Matt Chatham, once an NFL linebacker and special teams player with the New England Patriots and New York Jets, now fulfills the role of a studio analyst for the Big Ten Network’s Football and Beyond.
Additionally, he serves as a color analyst for ESPN college football games.
On the previous Tuesday, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee released their inaugural rankings.
Then, on Thursday evening, Florida State triumphed in a fervent away game against Louisville, KY, securing a 42-31 victory over the Cardinals.
Despite holding the 2nd spot in the rankings, the future looks exceptionally bright for Florida State in college football.
They’ve already conquered their most formidable opponents, with just one regular season away game remaining against a mediocre Miami team.
Furthermore, they have the most favorable potential championship matchups among power conferences with a championship game.
Predicting the future in sports, like in weather, is known for its unpredictability.
It’s expected that there will be upsets and unforeseen twists in the final stretch of this college football season.
However, what we can do is analyze the remaining path for each of the seventeen teams currently in the committee’s rankings and estimate the likelihood of their success.
I would argue that all seventeen teams have a genuine shot at claiming one of the top four spots.
However, the degree of their legitimacy varies greatly depending on their remaining schedule and the unforeseeable events unfolding across the nation.
Below is an initial attempt at forecasting the prospects of each of these seventeen teams:
#1 Mississippi State: CLOUDY
Mississippi State is arguably the standout team in college football at the moment.
They’ve enjoyed a remarkable season, maintaining a flawless record thus far and securing impressive wins against LSU, Texas A&M, and Auburn.
Additionally, they boast a legitimate Heisman candidate in Dak Prescott.
However, their path ahead in college football is undeniably challenging.
They face away games against two of the current top 6 teams in the rankings, namely Alabama and Ole Miss.
If they make it to the potential SEC championship, they’d likely face off against a formidable Georgia team led by running back Todd Gurley. It’s a daunting lineup.
Winning two out of these three matchups would be a commendable feat in itself and would almost certainly secure them a spot in the top 4.
While they currently hold the top position, their future looks uncertain due to the formidable challenges that lie ahead in their schedule, not to mention those faced by other teams.
#2 Florida State: SUNNY
FSU, as the reigning national champion, maintains an unblemished record and faces the most manageable schedule among these seventeen teams.
While they could potentially face an upset before year-end, unpredictability is an inherent part of football.
Even in the unlikely event of a surprising loss, as long as it’s not a significant upset, their status as defending champions and impressive track record thus far should comfortably secure them a spot in the final four.
The outlook for FSU is undeniably bright, with a forecast calling for plenty of sunshine.
#3 Auburn: CLOUDY
Auburn finds itself in a situation akin to Mississippi State. Unfortunately, Auburn’s remaining schedule is even more challenging than MSU’s.
They face all the challenges that the Bulldogs do, plus an away game against Georgia.
While I’m impressed with the team’s composition, they have a formidable lineup ahead.
Their strength as a team prevents this from being a “Showers Likely” scenario, but if they manage to navigate this stretch and conclude the season with only one loss, it would be nothing short of a minor miracle.
Despite their commendable performance thus far, there loom deep, foreboding clouds on the horizon for the Tigers.
#4 Ole Miss: PARTLY SUNNY
Could it be partly cloudy? I’ve never quite grasped the distinction, but Ole Miss stands before a promising opportunity. It’s a bit unclear whether that opportunity is more overcast than bright…
Following a narrow loss at LSU, where Bo Wallace’s performance was a bit uncertain, the current state of the team might suggest a potentially cloudy outlook.
However, if we focus on the path itself, Ole Miss has the advantage of facing its two formidable opponents at home, taking on Auburn and Mississippi State.
It’s undeniably a challenging path, but this is an encouraging aspect, as the teams they’re vying with for those four spots don’t share the same benefit moving forward.
The forecast for Ole Miss is currently partly sunny, considering the home advantage and their noteworthy victory against Alabama.
If there’s a discussion about a two-loss SEC team in the event of upheaval in other conferences, Ole Miss could find itself in a very favorable position.
#5 Oregon: PARTLY SUNNY
In contrast to Ole Miss, Oregon’s partly sunny forecast leans more towards solidly sunny.
