19 Teams with a legitimate shot at the college football playoffs

Most of the talking heads in college football want to focus on the 6-8 teams they believe can actually make the playoffs. But this list of 19 teams is an expanded list. Sure, each team in FBS could go 13-0 and win their conference. However, each team on this list has the schedule and starting point (ranking wise) that would allow them to make the CFP. So without further ado, let’s get to it. (Listed in alphabetical order)

Alabama Crimson Tide

As always, Alabama will be an easy pick to make the playoffs. With the offensive firepower between QB Tua Tagovailoa, RB Najee Harris and a stacked WR group, the Tide will roll on offense. The defense returns 7 starters and the backups are just as talented. The schedule only provides a couple of possible slip ups, including Texas A&M and Auburn on the road, but the LSU game is in Tuscaloosa.


Boise State Broncos

The Broncos offense returns 6 starters. They lost QB Brett Rypien, RB Alexander Mattison and their top two WRs. However, QBs Chase Cord/Hank Bachmeier are excellent replacements. The WRs are just as talented with CT Thomas, John Hightower and potential breakout star Khalil Shakir back, plus an O-line that returns 4 starters. The leader of the line will be OT Ezra Cleveland, who is one of the best OL in the G5. The defense should be very stout this year, returning DE Curtis Weaver, LB Riley Whimpey and S Kekoa Nawahine. The schedule includes FSU, Marshall, Hawaii, BYU and Utah St. If they can win out, they may have a chance at a playoff spot.


UCF Knights

The big question lies in the defense and the QB replacement for McKenzie Milton. The offense will again be really good with one of the top RB groups in the nation in Adrian Killins Jr and  Greg McCrae. The defense needs to improve on its 118th rushing defense from last year. However, they have the players to do so, plus they got transfer DT Brandon Wilson from Indiana. The Knights’ schedule includes Stanford, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Houston, USF and then Memphis/Houston in the AAC Title. That schedule should be enough to force the committee’s hand into giving them a shot, if they run the table again.


Clemson Tigers

Not much to explain here. The offense returns the nation’s best QB in Trevor Lawrence, a top 3 WR group and the nation’s best RB in Travis Etienne. The defense loses some guys, but Clemson has been recruiting like crazy. DE Xavier Thomas will break out and veterans Isaiah Simmons and Tanner Muse will continue to lead the defense. Weeks 2-3 provide games vs Texas A&M and at Syracuse, but after that it should be smooth sailing.


Florida Gators

QB Feleipe Franks never gets enough credit. It also helps that he has a top 10 WR group that features Van Jefferson, Tyrie Cleveland and Kadarius Toney. The defense returns 7 from a group that was 20th in scoring last year. They face LSU on the road and Georgia in Jacksonville, which will be tough, but they are capable of winning every game on their schedule.


Georgia Bulldogs

QB Jake Fromm and RB D’Andre Swift form a really good backfield group. The WRs are unproven, but are very talented. The defense loses some pieces, but every level of the defense returns important pieces from last year, with the secondary being the strength (DBs JR Reed, Richard LeCounte) The Bulldogs should be favored in every game and get Notre Dame, Missouri and Texas A&M at home. The two non-home games to look out for are at Auburn and Florida in Jacksonville. Win all of them and they are in the same spot as last year going into the SEC Title Game.


Iowa State Cyclones

This seems like an out there pick, but hear me out. QB Brock Purdy is a Top 10 QB, the whole O-line is back, and the WRs are talented. They will need 1-2 to step into Hakeem Butler’s roll, but they have the talent to do so. The biggest question mark is the RB group which loses David Montgomery, who was drafted by the Chicago Bears. If the incoming freshmen of Breece Hall, Jirehl Brock and Sheldon Croney Jr are as good as advertised, this offense could be just as good as last year.

The defense is easily going to be Top 2, maybe tops, in the Big 12 with a lot of guys back. The D-line and LBs will contend for Top 15 in the nation and S Greg Eisworth spearheads the secondary. The Clones always hang with OU and Texas. Key games against Iowa and TCU are at home. Not saying they do it, but they have a dark horse shot at winning 10+ and entering the CFP discussion.


LSU Tigers

The Tigers bring back a good amount of talent on each side of the ball. QB Joe Burrow leads a new look spread offense with RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire looking to breakout. The WRs are a solid group and bring back all starters from 2018. The defense returns a handful of starters and CB Derek Stingley will be a great freshman player. None of the games are too daunting, expcept the game in Tuscaloosa. If they can upset the Tide in November then look out.


Michigan Wolverines

Michigan has consistent QB Shea Patterson working with a Top 8 WR group and a really good offensive line. The one spot of trouble is the running back position with the loss of Chris Evans and Karan Higdon. The secondary of the Wolverines defense will be one of the best in the nation. If the defense can refill the front 7 they have the chance to make a playoff push. The Ohio State game always looms at the end of the year, however.


Notre Dame Fighting Irish

The schedule gets tougher this year with road games at Georgia, Michigan and Stanford. ND has QB Ian Book leading the offense that has a solid WR group and underrated RBs. The defense must replace some pieces, but should still be a Top 20 group. If the defense can play well and keep them in games, they will have a chance in every game.


