Cover Photo: Don Juan Moore/Getty Images
Now that we're heading into Week 10 of the college football season, the College Football Playoff picture has become clear enough that a handful of potential outcomes -- specifically pointing to six remaining games -- can all but decide what those final four teams will look like come December.
Here are those six matchups, along with the biggest likely winners from each outcome.
6. No. 2 Clemson Tigers @ No. 22 Boston College (Week 11)
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Clemson's path to an undefeated finish and ultimate College Football Playoff bid is so much smoother than any other current contender that this game is practically a technicality for inclusion. Boston College is the hardest test (plus, it's on the road) possibly preventing Clemson from the aforementioned outcome. But a loss by the Tigers would bust things wide open.
Biggest Benefactor(s): It's hard to say if a single loss and potential ACC Championship by Clemson would effectively eliminate them from the CFP, but one-loss teams with tougher schedules like Ohio State, Michigan, Georgia and Oklahoma would certainly have an argument for a No. 4 spot, if they didn't finish a perfect 13-0.
5. No. 7 Oklahoma Sooners @ No. 13 West Virginia Mountaineers (Week 13)
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If Oklahoma can run the table and head up to Morgantown with a 10-1 record then coming out with a win here would likely lead to a rematch with No. 17 Texas or No. 13 West Virginia in the Big 12 Championship game. If Texas can beat West Virginia at home in Week 10, the Sooners will likely have an incredible chance to avenge their only loss of the season with a win over a 10-2 Texas team in the Big 12 Championship.
Biggest Benefactor(s): Even if West Virginia defeats both Texas and Oklahoma in the coming weeks and adds a Big 12 Championship for a 12-1 finish, the Mountaineers' loss to Iowa State is too unforgivably bad for the playoff committee to consider them as competitive as a one-loss Oklahoma team. That means if WVU defeats Oklahoma in this game, the Big 12 playoff berth doors slam shut. But other doors open much wider for a second SEC team like Georgia or a potential Pac 12 Champion in Washington State.
4. No. 12 UCF Knights @ South Florida (Week 13)
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The College Football Playoff Committee has made it pretty clear that they wouldn't even put a 40-0 UCF team anywhere near the playoff conversation, so a loss by the Knights doesn't really help any other Power Five team's chances of making the top four as it is. However, if a likely 11-0 UCF wins this game on the road against a solid USF team to finish a second consecutive season undefeated without getting a fair playoff shake, that's a much different conversation.
Biggest Benefactor(s): This would have to be a tie between the CFP Committee themselves or the future Power Five national champion. One loss from UCF silences the drama and debate over the disrespected and under-appreciated caliber of undefeated Group-of-Five teams like UCF.
3. No. 4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish @ USC Trojans (Week 13)
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Notre Dame has been in this situation before: go undefeated without a chance for a conference title game as an independent and then sit back and let the national bias, along with the program's brand recognition, earn the Irish a spot in the final four spots come December. Well, achieving that elusive 12-0 record continues to prove much harder than previously believed each and every year, and USC could very likely be playing for bowl eligibility in their final regular season game at home against the Irish – a place that hasn't faired well for Notre Dame in recent history.
Biggest Benefactor(s): A single loss eliminates the Irish from the playoff, which opens quite a few doors for other teams, and none would benefit more than an 11-1 Washington State Cougars team with a potential shot at a Top-15 Utah squad in the Pac 12 Championship Game.
2. No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide @ No. 3 LSU Tigers (Week 10)
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After LSU knocked off Georgia back in Week 8, the Tigers officially blazed a pathway that could very well lead to two SEC teams making the CFP once again. If Alabama loses to LSU, the Tigers take control of the SEC West and then likely go on to earn a spot against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. Even an 11-1 Crimson Tide team will likely make the playoff, which means a 12-1 Georgia team that beat LSU in the SEC Championship would likely be in as well.
Biggest Benefactor(s): Every other team in the country not named LSU benefits from an Alabama win in this game, especially Notre Dame and Oklahoma. A second loss by the Tigers eliminates LSU from the playoff conversation, and likely pins an 11-1 Georgia against a 12-0 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. If Alabama beats the Bulldogs, that effectively eliminates UGA from the playoff as well, narrowing the SEC berths down to one team.
1. No. 5 Michigan Wolverines @ No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes (Week 13)
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While this matchup may seem like a no-brainer for the top spot on this list, the gravity of its result extends much further than the Big Ten and either team's own playoff hopes. The loser of this game is undoubtedly eliminated, but the winner comes out of it with a chance at winning the Big Ten Championship and ultimately earning a CFP spot as a result.
Biggest Benefactor(s): Notre Dame, by a mile. In the event that Clemson, Alabama, and an SEC-champion Georgia team make it, that means there's one final spot up for grabs between a potential one-loss Big Ten champion, one-loss Pac-12 Champion and the Fighting Irish. Now that would be one hell of an argument.
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David Hayes is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, David Hayes also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username DavidWHayes. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.