Road to Santa Clara: Who's In?

Road to Santa Clara: Who's In?


Road to Santa Clara: Who's In?


The 2018 college football season is now hitting the stretch run and the number of teams fighting for the College Football Playoff is growing smaller each week.

Each week The Clemson Insider will take a look at the Road to Santa Clara and analyze the teams that still have a shot to make the playoff.

The picture is getting clearer as each week passes. The SEC title game is now set and Georgia will need to beat Alabama in that game to make the playoff. If Georgia wins the SEC Championship then things will get very interesting.

Notre Dame did not have any trouble with Florida State and the only remaining big challenge will likely be Syracuse.

Michigan continues to look strong, but the rivalry game with Ohio State is only 10 days away now.

The Big 12 is going to need a loss from Clemson, Notre Dame or Michigan to have a shot at getting in the playoff.

The Pac-12 is pretty much done for a chance at making the playoff unless things get really crazy and Washington State runs the table.

The rankings from the College Football Playoff committee didn’t change much this week as all of the top 10 teams won last weekend.

Who’s In?

If the College Football Playoff started this week the playoff would look like this:

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Notre Dame
  4. Michigan

All four teams are in control of their destiny right now. If the top four continue to win out the playoff is set. There is still work to be done by all four down the stretch.

Let’s take a look at what the contenders look like after Week 11.

The Contenders

Atlantic Coast Conference

Clemson is on its way to the ACC Championship game once again after passing the biggest remaining regular season challenge with the win at Boston College.

The Tigers remain at No. 2 in the latest rankings. They won’t face a ranked team in the ACC Championship it doesn’t look like so that game won’t do much to help the resume.

Clemson looks like they will finish No. 2 or No. 1 if Bama was to fall in the SEC Championship game.

Clemson (10-0): Nov. 17 (vs. Duke), Nov. 24 (vs. South Carolina)


Alabama remains at No. 1 while Georgia is No. 5 in the latest CFP rankings.  Georgia will have to win out to make the playoff. Alabama could possibly lose to Georgia and still have a shot at the playoff, but that will be a big debate.

The remaining regular season games don’t look like challenges for either team. It will all come down to the SEC Championship game in Atlanta.

Alabama (10-0): Nov. 17 (vs. Citadel), Nov. 24 (vs. Auburn)

Georgia (9-1): Nov. 17 (vs. UMass), Nov. 24 (vs. GT)

Big 12

Oklahoma and West Virginia are still in the hunt, but will need to run the table to have a shot at the playoff. Oklahoma’s defense continues to look bad and could be a big factor down the line if teams in front of the Sooners fall.

West Virginia faces a big test this week when they travel to Oklahoma State.

We will likely see Oklahoma and West Virginia play in back-to-back weeks.  If they split those games the Big 12 will almost certainly miss the playoff.

Oklahoma (9-1): Nov. 17 (vs. Kansas), Nov. 23 (at West Virginia)

West Virginia (8-1): Nov. 17 (at Okl. St), Nov. 23 (vs. Oklahoma)

Big Ten

Michigan remains at No. 4 in this week’s CFP rankings. If the Wolverines win out they will be in the playoff unless Alabama loses the SEC Championship game.  If that happens there will be a big debate on whether Bama or Michigan should get in the playoff.

Tenth-ranked Ohio State is still a contender, but could miss the playoff even if they win out. The Ohio State rivalry game with Michigan is a must win for either contender and is only 10 days away.

A two-loss Big Ten champ will not make the playoff.

Ohio State (9-1): Nov. 17 (at Maryland), Nov. 24 (vs. Michigan)

Michigan (9-1): Nov. 17 (vs. Indiana) Nov. 24 (at Ohio State)


The Pac-12’s chances of making the playoff continues to look like a long shot, but if the Big Ten and Big 12 champs end up with two losses there is still hope. Washington State will need to win out to have a shot.

It is very unlikely that a two-loss Pac-12 team will make the playoff.

Washington State (9-1): Nov. 17 (vs. Ariz), Nov. 24 (vs. Wash)


Notre Dame continues to impress and keep their hopes alive for making the playoff. This week they will get the biggest remaining challenge when they face No. 12 Syracuse in a neutral-site game.

They won’t have a conference championship game, but they will have a strong strength of schedule. If the Irish win out they will make the playoff.  If they suffer a loss it may be hard for them to make the playoff without a championship game.

Notre Dame (10-0): Nov. 17 (vs. Syracuse), Nov. 24 (at Southern Cal)



Clemson head coach Monte Lee said it was a “great game today on pretty much all ends” after the Tigers defeated the College of Charleston, 13-1, Tuesday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson. Watch (…)

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