Handicapping the CFP Race heading into week 8

We’ve crossed the halfway point of the 2023 college football season. Notre Dame absolutely dominated USC, dealing a major blow to Caleb Williams hopes to repeat as the Heisman winner. Oregon-Washington came down to a missed field goal at the end of the game. The rest of the chase held steady, with no major upsets. So without further ado, here are the contenders for the playoff after week 7, going into week 8:

Group of 5: No one
Independents: No one

Despite their win vs. USC, Notre Dame’s loss to Louisville eliminated them from the playoff chase.

ACC: #4 Florida State. 4-0 ACC, 6-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 8 vs. Duke, Week 9 @ Wake Forest, Week 10 @ Pitt, Week 11 vs. Miami (FL), Week 12 vs. North Alabama, Week 13 @ Florida

#10 North Carolina. 3-0 ACC, 6-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 8 vs. Virginia, Week 9 @ Georgia Tech, Week 10 vs. Campbell, Week 11 vs. Duke, Week 12 @ Clemson, Week 13 @ NC State

The Tar Heels got a major boost last week when the NCAA reversed course and granted immediate eligibility to WR Tez Walker, and it paid immediate dividends for them. He gives quarterback Drake Maye a true #1 target. The Tar Heels were legitimate before adding him, and his addition makes them even more likely to finish the regular season undefeated. Meanwhile Florida State should have no issues with Duke, and they are likely to finish 12-0 also.

Big 12: #6 Oklahoma. 3-0 Big 12, 6-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 8 vs. UCF, Week 9 @ Kansas, Week 10 @ Oklahoma State, Week 11 vs. West Virginia, Week 12 @BYU, Week 13 vs. TCU

#8 Texas. 2-1 Big 12, 5-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 8 @ Houston, Week 9 vs. BYU, Week 10 vs. Kansas State, Week 11 @ TCU, Week 12 @ Iowa State, Week 13 vs. Texas Tech

In their final year in the Big 12 before joining the SEC, these are the only contenders in the Big 12. Both teams were off last week after their showdown in Dallas. It’s likely both teams will win out and meet again for the Big 12 Championship Game.

SEC: #1 Georgia. 4-0 SEC, 7-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 9 vs. Florida (in Jacksonville), Week 10 vs. Mizzou, Week 11 vs. Ole Miss, Week 12 @ Tennessee, Week 13 @ Georgia Tech

#11 Alabama. 4-0 SEC, 6-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 8 vs. Tennessee, Week 10 vs. LSU, Week 11 @Kentucky, Week 12 vs. Chattanooga, Week 13 @ Auburn

It’s looking like these teams are on a collision course for the SEC Championship Game. Georgia is off this week, before the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party against Florida. A year after losing to Tennessee on the road on a walk-off field goal, Alabama gets them at home. Alabama pulled out a close game vs. Arkansas last week. Expect them to win another close game before their annual bye week that precedes their game vs. LSU. The only way Alabama doesn’t win the SEC West is if LSU beats them, but the game is in Tuscaloosa this year. The other 1-loss team in the West, Ole Miss, has already lost to Alabama, which would require them to lose 2 conference games to win the division.

Pac-12: #5 Washington. 3-0 Pac-12, 6-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 8 vs. Arizona State, Week 9 @ Stanford, Week 10 @ USC, Week 11 vs. Utah, Week 12 @ Oregon State, Week 13 vs. Washington State

#9 Oregon. 2-1 Pac-12, 5-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 8 vs. Washington State, Week 9 @ Utah, Week 10 vs. Cal, Week 11 vs. USC, Week 12 @ Arizona State, Week 13 vs. Oregon State

#12 Oregon State. 3-1 Pac-12, 6-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 9 @ Arizona, Week 10 @ Colorado, Week 11 vs. Stanford, Week 12 vs. Washington, Week 13 @ Oregon

#14 Utah. 2-1 Pac-12, 5-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 8 @ USC, Week 9 vs. Oregon, Week 10 vs. Arizona State, Week 11 @ Washington, Week 12 @ Arizona, Week 13 vs. Colorado

#18 USC. 4-0 Pac-12, 6-1 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 8 vs. Utah, Week 9 @ Cal, Week 10 vs. Washington, Week 11 @ Oregon, Week 12 vs. UCLA

In the last year of the Pac-12 as we know it, 6 teams are ranked in the top 25. There are going to be 2 possibilities for the playoff from this conference. Either they send someone, or they beat each other up. History suggests it’ll be the latter, but it’s going to be at least 3 weeks before we have some clarity on this race. Utah has played spoiler the last two years, eliminating Oregon by defeating them twice in 2021, and then doing the same to USC last year. Expect Utah to defeat USC again. Meanwhile, Oregon and Washington should have no issues against Washington State and Arizona State, respectively.

Big 10: #2 Michigan. 4-0 Big 10, 7-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 8 @ Michigan State, Week 10 vs. Purdue, Week 11 @ Penn State, Week 12 @ Maryland, Week 13 vs. Ohio State

#7 Penn State. 3-0 Big 10, 6-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 8 @ Ohio State, Week 9 vs. Indiana, Week 10 @ Maryland, Week 11 vs. Michigan, Week 12 vs. Rutgers, Week 13 @ Michigan State

#3 Ohio State. 3-0 Big 10, 6-0 overall. Remaining schedule: Week 8 vs. Penn State, Week 9 @ Wisconsin, Week 10 @ Rutgers, Week 11 vs. Michigan State, Week 12 vs. Minnesota, Week 13 @ Michigan

This is a 3-horse race between Michigan Penn State and Ohio State. We’re going to start to get some clarity this weekend, as Ohio State hosts Penn State in the game of the week. The loser of this game is going to have to defeat Michigan and will need the winner to lose to Michigan to have any chance at playing for the Big 10 Championship.  Ohio State has won 10 of the last 11 meetings in this rivalry, including the last 6. Expect them to make it 7 in a row and 11 of the last 12. Meanwhile, Michigan plays in-state rival Michigan State. The Spartans are a dumpster fire without a coach right now. Michigan wins easily.

Brian Ferentz watch: Due to a nepotism clause in his contract, in order for coach Kirk Ferentz’s son to keep his job, the Hawkeyes must win at least 7 games this season, and score at least 325 points in 13 games, for an average of 25 points per game. Points from the defense and special teams count towards the total as well. Iowa is 6-1, and through 7 games they have scored 146 points, putting them 29 points off the pace.

AP Top 12 Poll:

  1. Georgia
  2. Michigan
  3. Ohio State
  4. Florida State
  5. Washington
  6. Oklahoma
  7. Penn State
  8. Texas
  9. Oregon
  10. North Carolina
  11. Alabama
  12. Oregon State

Championship Saturday matchup predictions:
ACC: Florida State vs. North Carolina
Big 12: Oklahoma vs. Texas
SEC: Georgia vs. Alabama
Pac-12: Oregon vs. Washington
Big 10: Iowa vs. Ohio State

Top games of the week:
Ohio State vs. Penn State. The game of the week, as both ESPN College Gameday and Fox Big Noon Kickoff will be in Columbus.
Alabama vs. Tennessee. Can Alabama avenge their loss from last year?
Utah vs. USC. Can Utah play spoiler again?

Playoff prediction:
Sugar Bowl: #1 Georgia vs. #4 Texas
Rose Bowl: #2 Ohio State vs. #3 Florida State

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