Absolute, Bonafide, 100%, Certified Guarantee
The Big 10 Champion: The winner of the Big 10 will get into the Playoff. Simple as that. Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State are three teams all good enough to win the national title, and they will all be competing for the Big 10 East. From the west will be Iowa, who will likely finish 11-1. Even if Iowa somehow wins the Big 10 title, they will get in. Expect to see at least one Big 10 team in the Playoff, and it will all shake out in the three games featuring the big three teams in the east.
Back to four teams in the top 25. pic.twitter.com/cDM8cUC0e8
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) October 16, 2023
Pretty Much a Guaranteed Spot
The SEC Champion: As they seemingly always are, the Georgia Bulldogs are No. 1 and should run the table. However, the Dawgs look slightly weaker this year than in years past, so there is a slight question mark in the SEC. Alabama and LSU both have the talent to win the conference. The nightmare scenario for the SEC: two-loss ‘Bama or LSU wins the conference and gets squeezed out of the Playoff by undefeated and one-loss teams. Highly unlikely, but possible.
The Big 12 Champion: The Big 12 is a two-team league. Texas and Oklahoma will be playing in AT&T Stadium on Dec. 2, and that is a guarantee. The winner of that rematch will almost certainly make the Playoff unless one of them suffers a shocking upset in the regular season and gets squeezed out by other teams.
The PAC-12 Champion: The “Conference of Champions” is known for cannibalizing itself on a yearly basis. Usually, it’s Utah, who beats a team with Playoff aspirations at Rice-Eccles or the PAC-12 title game, but this year the league is so loaded anyone could lose any week. Washington is in a great spot right now but still has games left against USC, Oregon State, Utah and Washington State. Then, they’d have to go to the PAC-12 title, maybe in a rematch against Oregon. The PAC-12 is so deep this year, a two-loss champion is very possible and that likely wouldn’t be good enough to make it.
Big 10 East runner-up: It happened last year, it might happen again. If Michigan, Ohio State, or Penn State finishes second in the division with just one loss, and other teams are flawed like they always are at the end of the season, one of these teams will have a good shot to go.
ACC Champion: If Florida State wins out, they’re in. Duke and Florida will be tough, but FSU should be favored to win both. If the ‘Noles win the ACC with one loss, they will maybe get in. The only other team with a real shot is North Carolina. The Tar Heels have an absolute cakewalk of a schedule, playing just one ranked team all year (Duke). They will have to go undefeated, but if UNC goes 13-0 they will get a spot.
SEC runner-up (but only if it’s Georgia): If Georgia finishes 12-0 but loses the title game to a two-loss team it still has a decent shot. If it loses to a one-loss team, that team would obviously get the nod. And any other SEC team doesn’t work in this scenario because losing in the conference title game would be that team’s second loss.
PAC-12 runner-up (but only if it’s Washington): Pretty much the same scenario as above, only slightly less likely.
ACC runner-up (but only if it’s Florida State): The conference simply isn’t good enough to be deserving of getting two teams in. FSU, at 12-1, would have a slight chance if things broke their way and the conference champion isn’t good enough for a bid.
Big 12 Champion (but only if it’s Oklahoma): OU’s strength of schedule is too weak to get a spot if Texas beats them in the rematch. Unless multiple conferences really self-destruct, you will only see one Big 12 team in the Playoff.
Group of 5 team: As awesome as the Air Force’s running attack is, the Falcons won’t make the Playoff. It doesn’t matter if they go undefeated, the rest of the country is too loaded. You’re a year early, Falcons. Give us the 12-team Playoff.