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Tennessee’s Path to the College Football Playoff: Chaos Update for Week 9

What would help Tennessee’s playoff hopes most on October 29.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

For those new to this hypothetical conversation, start here: Could 11-2 Tennessee Make the College Football Playoff?

The Vols remained at #18 in the AP poll during the bye week with Houston and Arkansas falling out of the Top 25 while Auburn and Utah made moves up the ladder.

The best news for fans of chaos on an otherwise quiet weekend was Penn State taking down #2 Ohio State late last night. This removed half of the potential for the loser of Michigan/Ohio State to finish 11-1, who would still have a strong case to get in the playoff ahead of an 11-2 Tennessee. If Michigan takes care of business the Big Ten’s playoff hopes will fall exclusively to the Wolverines.

The best opportunities for UT-flavored chaos in Week 9:

  • #14 Florida and Georgia are in Jacksonville this week; the Vols of course need a Florida loss to regain control of their own destiny in the SEC East.
  • The remaining Big 12 undefeateds are both on the road with #8 Baylor at Texas and #10 West Virginia at Oklahoma State.
  • College GameDay is at Utah, where the #17 Utes will host #4 Washington in what could be a preview of the Pac 12 title game. FPI gives the Huskies a 25.3% chance of winning out. The good news here is these are the only two Pac 12 teams with less than two losses already.
  • #7 Nebraska is at #11 Wisconsin. If you assume Ohio State beats Nebraska in Columbus the following week, this is a de facto division title game. The Badgers could write this entire post about themselves as long as they’ll get another shot at Ohio State or Michigan in the Big Ten title game; all of these scenarios for Tennessee likely include a team like Nebraska or Wisconsin pulling an upset on the first Saturday of December.
  • The biggest threat to an 11-2 Tennessee not getting in remains an 11-1 Louisville, and given #3 Clemson is at #12 Florida State Saturday night it might be more likely the Tigers lose twice and Louisville gets in as ACC Champion. Florida State could finish quite high in the polls if they win out, but with two losses already I don’t see any way they’d go in over an SEC Champion Tennessee.

The first College Football Playoff rankings come out after next week, and it’ll be interesting to see where the Vols land and how much room they have to grow in front of them. Along those lines and with an FCS foe coming next, if the Vols wanted to play really well at South Carolina, that wouldn’t hurt.