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College Football Spotlight: Get Ready To Debate One-Loss Playoff Contenders

We may not know much about what will happen with the College Football Playoff, but we do know at least two spots are going to be filled by teams with at least one loss. With no more undefeated teams in the Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12, and only two remaining undefeated teams in the SEC still with a head-to-head match-up to come, the debates over best one-loss teams are now officially on from coast to coast.

There are just four undefeated teams remaining in college football. Florida State, after edging Notre Dame in Tallahassee on Saturday night, looks to have an excellent chance to return for a third straight ACC Championship Game, doing so with an undefeated mark. Mississippi State and Ole Miss are each without a loss, but one of them is guaranteed a loss with the Egg Bowl at the end of the season, and it is still a realistic possibility that each takes a loss before then. Marshall may have the easiest path to an undefeated season, but unfortunately for the Thundering Herd, even a 13-0 season with a Conference USA championship may not get the team into the playoff. 

If the concern was how the regular season may take away from the value of the regular season, think again. If nothing else, more teams have some legs to stand on in the ongoing playoff discussion than we might have seen under the two-team BCS format. One loss no longer eliminates anyone from contention, especially with about half a season to play. Alabama and Auburn have just a good a chance to play in the playoff as Mississippi State and Ole Miss. So does Georgia. The Big 12 is up for grabs between Baylor, TCU and Kansas State, each with only one loss. Out west there are four teams with one loss in the Pac-12 and up north there are four more one-loss teams in the Big Ten.

And do not forget about one-loss Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish only lost by one score on a hotly debated officiating decision on the game-deciding play, and they did so on the road against the defending national champions. If Notre Dame goes on a run to end the season with one loss, the Irish will have just as good an argument to be in the playoff as any other one-loss team.

Which one-loss team has the edge? Is it Alabama, coming off a blowout win over Texas A&M and still getting Mississippi State and Auburn at home? What about Georgia, who also gets Auburn at home and an easier path out of the SEC East? How would the selection committee evaluate an Ohio State team that appears to be getting stronger every week and is a far cry from the team that took a hit in week two against Virginia Tech? Or will Michigan State stay just ahead of the Buckeyes and make the committee think about whether or not they deserve a chance despite losing to a potentially one-loss Oregon? Is the Big 12 really as good as it is cracked up to be to the point where a one-loss Big 12 champion should be guaranteed a playoff spot? 

Actually, nobody seems to have a real edge at this point in the season. So many pivotal games are still to come, and the temperature of the playoff change can be flipped and turned upside down any given week. Has the regular season been de-valued? Not a chance.

Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on

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