Their most brutal remaining game is against Utah, unquestionably a formidable opponent.
However, Utah may struggle to keep up with an Oregon offense currently in peak form.
It’s highly improbable that a two-loss Pac-12 team will make it to the final four, but the Ducks have the most manageable route among Pac-12 teams to finish the season with just one loss.
#6 Alabama: PARTLY SUNNY
Despite being two spots apart in the standings, Alabama finds itself in a position similar to Ole Miss.
They have a substantial amount of work ahead, but their most challenging matchups will be on their home turf, facing off against Mississippi State and Auburn.
If they emerge as a one-loss team, and Ole Miss does the same (with Ole Miss holding the head-to-head advantage), Alabama’s best hope might be to observe Ole Miss losing to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
Currently, Alabama appears to have a better shot at navigating its demanding schedule compared to Ole Miss. However, Ole Miss still holds a significant advantage.
The battle between these two teams for a spot in the top four could be the most captivating storyline remaining in the college football season.
#7 TCU: MOSTLY SUNNY
It might come as a surprise to some, but I’d say TCU has the best shot among the remaining teams (excluding FSU) to secure one of the final four spots.
They’ve already faced the most formidable challenge in their schedule, suffering a narrow loss to Baylor.
This weekend, they face another severe test at West Virginia, but their remaining hurdle against Kansas State will be on their home turf.
While other power conferences are busy with championship games, TCU will face Iowa State at home.
The journey is far from over for the Horned Frogs, but if they manage to leave Morgantown with a win this weekend, they have as reasonable a chance for success as anyone left in this college football race.
#8 Michigan State: PARTLY SUNNY
The Spartans hold the eighth spot for a reason – they haven’t secured as many high-quality wins.
Nevertheless, they find themselves in a reasonably promising position, facing a challenging matchup against Ohio State this weekend, albeit on their home turf in East Lansing.
From then on, their only potential stumbling block would be against Nebraska, a team they’ve already defeated and one that appears to be stuck in an impressive yet one-dimensional offensive style.
Despite the prevailing perception of the Big Ten being somewhat underappreciated compared to other power conferences, Michigan State has a path that’s partly sunny toward the final four.
This is further bolstered by the somewhat favorable trajectory of the team they lost to, the Oregon Ducks.
#9 Kansas State: SHOWERS LIKELY
Kansas State enjoys a significant edge when playing at home in Manhattan.
However, they face a tough challenge with three of their most demanding games scheduled on the road, facing off against TCU, Baylor, and West Virginia.
Their lone defeat came at home against an SEC powerhouse in Auburn.
If, by some stroke of luck, they manage to secure one of the final four spots, it would be akin to bringing the rain back into the clouds.
While it’s been a commendable year for the Wildcats thus far, this gloomy forecast is among the most certain of the seventeen teams in contention.
#10 Notre Dame: CLOUDY
I believe the Irish deserve a higher ranking, though they currently aren’t placed there.
Will teams drop below them? Almost certainly. However, Notre Dame’s path is uncertain, featuring challenging away games against Arizona State and USC.
Additionally, they lack a championship game to make a final statement.
Furthermore, they’ll face a home game against a formidable Louisville squad known for pressuring quarterbacks, a factor that could lead to the nerve-wracking moments Irish fans associate with Everett Golson.
The Other Seven
In no specific order, Georgia, Arizona, and Utah face particularly challenging remaining schedules, putting them under the “Thunderstorms Likely.”
Baylor and to a somewhat lesser extent, Arizona State, are the two teams outside of the current top 10 with a reasonable chance at securing a spot in the top four.
However, they both require assistance and have their demanding games ahead. As it stands, they are firmly classified as “Cloudy.”
If Nebraska or Ohio State were to conclude the season with just one loss, they would be more susceptible to a 2-loss SEC argument than Michigan State.
Therefore, their outlook remains “Mostly Cloudy” at this point.
We’re just entering the inaugural week of what promises to be an exciting stretch of college football action, and it’s almost sure that the forecasts will shift.
However, one thing is evident: the chances of clinching one of those coveted four playoff spots are not uniform as we gaze into the future of college football.