An updated look at sooner opportunities to make CFP

Just keep winning. That should be enough for an Oklahoma race to get into a college football game if they can go unbeaten. Meanwhile, a look at the college football scene presents a crowded picture at the top of our USA TODAY coaches poll.

The Power Five are each represented as ranked seventh in the most recent rankings, with two teams each from the SEC and the Big Ten. While the Big Ten East schedule may prevent one or both Michigan State and Ohio from making the playoff, the way things look now in the SEC is that we’re on our way for both Alabama and Georgia to make return trips to the CFP.
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Clemson is in a position to return to the playoff, as is Oklahoma. It ranks seventh in the USC Coaches Poll. Trojans, such as the Sooners and Tigers, still have a lot to prove as the timeline winds up.

It’s going to be an exciting race to finish in the top four, but with team play about to take off in earnest, the warning system will help provide some clarity to the race.

Here’s a look at who has the best chance of making the College Football Playoff match according to ESPN’s playoff prediction in three weeks.

Georgia Bulldogs (3-0)

September 17, 2022; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; Stetson Bennett Georgia Bulldogs (13) and Georgia Bulldogs celebrated Oscar Delep (4) court’s end with Bennett’s touchdown against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the second half at Williams Press Stadium. Jeff Blake USA Today Sports

Qualifier Chances: 80%

I’m not sure how much that is possible, but Georgia Bulldogs looks better than they did last year. Their bombing of South Carolina is the latest evidence that their defense has not seen any kind of withdrawal. The surprise is how well the Stetson Bennett and Bulldogs attack perform, averaging 43.3 points per game.

Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0)

September 17, 2022; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide midfielder Kendrick Blackshire (40) reacts after playing the Monroe Warhawks during the second half at Bryant Denny Stadium. Marvin Gentry-USA Today Sports

Chance of qualifying: 76%

The Crimson Tide is in an excellent location for another National Championship run. They play Vanderbilt this week before going on the road to face No. 10 Arkansas.

Ohio State Bucks (3-0)

September 17, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Emeka Egbuka (2) charges into the end zone for a touchdown while defending the safety of Maxen Hook at the Toledo Rockets (25) during Saturday’s NCAA Division I football game against the Toledo Rockets at Ohio Stadium. Barbara Pereneck / Columbus Dispatch

Chance of qualifying: 67%

In order to conduct a college football game, the Ohio State Bucks have to contend with a stacked Big East. They will face Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State later in the season. The Buckeyes host Wisconsin this Saturday in what could be a preview of their Big Ten Championship game.

Clemson Tigers (3-0)

September 17, 2022; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson Tigers defensive tackle Payton Page (55) congratulates full back Kevin Swint (14) after recovering falteringly against Louisiana Tech Bulldogs quarterback Parker McNeil (17) during the fourth quarter at Memorial Stadium. Ken Reynard USA Today Sports

Chance of qualifying: 36%

Clemson is in a great place to come back to College Football Playoff. Florida and Wake Forest are their biggest threat to the ACC crown. A one-lose conference tournament may not be enough for the Tamil Tigers to be able to come to terms with how tight things are at the top.

Michigan Wolverines (3-0)

Michigan Wolverines running back Blake Corum (2) scores a touchdown against the Connecticut Huskies during the first half at Michigan Stadium, Saturday, September 17, 2022. Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Chances of making a playoff: 31%

Like Ohio, Michigan will have a tough road ahead in the eastern Big Ten. However, the Wolverines host Pennsylvania and Michigan, which helps their cause. But they will have to go to Columbus for their final season against the Buckeyes.

USC Trojans (3-0)

September 10, 2022; Stanford, California, USA; USC Trojans running back Travis Day (26) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium. Stan Szito – USA TODAY Sports

Qualifier Chances: 20%

USC is off to a hot start this season. Their 41-28 win over Stanford moves the needle, but they will have to continue to prove they deserve the College Football Playoff berth with wins over Utah, UCLA and Notre Dame later in the season. A Pac 12 Championship match with Washington or Oregon could be tough for Lincoln Riley and the Trojans.

Oklahoma Sooners (3-0)

September 17, 2022; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Gabi Ervin Jr. (22) tackles Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Garen Kanak (7) during the third quarter at Memorial Stadium. Dylan Wedger USA TODAY Sports

Chances of making the playoffs: 18%

The different thing about the Oklahoma Sooners is that the defense controls their opponent. Even in the first two games when UTEP and Kent State start moving the ball, OU shuts the door. They only allowed 10 points per game, and if you remove lost time points in the victory over Nebraska, the Sooners only allow 7.67 points per game.

How they perform against Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma State will tell the 2022 season for the Brent Venables and Sooners.

Texas Longhorns (2-1)

September 17, 2022; Austin, Texas, USA; The Texas Longhorns ran back Bijan Robinson (5) to touch down against UTSA Roadrunners during the fourth quarter at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. John Gutierrez USA Today Sports

Chances of making the playoffs: 16%

Texans looked good to start the season. Although they’re only 2-1, the Big 12 schedule offers a chance to make up for matches against ranked opponents such as Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Their road trip to Lubbock will provide a test, but if Texas looks like it did against Alabama, they should score a convincing win.

Penn State Nittany Lions (3-0)

Nicholas Singleton (10) celebrates his touchdown run at Penn State Nittany Lions as the Nittany Lions face Penn State at Jordan Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala, on Saturday, September 17, 2022. Jake Crandall / USA TODAY Network

Qualifier Chances: 15%

Here’s another Big Ten East team that has a tough skate ahead. The schedule is well set up for the Nittany Lions, who host Ohio State and Michigan State, but they’ll have to go on the road to play Michigan in Ann Arbor.

There is a high chance that the winner of the Big Ten East will lose one or more losses en route to the Big Ten game.

Ole Miss Rebels (3-0)

September 10, 2022; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Ole Miss Rebels running back Quinshon Judkins (4) runs the ball against the Central Arkansas Bears during the second quarter at Vaught-Hemingway. Matt Bush USA Today Sports

Chance of qualifying: 13%

The schedule is well set for Ole Miss to tour West SEC. They got Tulsa this week before Kentucky host No. 9. They also get No. 2 Alabama and Auburn home. Overland trips to College Station, Baton Rouge, and Fayetteville loom large for the rebels.

Tennessee Volunteers (3-0)

September 1, 2022; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee volunteer coach Josh Hubbell during the first half against the Ball State Cardinals at Neyland Stadium. Randy Sartin – USA TODAY Sports

Chance of qualifying: 13%

Josh Hubble has volunteers who play great football. The schedule is tough though. From now through November 5, Tennessee will play No. 22 in Florida, No. 2 in Alabama, No. 9 in Kentucky, and No. 1 in Georgia. Four of those five games are at home, but that’s a tough stretch.

Utah Utes (2-1)

September 10, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes sing and celebrate after their victory over the Southern Utah Thunderbirds at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Rob Gray – USA Today Sports

Chance of qualifying: 3%

Their early season loss to Florida isn’t a death sentence, but the Utah Utes will have to win from here and get plenty of help along the way. Ranked matches with USC and Oregon will help matters, but it’s an uphill battle from here.

Huskies of Washington (3-0)

September 10, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington Huskies Cameron Davis (22) scores a defeat against the Portland State Vikings during the first half at Alaska Airlines Stadium at Husky Stadium. Stephen Brashear – USA TODAY Sports

Qualifier Chances: 2%

Washington got off to a good start to the season with a big win over Michigan State, which were in the top 15 teams at the time. Michael Bennex Jr. plays great with the Huskies who are looking to return to their college football game for the first time since 2016.

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