The College Football Playoff (CFP) committee is scheduled to release their final rankings on Dec. 6, one day after all FBS conference titles are claimed, but six days before the final FBS game of 2015 is played: Army vs. Navy.
CFP executive director Bill Hancock announced in June that the committee would wait until the conclusion of the game to finish the rankings if either the Midshipmen or Black Knights are candidates for a spot in the top 25. That appears inevitable as Navy, 8-1 after a Week 11 demolition of SMU, is barreling toward the AAC title game and a potential 12-1 mark, with the only blemish being a 41-24 loss to Notre Dame.
Could they not only remain in the top 25 but also shock the college football world and slide into the four-team field? This is far from a prediction but they could join Alabama (1), Ohio State (2) and Oklahoma (3) in the national semifinals on Dec. 31.
Consider the following scenario, with win-loss requirements for each team ranked Nos. 1-18 (with their current record), all of which that poses a threat to Navy for a playoff spot:
1. Clemson (10-0)
Nov. 21: vs. Wake Forest – WIN
Nov. 28: at South Carolina – LOSS
Dec. 5 (ACC Championship Game): vs. North Carolina – LOSS
Clemson will be double-digit favorites for their Nov. 28 rivalry game against a poor South Carolina team but Williams-Brice Stadium remains a hostile environment and the Gamecocks have played well against two upper tier opponents in Florida and North Carolina. A loss to the Tar Heels in the ACC title game would officially end their candidacy.
Nov. 21: vs. Charleston Southern – WIN
Nov. 28: at Auburn – WIN
Dec. 5 (SEC Championship Game): vs. Florida – WIN
Alabama is comfortably in the field with three more wins. Heck, they might even earn a spot with an SEC title game loss to Florida. Obviously that would throw a wrench into this Navy-friendly scenario but it’s possible.
3. Ohio State
Nov. 21: vs. Michigan State – WIN
Nov. 28: at Michigan – WIN
Dec. 5 (Big Ten Championship Game): vs. Iowa – WIN
Like Alabama, Ohio State controls their own destiny. And, like Alabama, they could actually grab a spot despite suffering one loss over their final three games, including the Big Ten championship. For they’re the No. 2 seed behind Alabama.
4. Notre Dame
Nov. 21: vs. Boston College – WIN
Nov. 28: at Stanford – LOSS
This is where things get fun. Yes, Notre Dame is likely removed from consideration with a loss to Stanford but would they still have a more compelling argument than Navy, a team they defeated by 17 points? Maybe, but remember that Navy still has opportunities against Houston and Temple to improve their résumé.
Nov. 21: vs. Purdue – WIN
Nov. 28: at Nebraska – LOSS
Dec. 5 (Big Ten Championship Game): vs. Ohio State – LOSS
Nebraska over Iowa will be a trendy upset pick for Thanksgiving weekend. The Cornhuskers are far better than their 4-6 record indicates and could use a similar formula that Minnesota did in scoring 35 points against the Hawkeyes last weekend. It would knock Kirk Ferentz’s team from the top 5-8 and a loss to Ohio State a week later would officially eliminate them.
6. Oklahoma State
Nov. 21: vs. Baylor – LOSS
Nov. 28: vs. Oklahoma – LOSS
Dropping two game, despite them being to elite opponents in Baylor and Oklahoma, is enough to end Oklahoma State’s chances. Don’t bet the farm on the Pokes losing two straight home games but it’s certainly possible, especially against two teams with serious firepower.
Nov. 21: vs. TCU – WIN
Nov. 28: at Oklahoma State – WIN
Oklahoma can become this year’s Ohio State in reaching the field after an ugly early-season loss to a poor opponent. Wins over TCU and Oklahoma State would be plenty to grab the No. 3 seed.
Nov. 21: vs. Florida Atlantic – WON
Nov. 28: vs. Florida State – WIN
Dec. 5 (SEC Championship Game): vs. Alabama – LOSS
You can bet that Florida is in the field with three more wins. But would two more wins and a loss to playoff-bound Alabama be enough to keep them ahead of Navy? Maybe if they outperform the Crimson Tide and lose by a field goal or less. A blowout loss, however, would send them tumbling.
