As of Week 8 in the 2014 season we're down to three undefeated Power Five teams, and two of them are on a collision course. Might we see a perfect "BCS year" a year after the BCS was dismantled, with two major undefeated teams? Possibly. We might also see a perfect year for a 4-team Playoff, or a 6- or 8-team Playoff. Four teams it is, however.
And now that we are absolutely certain that 1-loss teams will be in the mix, let's look for the ones that have the best shot to win their conference, which should be the main thing giving 1-loss teams an advantage over the others. Before the 1-loss teams, we have the undefeated Power Five teams.
Level One: Undefeated Power Five conference teams. If any of these teams win out, they get a Playoff spot.
- Florida State (7-0; wins ACC)
- Mississippi (7-0; wins SEC)
- Mississippi State (6-0; wins SEC)
The Mississippi teams play each other, and FSU has looked vulnerable while knocking Notre Dame out of this category. Baylor lost to West Virginia and fell to Level Two. We could very easily be left with no undefeated teams this year.
Level Two: Power Conference teams with 1 loss. The first of the following two lists is made up of those who are guaranteed to win their conference if they win out, giving them an excellent Playoff shot:
- Arizona State (5-1; leads UCLA in Pac-12 South)
- Duke (6-1; leads Miami in ACC Coastal)
- Georgia (6-1; leads SEC East, well ahead of South Carolina)
- Kansas State (5-1; undefeated in Big Twelve; loss is to Auburn)
- Michigan State (6-1; leads Big Ten East; loss is to Oregon)
- Minnesota (6-1; undefeated in Big Ten West lead; loss is to TCU)
- Nebraska (6-1; lost only to Michigan State from Big Ten East)
- Ohio State (5-1; unbeaten in Big Ten East; loss is to Virginia Tech)
- Oregon (6-1; lost only to Arizona from Pac-12 South)
- Utah (5-1; lost only to Washington State from Pac-12 North)
Last weekend we lost Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, and Rutgers from this group. None of those was really a surprise, but they were all in control of their conference destiny until their defeat; now they're in 2-loss purgatory but three of them still control their destiny (see Level Four).
Level 2B: These Power Five 1-loss teams need help to win their conference.
- Notre Dame (6-1; has no conference title to claim)
- Arizona (5-1; needs USC to lose once)
- TCU (5-1; needs Baylor to lose once to win Big 12 outright)
- Alabama (6-1; needs Mississippi to lose twice)
- Auburn (5-1; needs Mississippi State to lose twice)
- Baylor (6-1; needs West Virginia and Kansas State to lose once each)
This group added Baylor and Notre Dame while losing Georgia Tech, Washington, and Oklahoma. Washington would have left this group either way—had they won, they would have controlled their Pac-12 destiny due to Stanford's loss. We place the Irish at the top of this group; they can't win a conference, but they're in good shape with only a tough road loss to defending champ FSU.
Level Three - Undefeated non-Power Five teams. Destiny Control is high in terms of their finish, but not in terms of how the Committee will perceive them. Marshall is the only one left here.
- Marshall (7-0)
Level Four - 2-loss Power Conference teams. These teams need help outside their conference and usually inside the conference. We divide these into the few that still control their destiny toward winning their conference, and those that need help. The former group loses Boston College, Stanford, and Virginia—every 2-loss team that controlled its destiny last week. But West Virginia and Wisconsin step up from Level 4B, while Iowa, Kentucky, and Oregon State drop in from the 1-loss group.
- Iowa (5-2; lost to Big Ten East Maryland and Big Twelve's Iowa State)
- Kentucky (5-2; leads Florida in the SEC East; also lost to SEC West LSU)
- Oregon State (5-2; lost to Pac-12 South USC and Utah)
- West Virginia (5-2; leads Oklahoma in the Big Twelve; also lost to Alabama)
- Wisconsin (5-2; leads Northwestern in Big Ten West; also lost to LSU)
Level 4B: This group—2-loss teams that need help to win their conference—may grow for the next several weeks, until eventually most of them lose or find their hopes of getting to the championship game gone. This week California, Florida, Virginia Tech, and Texas A&M suffered their third and final strike.
- Missouri (5-2; needs Georgia to lose once)
- USC (5-2; needs ASU to lose once)
- Clemson (5-2; needs FSU to lose twice)
- Maryland (5-2; needs Ohio State to lose twice)
- Oklahoma State (5-2; needs TCU to lose twice)
- Georgia Tech (5-2; needs Duke to lose twice, UNC once)
- Louisville (6-2; needs Clemson to lose twice, FSU once)
- Penn State (4-2; needs Michigan State, Ohio State, and Michigan to lose once each)
- UCLA (5-2; needs Utah to lose twice, Arizona State once)
- Washington (5-2; needs Oregon to lose twice, Stanford once)
- Oklahoma (5-2; needs Kansas State three times, TCU twice)
- LSU (6-2; needs Mississippi State to lose three times, Auburn twice, Ole Miss once)
- Rutgers (5-2; needs Ohio State to lose three times, Michigan State twice, Penn State once)
Level Five - 1-loss teams from non-Power Five conferences; these teams have almost no Playoff hope but you never know. This group lost Temple last weekend, leaving just two.
- East Carolina (5-1; lost to South Carolina; controls destiny to win American Athletic)
- Colorado State (6-1; needs Boise State to lose once to control Mtn West destiny)
That's a total of 40 teams still alive, down 8 from last week. The top group of undefeated teams dwindled from 5 to 3, and the number of 1-loss teams in control of their conference championship destiny was trimmed from 15 to 10. Overall, Power Five teams with 0 or 1 loss fell from 27 to 19. So of the 40 teams listed here, 20 can say they're still seriously in consideration at this point: those 19 and throw in undefeated Marshall. When that number drops from 20 to say, 5, then the 2-loss teams will start to have a real chance. Of course, the 2-loss teams have to survive that long...