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The Buffaloes path to the playoff

The No. 12 Colorado Buffaloes can make the College Football Playoff, if you can believe it.

NCAA Football: UCLA at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Looking around college football, the Colorado Buffaloes have a realistic chance of making a run at the Playoff. After beating UCLA in a Thursday night rock fight and after being helped out by upsets around the country this past weekend, Colorado is now ranked 12th in the College Footall Playoff rankings.

Given the Buffs’ remaining schedule — they host No. 23 Washington State and No. 15 Utah and would play No. 4 Washington in the Pac-12 Championship — they could end the season as the most Playoff-worthy two-loss team in the country. A two-loss team is still unlikely to make it to the Playoff without chaos taking over, but that’s exactly what could happen.

No. 1 Alabama

No. 2 Clemson

Alabama and Clemson should win out, and they should each make the Playoff. Clemson’s schedule is an easy as it could be — Pitt, Wake Forest, South Carolina and Virginia Tech or North Carolina in the ACC Championship — and they already have the most impressive win of any team with their Week 5 victory over Louisville.

Alabama’s schedule is much more difficult than Clemson’s, as they play Mississippi State (who just beat then-No. 4 Texas A&M), No. 9 Auburn and the SEC East winner (Florida or Kentucky, which is hilarious in every way). But they’re still Alabama, and they’re eons ahead of any of those opponents.

No. 3 Michigan

No. 5 Ohio State

The Big Ten has four teams in the CFP top-10 (!), but it’s a two-team conference. Michigan has been better than every non-Bama in the country and should be the No. 2 ranked team ahead of Clemson. Ohio State has also been great, but not perfect. Ohio State’s loss to Penn State could complicate things — Penn State would make the Big Ten Championship if both teams win out — but the Big Game should send the winner to the Playoff regardless.

No. 6 Louisville

Besides Washington, Louisville may be the biggest obstacle for the Buffs’ CFP chances. Louisville is arguably the best one-loss team in the country (them or Ohio State), and their one loss was to the unbeatable Clemson Tigers in an October thriller. If Colorado beats Washington and the Cardinals win out, they should be in the Playoff, even if they can’t win the ACC (Clemson has the tie-breaker).

It’s blasphemy to root against Lamar Jackson, but the Buffs need Louisville to lose once more. Louisville has one more game in ACC play, but it’s against lowly Wake Forest. Then they head to Houston to face the always dangerous but rapidly fading Houston Cougars. After that, they play Kentucky, who despite playing typical Kentucky football, somehow might win the SEC East. It’s unlikely Louisville loses again, but if they lose, Houston would probably be it.

No. 7 Wisconsin


No. 10 Penn State

Wisconsin has hung on for countless one-possession victories in ugly, ugly games. With close losses to Michigan and Ohio State, the Badgers are the top-ranked two-loss team in the country. Penn State, meanwhile, have already defeated Ohio State and have spent the past two weeks blowing out Purdue and Iowa. The six remaining opponents of Wisconsin and Penn State have a 10 conference wins combined — four of those are from Minnesota alone (!!!) — so we should see both win out.

If Wisconsin wins out, they’re in the Big Ten Championship representing the West. If Penn State wins out and Ohio State wins out (meaning the Buckeyes beat Michigan), the Nittany Lions are in the conference championship. If the latter scenario holds true, the Big Ten would have a two-loss champion with a better resume than CU, and if the Ohio State-Michigan winner gets in regardless of a conference championship, this could spell doom for CU’s chances.

As Colorado fans, we should be rooting for Michigan because (1) they beat us, so them winning makes us look better, (2) by winning out, they would eliminate Ohio State and Penn State (a two-loss non-champion won’t get in over the two-loss Pac-12 champion), and (3) Michigan has already defeated Wisconsin and should win again in the Big Ten Championship, which would eliminate the Badgers from Playoff contention.

(Nebraska was here, having one loss all season and a slew of close wins against mediocre opponents. But in glorious fashion, Nebraska lost 63-3 to Ohio State.)

No. 8 Texas A&M

No. 9 Auburn

Here, we have a two-loss SEC East team who has been crushed by the elephant herd in Tuscaloosa, and one that will be crushed by that same herd in the coming weeks. Texas A&M was in perfect shape to sneak into the Playoff, as they had only one loss (to Bama), a No. 4 spot in the CFP rankings, and a relatively easy schedule the rest of the way. Of course, things couldn’t be that easy, so they dropped a game to Mississippi State on Saturday. Now that they’ve lost another and can’t win the SEC West, they may already be done. It would help CU if they lost another (LSU looks fun), but it’s not essential.

Auburn has already lost close contests to Clemson and Texas A&M, which is an achievement in its own. Unfortunately for the Tigers, one more loss will eliminate them for good, and they still have to play NFC South champion Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Anyway, Michael Dyer’s knee was down.

In short, Colorado should be ahead of both these teams if the Buffs win out.

No. 11 Oklahoma

If the College Football Playoff is a hurricane of chaos, Oklahoma is standing in front of 60-mph winds waving the American flag. The Sooners started the season with losses to Houston and Ohio State, respectively, but haven’t lost since. It’s tempting to say they’ve been one of the most dominant teams in football, but nearly all their wins have been close; only Kansas State and Kansas were easy.

Despite some serious flaws and a serious suspension, Oklahoma sits in poll position to win the Big XII and they’re ahead of Colorado in the CFP rankings. The Sooners have a hellish three weeks ahead of them, as they take on Baylor, West Virginia and Oklahoma State one after the other in what could be unadulterated madness. If Oklahoma survives, things will get interesting on the Playoff bubble.

If both win out, Colorado and Oklahoma would both be conference champions with their last three wins coming against ranked teams. The Playoff Committee would have a 50-50 call to make. To makes things easier on the Buffs, we should be rooting for Oklahoma to drop one more game, and preferably to Oklahoma State, since West Virginia could theoretically make a run and the Cowboys have already lost a couple games.

If everything breaks right — Louisville and Oklahoma losing, Michigan winning out — we could potentially see a Playoff run in store for the Buffs. And if every weekend goes as well as this past weekend — four teams ahead of CU lost — CU should be in great shape if they keep winning.