There are still a couple more weeks until the College Football Playoff committee releases its initial rankings for the season, but the race for those precious four spots in the College Football Playoff is already in full swing. Seven weeks into the college football season, there are more than 10 teams that remain undefeated, not to mention a slew of one- and two-loss teams that believe they still have a chance to reach the four-team playoff at season’s end.
Our experts agree on the College Football Playoff matchups.
— ESPN (@espn) October 17, 2016
Each week brings a new set of games that will have an impact on what teams reach the College Football Playoff. Each week, teams have their hopes of reaching the playoff crushed, while other teams take one more step towards reaching the promised land. Here are five games in Week 8 that will have an impact on what teams reach the College Football Playoff in 2016.
NC State at Louisville
The Cardinals have one loss this season, but behind Heisman frontrunner Lamar Jackson, they are very much alive for a spot in the College Football Playoff. If Louisville’s lone loss of the season is a close game on the road against a Clemson team that goes undefeated, the playoff committee has to give them serious consideration. Of course, the Cardinals have to win out, and that includes this week against N.C. State. The Wolf Pack suffered a heart-breaking loss at Clemson last week. But in that game, they proved that they’re capable of going toe-to-toe with any team in the country. After a lackluster win over Duke last week, the Cardinals have to be ready to get a tough game from N.C. State this weekend. If Louisville loses, it will most likely knock them out of the playoff conversation.
TCU at West Virginia
Don’t look now, but West Virginia is 5-0 and creeping their way towards the College Football Playoff conversation. As SBNation asserts, West Virginia could secure a spot in the playoff if they go undefeated this year. The Big 12 isn’t particularly strong this season, so any loss by a Big 12 team will almost certainly rule them out of the playoff. However, a weak conference also makes it easier to go undefeated, and with no conference championship game, it’s even easier for Big 12 teams like West Virginia to avoid a loss before the playoff. This week may be West Virginia’s biggest test of the season, as they face a TCU team that has proven they can move the ball and score points against any team in the country. But a win for West Virginia and the playoff committee will have to start looking at the Mountaineers seriously.
— AP Top 25 (@AP_Top25) October 16, 2016
Purdue at Nebraska
Nebraska is another surprise team to enter the College Football Playoff conversation, as the Cornhuskers have started the season 6-0. On paper, this week’s game against Purdue should be an easy win, but for Nebraska, it’s a potential trap game. The Cornhuskers have road games against Ohio State and Wisconsin the next two weeks, so it would be easy to look past Purdue and assume an easy win this week. But if Nebraska wants to remain a part of the playoff conversation, they can’t slip up this weekend against Purdue.
Texas A&M at Alabama
This is the game of the week in college football this weekend, and it’s easy to see why CBS Sports believes the winner could go to the SEC Championship Game. Obviously, both Alabama and Texas A&M will have difficult games beyond this week, but the winner will be in the driver’s seat for the SEC West title. The winner may even be able to lose a game and still play for the SEC title and earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. Meanwhile, the loser will have no margin for error the rest of the season and will have to get plenty of help down the stretch to work their way into the four-team playoff. On top of all that, Alabama’s stout defense going up against A&M’s high-powered offense figures to be a fascinating matchup, and it has the potential to be one of the best games in college football this season.
Ohio State at Penn State
The Buckeyes survived a scare on the road last week against Wisconsin, and Urban Meyer’s team will now turn around and play in another hostile road environment this weekend when they play a night game in Happy Valley. Penn State is a flawed team, and talent-wise, they shouldn’t be able to match up against Ohio State. That being said, the Nittany Lions are undefeated at home this year, and they’ll be excited to play the role of spoiler. If the Buckeyes aren’t on top of their game, Penn State could surprise them, which would have a significant impact on Ohio State’s chances of reaching the College Football Playoff.
[Featured Image by Dylan Buell/Getty Images]