(updated Oct. 29)
Since the inception of the BCS in the late 1990s, college football seasons have taken on a different scope.
Making that national championship feel more tangible refocused many fans (and media coverage) from regional goals to claiming that one big prize at the end even if it wasn’t all that much less mythical than it was prior to 1998 when everything was decided by the polls.
The College Football Playoff isn’t perfect, but it’s an important step forward from the BCS, which usually left out deserving teams and sometimes included too many.
There was fear expanding the postseason would hurt the regular season, but that predictably has not been the case.
With five major conferences and just four playoff spots, interest in who is best from region to region remains high.
The best way to get into the playoff is to win one’s conference — but that’s no guarantee.
So which teams still have realistic playoff goals at this point in the season?
At the midway point of the season, we broke it into two groups: Primary and secondary.
The former are teams that are the ones we believe in the most. The latter are still in it mathematically but would need to pull off some upsets and/or get some help to find their way to football’s final four.
With a month to go in the regular season, let’s take a look at how things have changed.
Primary: Ohio State, Wisconsin (upgraded to primary; Badgers control own destiny)
Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State (downgraded from primary; basically out of division race and have no good wins)
Clemson, Miami (upgraded from secondary)
NC State, Virginia, Virginia Tech
TCU, Oklahoma State
So that’s 12 teams with any sort of shot as November arrives, but things are probably going to get very interesting because Miami still has to play Virginia Tech and Notre Dame plus in all likelihood Clemson in the ACC title game.
If Oklahoma, Ohio State and Notre Dame all finish with one loss, the committee could have an interesting decision to make.