9. Michigan State
Nov. 21: at Ohio State – LOSS
Nov. 28: vs. Penn State – WIN
Michigan State must win the Big Ten title to reach the field. Navy needs them to bow out with a loss to either Ohio State or Penn State in the final two weeks, with the former defeat significantly more likely.
Nov. 21: at Oklahoma State – WIN
Nov. 28: at TCU – LOSS
Dec. 5: vs. Texas – WIN
Beating an undefeated Oklahoma State team on the road would be a season-saving victory for Baylor but a loss the following week at TCU would crush their hopes again. The Bears must win their final three to warrant consideration. If they don’t, Navy will probably slide past.
Nov. 21: vs. Cal – LOSS
Nov. 28: vs. Notre Dame – WIN
Obviously, a win over Notre Dame would help Stanford’s case but a third loss, to Cal a week earlier, would make their matchup with the Irish irrelevant for their playoff hopes.
Nov. 21: at Penn State – WIN
Nov. 28: vs. Ohio State – LOSS
Two-loss Michigan must win out to join the conversation again and while that’s possible, with wins over Penn State, Ohio State and Big Ten West champ Iowa, it’s more likely that the Wolverines lose one of their remaining two games.
Nov. 21: vs. UCLA – WIN
Nov. 28: vs. Colorado – WIN
Dec. 5 (Pac-12 Championship Game): vs. Oregon – LOSS
As if losing to Arizona wasn’t bad enough for Utah’s playoff dreams, Stanford’s loss to Oregon was another punch to the gut because a potential Pac-12 title game win over the one-loss Cardinal is no longer possible. The two-loss Utes would still finish above Navy with three more wins but a loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game would ensure they fall below the Midshipmen.
14. Florida State
Nov. 21: vs. Chattanooga – WIN
Nov. 28: at Florida – LOSS
Nothing surprising here. With two losses and no shot at the ACC title, the Seminoles’ hopes are slim but they could still finish above Navy with a win over Florida. That won’t happen, however, with a loss in Gainesville.
Nov. 21: at Ole Miss – LOSS
Nov. 28: vs. Texas A&M – WIN
Two ugly losses to Alabama and Arkansas sent LSU tumbling from No. 2 to No. 15, where they sit one spot above Navy. It is reasonable to assume the committee would value wins over Ole Miss and Texas A&M more than Navy’s wins over Houston and Temple. Losing in Oxford ensures that conversation wouldn’t even happen.
Nov. 21: at Tulsa – WIN
Nov. 28: at Houston – WIN
Dec. 5 (AAC Championship Game): vs. Temple – WIN
Dec. 12: vs. Army – WIN
Navy just needs to win. They do not control their own destiny but they do control their march toward 12-1. Without wins against Tulsa, Houston, Temple and Army, they are nothing more than a playoff outlier.
17. North Carolina
Nov. 21: at Virginia Tech – LOSS
Nov. 28: at North Carolina State – WIN
Dec. 5 (ACC Championship Game): vs. Clemson – WIN
Much buzz has surrounded the Tar Heels’ rise from fringe ACC Coastal contender to College Football Playoff dark horse. North Carolina could certainly make the field with wins over Virginia Tech, North Carolina State and Clemson, but one loss would officially smash their hopes. As most folks fixate on their impending matchup with the Tigers, do not overlook their Nov. 21 trip to Blacksburg for Frank Beamer’s final home game at Virginia Tech.
Nov. 21: at Oklahoma – LOSS
Nov. 28: vs. Baylor – WIN
Technically still alive, TCU needs to beat Oklahoma and Baylor and receive a little help. They might receive the necessary help but, with a hobbled Trevone Boykin and no Josh Doctson, they should lose to Oklahoma. Beating Baylor in their season finale won’t be enough to warrant playoff consideration but it’s an important result for Navy.