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Daniel Wilco | | September 6, 2018

Why a loss in Week 1 doesn't prevent a team from winning the College Football Playoff

USA TODAY Sports Alabama vs. Auburn 2017 Alabama lost to Auburn in the final game of the regular season last year, but made — and won — the College Football Playoff.

Okay, the start of the season didn’t go as planned. You had high hopes coming in, but Week 1 ended with a loss. Are your dreams of lifting the national championship trophy dashed? Or can you still make the College Football Playoff?Let’s take a look at the history.

There have been four editions of the CFP since its inception in the 2014-15 season. Four teams make the playoff every year, so that’s 16 teams we can learn from.

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And there’s good news! (Sort of.) Of the 16 teams, only three have entered the CFP undefeated: Florida State in 2014-15, Clemson in 2015-16, and Alabama in 2016-17. Having a loss on your schedule definitely doesn’t shut you out from the party: 81 percent of all CFP teams have had one loss on their resume. (But only one. No team has made the College Football Playoff with two losses.) What's more, no undefeated team has won the national championship.

Unfortunately for your team, no team has lost in Week 1 and made the CFP.

Here's every one-loss team that made the playoff:

Year Team Loss Opponent Score Diff. Location CFP Result
14-15 Ohio St Game 2 Virginia Tech 35-21 14 Home Champion
14-15 Alabama Game 5 No. 11 Ole Miss 23-17 6 Away Semifinal loss
14-15 Oregon Game 5 Arizona 31-24 7 Home Runner-up
15-16 Alabama Game 3 No. 15 Ole Miss 43-37 6 Home Champion
15-16 Oklahoma Game 5 Texas 24-17 7 Home Semifinal loss
15-16 Michigan St Game 9 Nebraska 39-38 1 Away Semifinal loss
16-17 Clemson Game 10 Pittsburgh 43-42 1 Home Champion
16-17 Washington Game 10 No. 20 USC 26-13 13 Home Semifinal loss
16-17 Ohio St Game 7 Penn St 24-21 3 Away Semifinal loss
17-18 Georgia Game 10 No. 10 Auburn 40-17 23 Away Runner-up
17-18 Alabama Game 12 No. 6 Auburn 26-14 12 Away Champion
17-18 Oklahoma Game 5 Iowa St 38-31 7 Home Semifinal loss
17-18 Clemson Game 7 Syracuse 27-24 3 Away Semifinal loss

The earliest loss for a playoff team came from 2014-15 Ohio State, which fell to unranked Virginia Tech 35-21 at home in the second game of the season. Not only is that the earliest loss for a CFP team, it’s also the second-largest deficit.

But the Buckeyes finished the season about as strong as possible, winning their final 11 games by an average of 28 points, and capped off the season with a crazy 59-0 win over No. 11 Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game. If you’re going to bounce back from an early-season stumble, this is the way to do it.

In total, six of the 13 teams that entered the CFP with a loss suffered that loss before the midway point of the season.

The latest any team has lost and still made the CFP came last year, when Alabama fell on the road to No. 6 Auburn in the final game of the regular season, 26-14.

MORE: Colleges most represented on 2018 NFL rosters

That game serves as our best way to answer the question we set out with. Before Alabama last year, no team had lost their final game and made it into the College Football Playoff. Not only did the Crimson Tide set that mark, they also won the national championship.

No team has ever lost in Week 1 and made the CFP. But don’t be surprised if it happens.

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