How College Football Playoff Bubble Teams Can Advance

Fans with teams on the CFP bubble will have two (or more) 'favorite' teams this week

The scoreboard watching and channel surfing will be intense this weekend for fans of teams on the college football playoff bubble. Jim Harbaugh haters in Seattle could end up cheering for him Saturday. Wisconsin and Penn State fans will relish every Ohio State touchdown, at least for a few hours.  And perennial favorite Oklahoma will become a champion of underdog.

Here's a look at what needs to happen for the teams ranked 5th through 8th on the College Football Playoff rankings to move up to the top four. 

Washington Huskies (10-1)

Current CFP rank: 5

Loss: USC

What does Washington need to do?

Washington will win the Pac-12 North by beating a six-point underdog Cougars in the Apple Cup Friday, followed by a win against Colorado or USC in the conference championship game. 

If that happens, what's their argument for a final four spot?

A selection committee that has repeated emphasized the importance of a conference championship will be hard-pressed to leave out a one-loss Pac-12 king, even with Washington's comparatively light strength of schedule.

Who should Washington fans root for?

It's possible that the Dawgs don't need any help if they win out. But all debate will die if No. 4 Clemson, who plays 6-5 South Carolina, stumbles this week. Washington will naturally wish ill will on their bubble brethren (Oklahoma, Penn State and Wisconsin), but the most critical assist outside of a Clemson loss would be a Michigan win at Ohio State, which would limit the odds of a two-Big Ten (and no Pac-12) Final Four. 

Husky fans will likely root for USC to reach the Pac-12 title game, which would avenge their loss to the Trojans and add a needed, resume-building win.

Wisconsin Badgers (9-2)

Current CFP rank 6

Losses: Michigan, Ohio State

What does Wisconsin need to do?

Wisconsin is just one victory against lowly Minnesota away from advancing to the Big Ten Championship game. Both are must-wins.    

If that happens, what's their argument for a final four spot?

The Badgers would then possess a Big Ten conference championship and three wins against ranked teams: LSU, Nebraska and the vaunted Big Ten East winner. 

Who should Badger fans root for?

Certainly not the 'other UW.' A Washington win over WSU only hurts bubble teams' chances. Wisconsin will also be cheering hard for the Buckeyes to boot Michigan from the top four.

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Penn State Nittany Lions (9-2)

Current CFP rank 7

Losses: Pitt, Michigan

What does Penn State need to do?

Beat Michigan State this week and, provided Ohio State KO's Michigan Saturday, go on to win the Big Ten title game.

If that happens, what's their argument for a final four spot?

Exhibit A is their 24-21 win against Ohio State on Oct. 22. Exhibit B would be a championship in a conference well-respected by the playoff selection committee.

Who should Penn State fans root for? 

The same teams Wisconsin fans will be rooting for (aside from the Badgers): Ohio State and Washington State. 

Oklahoma (9-2)

Current CFP rank: 8

Losses: Ohio State, Houston

What does Oklahoma need to do?

Thump No. 10 Oklahoma St. at home on Saturday.

If that happens, what's their argument for a final four spot?

If they win out, Oklahoma will have a Big 12 conference championship and two ranked-team wins (Oklahoma St. and West Virginia). Houston's trashing of Louisville made Oklahoma's loss to the Cougars in September look slightly better. 

Who should Oklahoma fans root for?

Unfortunately, the Sooners' hopes rely on underdogs. Namely, WSU (+6 over Washington) and Utah (+10 at Colorado). And, most critically, the Sooners need Michigan to win out to discredit the other Big Ten playoff-spot contenders. 


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