Ohio State Buckeyes

The Buckeyes have loads of talent at the WR and RB positions. The defense returns 9 starters including DE Chase Young and the group should improve a bunch on last years 50th ranked scoring defense. The year really sits on if the O-line can be pieced together, as well as the play of transfer Justin Fields at QB. The Buckeyes will be right in the thick of the playoff hunt, but games vs Big Ten West teams Northwestern, Wisconsin and Nebraska loom. Buckeye fans know why I specifically reference those 3 games.


Oklahoma Sooners

Oklahoma has the best offense in all of college football. The WR and RB groups are among the top in nation. They bring in QB Jalen Hurts, who is better than most people seem to think. With Lincoln Riley, especially, he will flourish. New defensive coordinator Alex Grinch will look to help the 114th best scoring defense improve to a 60-70 range. The Sooners will be favored in every game, but games vs Texas, Iowa St, Baylor, TCU and Okla St will all be fights. This is a national title contender, if they can improve a considerable amount on defense.


Oregon Ducks

Oregon at times played below their capabilities last year. This year they return 18/22 starters. They return 10 starters on offense and add WR Juwan Johnson to replace Dillon Mitchell. The O-line is the nation’s best. This offense will be Top 15 in the nation. The Ducks defense has a lot of talent and one of the better back 7s in the nation with LB Troy Dye and CB Thomas Graham leading the way. The Pac 12 North is always challenging, and they play on the road vs Washington and Stanford. This team has a shot at the playoff, if they play to their full capability.


Penn State Nittany Lions

With a lot of unproven spots on offense, one of the nation’s best defenses will keep them in every game, while the offense figures it out. The offense returns one starter at WR, but has talent in TE Pat Freiermuth. The RBs are very talented, but unproven, as well as QB Sean Clifford. The defense includes DEs Yetur Gross-Matos, LB Micah Parsons and CB John Reid as leaders. Games on the road vs Ohio St, Iowa and a home game vs Michigan will be the biggest games. This defense will help them keep every game close. If the offense can get on track, they could be in the talk for the playoff.


Syracuse Orange

I’ll start with the schedule…..Weeks 1-3 are very important, but after that, a game at FSU seems to be the toughest. If they can get past trap games at Liberty and at Maryland, they have a shot. They beat Clemson in 2017 and should have beat them in 2018. Plus, it’s at the Carrier Dome. QB Tommy DeVito is going to be a great replacement for Eric Dungey, contrary to many people’s beliefs. The WRs are very solid with a really underrated Top 3 (Sean Riley, Nykeim Johnson, Taj Harris) The defense has loads of talent, including a Top 10 D-line and a secondary that returns all 4 starters including FS Andre Cisco. They have a shot to be very special.


TCU Horned Frogs

The Horned Frogs experienced a ton of injuries last year. The offense has the very talented WR Jalen Reagor and RB group of Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua. The QB battle will be important and it is expected that transfer Alex Delton or redshirt freshman Justin Rogers will be the starter. The defense will be very good, per usual, as DT Ross Blacklock is back from injury. LB Garrett Wallow returns and the secondary has Jeff Gladney and Innis Gaines back to form a very good group. Every year the Frogs have had a losing season, Gary Patterson leads them to a 10+ win the following year. This team is very underrated and will sneak up on people.


Texas Longhorns

Texas returns a great QB in Sam Ehlinger and WR Collin Johnson, but the rest of the offense is pretty unproven with only 5 starters back. They have plenty of talent, but it may take a little time to get going. The defense returns just 2 starters, but they return a decent amount of talent at each level. The big thing is going to be how quick they can mesh and play well enough to win in the Big 12. The schedule is tough with LSU and Oklahoma, as well as road games at TCU, Iowa St and Baylor. Texas is capable of winning every game, but it will be incredibly tough.


Utah Utes

The Utah offense returns QB Tyler Huntley and RB Zack Moss from injury for a great backfield. The WRs return everyone and the O-line returns 3 guys. The defense has easily the best D-Line in the Pac 12 and the secondary should as well be really solid. The LBs must refill, but Manny Bowen transfers in from Penn St. The schedule is manageable and a game at Washington will be huge. They are a dark horse candidate for the playoff.


Utah State Aggies

Utah St returns just 2 starters on offense, but 1 of them is QB Jordan Love, who is one of the best G5 QBs. RB Gerold Bright wasn’t a starter, but still rushed for almost 900 yds. The offensive line and WRs are expected to be very talented, even though only return one starter combined. The defense should be one of the best in the Mountain West with talent everywhere. I have LB David Woodward as the best rated LB in the nation, and Tipa Galeai is a great edge rusher. The secondary has breakout candidate Shaq Bond at Safety. If Utah St can upset LSU on the road, then look out. They get Boise St at home this year and another non conference win over Wake Forest would keep them in the playoff conversation, if they win out.


Washington Huskies

The offense has former Georgia QB Jacob Eason at the helm. Every WR returns, as well as TE Hunter Bryant. RB Salvon Ahmed is very talented and will work behind a very good O-line. The offense will easily improve on their 88th rank in scoring finish last year. The defense loses a lot, but they return a ton of guys that played 15-20% of snaps. They have a solid amount of experience and will surprise with how well they play. Washington can absolutely have as good of a defense as they had last year. The schedule is very manageable, as they get Oregon, Utah and Wazzu at home. A road game at Stanford is the one that may sneak up on them. But they definitely have a chance to win every game.