football-fbs flag

Wayne Staats | NCAA.com | October 19, 2019

Here are the top 1-loss College Football Playoff contenders

5 college football games to watch in week 8

Every season, fans worry about that first loss. As was usually the case for decades, the first defeat often meant any national title hopes were over.

That is not necessarily the case any more. In the first five years of the College Football Playoff, 14 of the 20 CFP semifinalists had one defeat. This season's first CFP rankings will be revealed Tuesday, Nov. 5, on ESPN. You can read more about the CFP Committee here and how it puts together the rankings here.

Were last year's three undefeated semifinalists an aberration? If so, here are this season's 1-loss teams more than capable of crashing the CFP.

This story will be updated as teams join or drop off the 1-loss list and as teams boost credentials

Here are the top 1-loss College Football Playoff contenders

Below are the teams that have to feel confident about their chances (in descending order) — as long as they win out. A second loss might shut the door permanently, as no two-loss team has reached the CFP semifinals. And that threshold has been clear: A two-loss team has finished No. 5 in each of the last three seasons (2016 Penn State, 2017 Ohio State, 2018 Georgia) behind a 1-loss team.

CFP WATCH: The remaining undefeated teams

The 1-loss leaders: Auburn, Florida and Georgia

Here's something that might seem obvious but is still worth mentioning: A 1-loss SEC champion will make the CFP. Unless the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 (or Notre Dame) ALL have an unbeaten champion in one year, there will be room for an SEC champ with a loss. This year, both the Pac-12 and Notre Dame are already off the undefeated list.

That means Auburn, Florida and Georgia aren't out of the hunt. Though the 20-17 loss to South Carolina was the first jaw-dropping score of the season, Georgia can still win out with and get impressive victories against Florida, Auburn and the SEC West champion. But UGA probably doesn't have any margin for error left. And the way it played against the Gamecocks doesn't inspire much confidence.

Florida shouldn't hang its head after competing at LSU before falling 42-28, but the Gators might need to win out now, too. All eyes are going to be on that Nov. 2 date with UGA in Jacksonville. The winner will be in great shape to make it to Atlanta for the SEC title game.

At 6-1 overall with wins against ranked Oregon and at Texas A&M, Auburn already has a strong case should it be 12-1 with a conference title. That would mean wins to come at LSU, Georgia, Alabama and then against the SEC East champion in Atlanta. That's the resume of maybe the No. 1 team in the country, not one outside the CFP.

RANKINGS: The Week 7 AP Top 25 Poll

The crazy Pac-12: Oregon

The conference that seems to cannibalize its best threats year after year is doing the same again.

Yet Oregon presents the best case. The Ducks lost to only Auburn in a neutral site game in Arlington, Texas. Road games ahead at Southern California and Arizona State aren't overly daunting, but that might be a bad thing — beating the Huskies and the Trojans likely won't move the needle as much as hoped. But the Ducks also most recently put up a big rally to win at Washington.

Oregon came into the season with QB Justin Herbert getting Heisman buzz, but it's the Oregon defense that's won a handful of games (save for Bo Nix and Auburn on the final drive). The Ducks allowed a total of 25 points in the last five games before the 35-31 win against Washington.

Arizona State and Utah also have only one loss. However, Oregon started the season with the most buzz — and that hasn't changed. Oregon doesn't have to do as much climbing as other Pac-12 teams, though Arizona State and Utah are both ranked.

Three seasons ago, 1-loss Washington snuck into the CFP as the No. 4 seed. Realistically, that might be the best-case scenario this season. But it would still require some help.

TOP 25: The schedule for this week's ranked teams

The Wild Card: Notre Dame

The independent Irish won't get to make a closing argument as other contenders play in conference title games and make a statement in the last day before the final CFP rankings. That didn't matter last season, as a 12-0 Notre Dame team was getting in regardless despite not playing on conference championship weekend.

The trip to Ann Arbor to play Michigan might end up being the only ranked team left on Notre Dame's schedule. Even if the Irish go 11-1, they might need a bunch of 2-loss conference champions to have a chance. 

Not there...yet: Michigan, Wisconsin

On paper, Michigan could think about going 12-1 with a Big Ten Championship Game victory pushing them into the semifinals.

Realistically, the Wolverines aren't there, at least not yet. The Wolverines haven't figured out the offensive questions against strong teams, which could doom them with a schedule that still has Penn State, Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State. A win is a win is a win, but the 10-3 result against then-No. 14 Iowa hasn't quieted those scoring concerns. Michigan put up 42 on Illinois with Shea Patterson throwing three touchdown passes, but the Wolverines did see a 28-0 lead drop to 28-25 before two touchdowns.

As of right now, 9-3 seems much more likely than 12-1 for Michigan — especially with the Wolverines going to Penn State next.

And then there's Wisconsin.

The Badgers hadn't trailed all season long. Not one second. But then Illinois' James McCourt made a 39-yard field goal on the final play of the game to stun Wisconsin and possibly wreck Wisconsin's CFP hopes.

Like Michigan, Wisconsin would be in decent shape at 12-1 with a Big Ten title, but is that overly realistic after losing to Illinois? The Badgers now have to play Ohio State on the road.

Three more Top 25 teams fall on a wild DII football Saturday

Four top 25 teams fell before nightfall in Week 7 of DII football. Here's what you need to know.
READ MORE

Illinois pulls off monumental upset over No. 6 Wisconsin on last-second field goal

Illinois pulled off its biggest upset in 12 years with a 24-23 win over No. 6 Wisconsin at home Saturday. The win came on a last-second field goal from 39 yards out by kicker James McCourt, who had missed his only other attempt of the game, from 40 yards in the first quarter.
READ MORE

College football scores: Top 25 rankings schedule, results for Week 8

Here are the college football scores for Top 25 teams in Week 8. You can get the schedule and results here for the AP Poll teams.
READ MORE

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from NCAA.com and our partners