Over the past eight seasons of the college football game, a total of 13 different schools have reached the semifinals. No school has appeared more than Alabama (seven times), and no conference qualified more than the SEC (10 times).
(Enter yawning here.)
While Alabama, Clemson (six), Ohio (four), and Oklahoma (four) have dominated the four-team field, it is often forgotten that Michigan, Oregon, Washington, and Florida have also reached the biggest stage in the sport.
And, of course, the unbeaten Cincinnati gave hope to everyone everywhere last season. Here are four teams that could follow the Bearcats and break into the top four for the first time, ranked by who has the best chance:
Pre-season FPI: number 12
Why is this realistic? The Aggies have everything they need to succeed at the highest level, including finances, an enthusiastic fan base, elite recruiting lessons and a veteran head coach – plus the confidence of last year’s win against Alabama. They also have a schedule balanced enough to impress the selection committee (three road trips in a row in October at the SEC fairs) and earn some easy wins (Sam Houston, Appalachian State, UMass). If the Aggies can beat Miami and their SEC opponents, those matches will be missed by the committee. Over the past four seasons, Jimbo Fisher has made it into the top seven recruiting category, including the first in the country this year. At some point, that talent should translate into a CFP look.
It will only happen if: The defense can maintain its success despite coordinator Mike Elko losing to Duke, and Aggies can find a healthy and consistent winner in the quarterback. Over the past four seasons, the Aggies have allowed the third-lowest yards per game in the SEC (334). They allowed 15.9 points per game – the third lowest in FBS behind Georgia and Clemson. Former Ole Miss defense coordinator DJ Durkin has been hired to replace Elko. Offensively, Fisher has a quarterback competition between Heinz King LSU . transfer Max Johnson.
ESPN’s FPI says: The Aggies have at least a 50% chance of winning every game except Mississippi State, Alabama and Auburn.
Allstate Playoff Predictor says: The Aggies have a 1.9% chance of running into the playoff.
the coach: “[Last year’s win against Alabama] It gives you confidence that you know what you are capable of. But the thing this league challenges you – and I try to tell you every day – all games are big games. You go about every game and be as good as your last. When you win those games and show you your ability, you have to finish. And that was a disappointing thing I thought of last year. …we are not finished. But again, there is a lot to grow from there and hopefully we can grow from those. And some of the lackluster stuff we had with inexperienced guys last year I think will be our strengths this year in having to play these guys. – Fisher
Pre-season FPI: number 13
Why is this realistic? The defending Pac-12 champions go out for their first Rose Bowl appearance in school history and bring back 14 rookies from this 10-game winning team. starting quarterback Cameron Rising He returns, along with five of his six best strikers, and they’re back tavon thomas, who finished with 1,108 yards and 21 touchdowns. With both USC and Oregon under new coaches, Kyle Whittingham of Utah has the advantage of experience, proven to have claimed three Pac-12 South titles in the past four seasons.
It will only happen if: Utah can win on the road. Utah could lose the opener in Florida and finish in the top four — the Pac-12 title could make up for a tough road loss in the opener — but Utes will be under pressure to win and repeat as the Pac-12 champions in this case. They need to beat the Gators to give themselves protection in league play, especially if Lincoln Riley can raise USC quickly. It starts in Gainesville, but Utah has six road games total, including particularly challenging rides on October 8 at UCLA, Thursday night’s game on October 27 in Washington State and November 19 in Oregon. Utah’s inability to win last year’s road games at BYU, San Diego State and Oregon State cost Utes a historic season.
ESPN’s FPI says: Utah has at least a 50% chance of winning every game except for the season opener against Florida and November 19 in Oregon.
Allstate Playoff Predictor says: Utah has a 6.3% chance of reaching CFP.
the coach: “I think we are still fighting for [respect] in a way. We’re a program that’s still working on our brand and trying to become a more national presence, but you have to earn that—no one will give you that. The way you do it is every time you have a chance to prove that — national television, bowl games, that kind of situation — you have to play your way in that regard. We’ve had successes. Are we where we want to be? not yet. – Whittingham
Pre-season FPI: No. 35
Why is this realistic? Riley quickly compiled a list of tournament-caliber talent. He made excellent use of the transfer gate outside the main address of Caleb Williams, adding a total of 13 players so far. Crime has been upgraded with the addition of the previous Oregon going back Travis Dyealong with receivers Mario WilliamsAnd the Brendan Rice And the Terrell Bynum. Caleb Williams will never have a shortage of options around him, and Riley has had experience leading a program to the playoff before.
It will only happen if: USC can avoid going 0-2 against Utah and rival Notre Dame. (That’s assuming, of course, the Trojans win all their other games.) USC could lose to Utah and finish in the top four—especially now that Pac-12 has scrapped its divisions and the top two teams will play. each other in a conference championship match. If she wins the Pac-12 and is her only loss to the Notre Dame seeded team, then USC should also finish in the top four. If you drop both of those games, the Trojans will continue to be an afterthought in the playoff conversation.
ESPN’s FPI says: USC has less than a 50% chance of beating both Utah and Notre Dame, but the Trojans have more to worry about. In addition to these two opponents, FPI also gives UCLA the edge on November 19, with a 54.3% chance of winning the game.
Allstate Playoff Predictor says: USC has less than a 0.1% chance of making the playoff, behind 29 other teams that have at least a 1% chance.
the coach: “You don’t come to USC and you don’t come to LA to do little things. You have to be very mindful. I don’t think [the expectations are] too much. Me, no. I believe in what we do. I believe in what we study. I believe in the people out there. It will obviously continue to evolve through the years. I didn’t come here for one season. I didn’t come here to do this in the short term. In some ways, you should keep the long game in mind. The people we brought here, the staff we brought here, we didn’t come here to play for the second time. We are not wired that way. We came here competitively to win trophies, win them now, and win them for so long. That will always be our expectation.” — Riley
Pre-season FPI: No. 14
Why is this realistic? The Cowboys have a much more convenient schedule than both Texas (which faces Alabama) and Baylor (which rides a tough ride to BYU, Iowa State and West Virginia). With no-conference games against Central Michigan, Arizona State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff — three Oklahoma State favorites with at least 80%, according to ESPN’s FPI — the Cowboys should be 3-0 before the October 1 game against Baylor. They will also have a home advantage against the Longhorns on October 22nd, and ESPN’s FPIs will not be defeated in that game. Unlike Baylor, Oklahoma State will also have a field advantage against West Virginia to finish the season.
It will only happen if: quarterback Spencer Sanders Staying healthy and minimizing his interceptions, the Cowboys can continue to grow in defense despite critical departures, including coordinator Jim Knowles. Sanders is on track to become the first midfielder to play in all four seasons under Mike Gundy. Since 2019, he’s run the ball more than 40 times (31 interceptions, nine touchdowns), the most by any FBS player during that time. In his Big 12 loss match against Baylor, he threw four high-profile interceptions. While the defense was among the best in FBS and in school history, Knowles vanished, and the Cowboys brought back the third lowest FBS returning experience in defense, according to ESPN Statistics and Information Research.
ESPN’s FPI says: Oklahoma State was favored in both of its games except October 22 against Texas (the Longhorns have a slight advantage of 53.1%) and November 19 against Oklahoma (soon have a 63.9% chance of winning).
Allstate Playoff Predictor says: The Cowboys have the 12th best chance of making a playoff with 4%, after Texas, which has the sixth best chance at 18%.
the coach: “We have a foundation. The team needs commitment. The coaches don’t play games, the team plays. Our responsibility is to guide them; their responsibility is to come together as a group, and make an identity. Within two weeks.” – Gundy