- Washington (Lost vs. #15 (current ranking), USC 26-13): The Huskies got their chance to prove that they’re not the beneficiaries of an easy schedule. They didn’t take advantage of that chance. It was a lackluster performance from an offense that’s been amongst the best in the nation. Much of that futility falls on the shoulders of QB Jake Browning, who underperformed all game. No one knows just how much the Committee frowns upon the Pac-12, but Washingtons’ playoff hopes are in trouble.

#3- West Virginia (Lost @ #13 Oklahoma State, 37-20): It’s been a rough year for the Big-12, as no team has separated itself from the pack. West Virginia is on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff. The Mountaineers were outplayed in Stillwater. The game was under control from early on for Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers can still make noise this weekend, when they host #8 Oklahoma.

#2- Ohio State (Lost @ #9 Penn State, 24-21)- This upset once looked a lot worse than it does now for the Buckeyes. Ohio State found out the hard way that Happy Valley is not an easy place to play for any road team. Fast forward to the present, Penn State is a top 10 team. The success of Penn State has done wonders to mask the Buckeyes’ one misstep.  Ohio State controls its own destiny, and that’s not something that many teams can say.

#1- Louisville (Lost @ #5 Clemson, 42-36)- Louisville almost had this game. They were just yards away from escaping Death Valley with a win. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, almost doesn’t cut it. QB Lamar Jackson has led this team to new heights in his sophomore year. If the Cardinals don’t earn a playoff berth, Jackson will still bring home the Heisman Trophy. Don’t forget, Jackson will be back for more next season.