The College Football Playoff seems like it is ages away, but it is never too early to start speculating about which teams can make it through to the promised land. There will be a lot of predictions of who will make it, but sometimes the teams who make it aren’t necessarily on peoples’ radars at the start of the season. Here are some teams who could surprise people this season.
All teams mentioned have odds of 15/1 (according to WestGate) or worse of making the College Football Playoff.
CFP Odds- 20/1
The Big Ten West always has a team that wins a lot of games and gets ranked highly, even if the schedule isn’t the toughest. If this team happens to win out with their easy schedule then win the Big Ten Championship Game they are in the College Football Playoff (CFP).
Wisconsin could be that team this year. The Badgers have Jonathan Taylor back who should be able to establish a great running game. They’ll need way better quarterback play this season and for some players to step up on the defensive side of the ball. If they get better and a few things go there way, they could wind up in the Big Ten Championship Game at the end of the season.
The schedule does have some tough games on it for Wisconsin, but a lot of them are at home. They play Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa all at home. That leaves one big game at Ohio State. The Badgers will need to defend Camp Randall, but could even get away with one loss to the Buckeyes if they win the Big Ten Championship.
Iowa State Cyclones
CFP Odds- 20/1
If Texas and Oklahoma slip up in the Big 12, the Cyclones could be right there to win the Big 12. Doing so with only one loss, could get them into the CFP. As a program on the rise, it could be possible, even if it isn’t probable.
The Cyclones found their quarterback in Brock Purdy, who is only a sophomore, last season. They did lose David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler, but there are still a few playmakers on offense. The defense was one of the best in the Big 12 and has several returning starters, so it could even improve.
Iowa State gets two of their toughest three games at home in Iowa and Texas. They will have to travel to Norman to play Oklahoma, but they did win there two years ago. To get to the CFP, they’ll need to get through the regular season with just one loss, then win the Big 12 Championship Game, which will likely be against Oklahoma or Texas.
Washington State Cougars
CFP Odds- 20/1
Washington State does play in a tough Pac-12 North, but they could come out on top. Oregon went 9-4 last season and need to make a huge jump before they are considered contenders. Washington lost a lot from their defense, while Stanford also has a lot to figure out before the season. There could be some opportunities for the Cougars.
Mike Leach’s squad won 11 games last year and has plenty of returning talent. They need to find a new quarterback, but Leach has done that successfully year after year in Pullman. If the offense can stay high-powered and the defense can stay successful, the Cougars could win a lot of games.
They’ll have to be road warriors if they want to make the CFP. The Cougars have games on the road against Houston, Utah, Arizona State, Oregon and Washington. Their home games are relatively easy, with only Stanford being a huge hurdle. If Washington State can get out of their regular season with just one loss, and get a lot of help from other conferences falling off, the Cougars could win the Pac-12 Championship and be in CFP contention.
CFP Odds- 40/1
If Wisconsin can get out of the season in the Big Ten West relatively unscathed, so too can the Hawkeyes. They will have to hold off a lot of teams in their division that could win some games, but Iowa is a step ahead of most other teams in the Big Ten West.
The Hawkeyes don’t have a lot of returning starters, but they do have some talent back on the offensive line and starting quarterback Nate Stanley back. Their defense also lost a lot, but they got a lot of players experience last year on that side of the ball. A.J. Epenesa will be one of the best defensive players in the country at defensive end.
They have tough road games this season, but all of them are winnable. They play at Iowa State, at Michigan, at Northwestern, at Wisconsin and at Nebraska. They don’t have many tough home games, but do have Penn State coming to town. It won’t be easy, but Iowa should be tough in the trenches and could make the Big Ten Title Game. If they do so with only one loss (maximum) they could head into Indianapolis with a chance to make the CFP.
CFP Odds- 60/1
Virginia went 8-5 last season and Bronco Mendenhall has them getting better each year. They are in the ACC Coastal, which is very winnable. With that, they can win a lot of the games on their schedule this season and could be ranked highly by the end of the year.
They have one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country in Bryce Perkins and a handful of other returning starters on the offensive side of the ball. On defense, they have over half of their starters back, which is good considering they were a solid unit last year.
The schedule is what makes Virginia a team that can make some noise this season. They have tough road games at Notre Dame and at Miami. Other than that, they really should be favored in most of their games. If they can win 11 or 12 games in the regular season, then knock off what will likely be Clemson in the ACC Championship Game, the Cavaliers could be the biggest surprise team in CFP history.
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