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Each College Football Playoff contender’s biggest threat, per the numbers

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Each top-25 team still has a long way to go.

CFP National Championship Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

We’re still a long way from Selection Sunday, but it’s never too early to think about Playoff paths. Let’s look at the hardest games left for each team in the current AP Top 25, based partly on S&P+ win probabilities. S&P+ is explained here, and here’s how all 130 FBS teams stack up at the moment.


Bama’s currently a double-digit favorite over any team it could possibly play, so threats are relative. A couple on the schedule stand out: a road trip to LSU on Nov. 3, and the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa during Rivalry Week. S&P+ gives Alabama a 76 percent chance to beat LSU next month, but I’d be more nervous about Auburn. S&P+ thinks Bama has an 81 percent chance to beat the Tigers, but I think that’s a bit high.


Who would have thought Kentucky — KENTUCKY — would be the Dawgs’ toughest opponent, per S&P+?! As amazing as that is, Georgia still has to face both LSU and Auburn, which are a lot scarier than Kentucky, imo.

Ohio State

Naturally, S&P+ pegs Michigan as the Buckeyes’ biggest remaining test. No qualms there, but that trip to Michigan State on Nov. 10 is certainly one to keep an eye on.


The Tigers have an 80 percent chance or better in every game remaining. Per S&P+, Clemson has an 82 percent chance to beat NC State on Oct. 20. The Wolfpack played Clemson tough the last two seasons, though.


S&P+ gives the Tigers just a 24 percent chance to beat Alabama. Bama’s seven-game win streak against LSU gives the Tide at least a psychological edge of some kind.

Notre Dame

It’s only Week 6, and the Fighting Irish have already gotten through the toughest part of their schedule after beating Stanford and Michigan. ND’s lowest win probability remaining is against USC (65 percent) on the road, with Week 6’s trip to Virginia Tech only slightly easier.


The Sooners look like one of the Big 12’s best chances to make it into the Playoff, but the rest of the schedule looks tough. After Texas, OU has to face TCU on the road and Oklahoma State at home. S&P+ has West Virginia as OU’s hardest test remaining, but I wouldn’t sleep on that TCU game.


The Iron Bowl’s in Tuscaloosa this year, so yeah, Alabama’s the biggest threat, but the Tigers gotta play Georgia (30 percent) in Athens, too.

West Virginia

The Mountaineers have a brutal stretch to close out this season, with TCU at home, at Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma at home. WVU has a 42 percent win probability against OU, but I’d put that even lower, considering who the Mountaineers play before that.


The Huskies have equal win probabilities (74 percent) against Oregon and Washington State on the road. Aside from what should be a competitive game against Stanford on Nov. 3, this sounds correct.

Penn State

Although the Nittany Lions’ first loss just came against Ohio State, the door’s still very much open for Penn State, like we’ve seen before. The toughest test remaining is on the road against Michigan (44 percent). Pretty obvious there.


Just like 2017’s claimed title season, the Knights are off to an undefeated start. Per S&P+, the biggest remaining hurdle is against USF, but the trip to Memphis next weekend, a 66 percent win probability game, is one to keep an eye on. (Ultimately, UCF’s biggest Playoff hurdle will probably be the committee itself.)


The Wildcats’ fun and confusing undefeated season won’t last forever, right? It looks like it could end on Nov. 3 against Georgia. S&P+ gives the Wildcats 37 percent odds. Other than that, UK’s run is really feasible.


Stanford has to play at Washington on Nov. 3, easily the toughest remaining game.


Surprise, it’s Ohio State! S&P+ gives the Wolverines a 37 percent win probability on the road.


The remaining schedule includes trips to Michigan and Penn State, both games in which S&P+ gives Wisconsin a 34 percent chance. My money’s on Michigan as more of a threat.


The Canes sure do benefit from being in the ACC Coastal. The biggest test left is a trip to Virginia Tech on Nov. 17. S&P+ gives the Canes a 59 percent win probability.


The Ducks have just 26 percent odds against Washington on Oct. 13 — aside from a trip to Washington State the week after, the Huskies will easily be the Ducks’ biggest threat.


The Longhorns have 25 percent odds against Oklahoma this weekend, but don’t forget about the trip to Oklahoma State on Oct. 27. But the Sooners are definitely Texas’ biggest threat.

Michigan State

Facing Ohio State at home sounds like a pretty obvious threat, right? Actually, S&P+ gives the Spartans a 32 percent chance to beat the Buckeyes at home on Nov. 10, but 28 percent to beat Penn State in Happy Valley on Oct. 13. Give me OSU here, even if it’s at home.


The Buffs have to travel to Washington on Oct. 20, easily the biggest test remaining. S&P+ has Colorado with a 15 percent chance there.


The Gators have just a 30 percent chance to beat Georgia in Jacksonville next month, but the upcoming game against LSU’s always a big one. Still, Georgia’s in the East and LSU is not, so the divisional game is definitely more of a factor here.

NC State

It’s Clemson — expecting anyone else? NC State has just 18 percent odds for its trip on Oct. 20.

Virginia Tech

Yes, the Hokies were upset by a 1-4 Old Dominion team, so I doubt the Hokies can make it in, but Notre Dame is easily VT’s toughest remaining opponent.

Oklahoma State

The biggest threat is Bedlam, which is in Norman this year. S&P+ gives Oklahoma State a 33 percent chance.