The Auburn Tigers suffered their second loss of the season on the road to Mississippi State which dropped them to #21 in both the Coaches and AP Poll. This puts a huge dent in Auburn’s playoff hopes. Many fans and experts are counting out the Tigers. The chances are slim, but there certainly is a path to the playoff; Auburn just needs a lot of help.
Auburn needs to win out
Plain and simple, the first thing Auburn must do is take care of their own business. The rest of October is manageable with Tennessee visiting Auburn, then a road trip to Oxford. The November stretch is where it gets tough.
Auburn faces Texas A&M who they have never beat at home. They first begin with a trip to Athens to face the currently ranked #2 Bulldogs. They then have a tune up game against Liberty at home before heading to Tuscaloosa for the Iron Bowl. A two-loss team has never made the College Football Playoff, but Auburn was almost the first to do so in 2017.
Alabama needs to lose twice
This is where we begin to get into things Auburn cannot control. Auburn needs Alabama to have one loss heading into the Iron Bowl. Who is that one loss to though?
I see two games Alabama could realistically lose. When they head into Death Valley for what will surely be the 7:00 CBS game and when Mississippi State takes the short bus ride to Tuscaloosa.
Of course, beating Alabama is no easy task as they have Heisman front runner Tua Tagovailoa leading the charge. Teams have to bring their A+ game to have a chance at defeating them.
Notre Dame needs to lose
Notre Dame will not play a conference championship game and that is what makes this step necessary. Notre Dame is sitting at 6-0 and #5 in the AP Poll and they have found their QB in Ian Book. The rest of their schedule is pretty mediocre.
They face Pittsburgh, Navy, Florida State, and Syracuse at home and have two road tests against Northwestern and USC in the final week of the season. Syracuse has proven their ability to hang with a top team as they narrowly lost to Clemson. Facing USC in the Coliseum could prove to be a challenge as well.
Washington must win PAC-12 and make CFP
Auburn defeated the Huskies in a tightly contested matchup to open the season. Washington was ranked #6 in the preseason and dropped as low as #11 in week 5. They have clawed their way back to the #7 spot. Washington’s remaining schedule is one of the toughest in the country.
Their remaining 6 games include road trips to #17 Oregon, California, and Washington State. The home games are not any easier as #19 Colorado, Stanford, and Oregon State will make the trip to Seattle. As of right now, the Washington game is the only top tier win that Auburn has, and the Huskies winning a PAC-12 championship with a CFP berth would solidify a stout resume for Auburn.
Chaos in the Big 12
The Big 12 is a three-team race right now between #6 West Virginia, #9 Texas, and #11 Oklahoma. West Virginia is 5-0 while Texas lost to Maryland in week 1 and Oklahoma lost to Texas in a shootout. In order for Auburn to make the CFP, the Big 12 has to eliminate themselves from the playoff.
It is hard to imagine the CFP Selection Committee ranking a two-loss Big 12 champ in the top 4. The best-case scenario for Auburn is that both teams in the Big 12 Championship already have 2 losses heading in to the game. If the game is between a 1 loss team and a 2-loss team, Auburn will need the 2-loss team to win as the 1 loss team would likely be in the driver’s seat for a spot in the CFP.
Even if all of this happens, Auburn may not make the SEC Championship. Auburn needs Alabama to lose once before the Iron Bowl, LSU to lose twice, and Mississippi State to lose once to win the west.
There would still be an argument for Auburn to make the College Football Playoff if they won their remaining games. It would come down to who is in front of them and how highly the selection committee thinks of Auburn.
All in all, it is going to take a lot of dominoes to fall for Auburn to sneak in to the College Football Playoff, but no scenario is too far out of reach.