NCAA Football: 5 Surprise Teams With Serious Shots to Make College Football Playoff

The 2017 college football season has been mostly predictable thus far, with a few exceptions. While it wasn’t exactly shocking that Ohio State lost to fifth-ranked Oklahoma, it was shocking that the Buckeyes lost that game by 15 points. Sure, no one expected Florida State to have just one win through five weeks—you had to be a meteorologist and a fortune teller to see that in FSU’s cards—but that’s what happens when your quarterback goes down in week one. LSU’s fall from grace and USC’s early loss weren’t all that surprising, either.

We have, however, witnessed the rise of some surprising College Football Playoff contenders. With just five weeks of action in the books it may be premature, but as of today, these five teams look like legitimate candidates to crash the party.

TCU Horned Frogs

After unseating sixth-ranked Oklahoma State last weekend, the Horned Frogs are the most likely candidate to dethrone Oklahoma and make a run for the CFP. Head coach Gary Patterson has TCU back on the national radar in 2017 after taking care of the Cowboys by 13 on the road, but now it’s time for the Horned Frogs to prove they have staying power. Up this week is no. 23 West Virginia, who has scored 56-plus points in all three of its games since dropping its season opener to Virginia Tech. After their match-up with the Mountaineers, the Horned Frogs will not play another ranked team until they travel to Norman on Nov. 11 for a date with the third-ranked Sooners.

Avoiding potential upsets—a road trip to Kansas State and clash with Texas stand out as potential trap games—will be crucial if TCU wishes to have a legitimate shot at a playoff spot when it tangles with Oklahoma. The ten-team Big 12 does not appear to be a deep conference and the Horned Frogs do not have any major non-conference wins to boost their resume, so winning out—and doing so in style—will be their only way into the College Football Playoff.

Washington State Cougars

After last weekend’s upset of fifth-ranked USC, Washington State controls its own future in the Pac-12. The nation’s second-ranked passing attack does not have an easy road to the College Football Playoff, but if they manage to navigate it without falling, the Cougars are definitely in.

Wazzu’s convincing win over the 4-1 Oregon Ducks are this weekend proved they’re legit. They should be able to coast for a few weeks before finishing their season with a brutal stretch (vs. Stanford, at no. 20 Utah and at no. 6 Washington). You’ve gotta play the best to be the best.

Wisconsin Badgers

The Badgers certainly aren’t the sexiest team in the Big Ten, but they do have the clearest path to the conference title game and, subsequently, the CFP. Aside from being lucky enough to play in the Big Ten’s clearly inferior West division, Wisconsin is also fortunate enough to avoid both Ohio State and Penn State in divisional cross-over games. Currently, the only ranked team the Badgers will play all season is Michigan, which it gets at home in late November. By then, the Wolverines might not even be ranked in the top ten anymore.

Don’t let the weak schedule fool you, though. Wisconsin is a good football team. With an offense averaging 40.8 points per game and the nation’s fourth-best run defense, the Badgers appear to have what it takes to hang with any of the East division contenders in the Big Ten Championship.

Miami Hurricanes

Is “The U” officially back? Head coach Mark Richt and the Hurricanes officially put the ACC on notice with a win over rival Florida State this weekend and another over Georgia Tech the following week. The ACC Coastal division does not offer Miami many obstacles, but if Virginia Tech and Notre Dame remain in the top-25 until their clashes with the Hurricanes in early November, the Hurricanes will have at least two opportunities for statement wins during the regular season.

It’s far too early to tell if the Canes’ offensive attack will continue to light up the scoreboard, but if it can, Miami could give the Atlantic division winner a serious run for its money in the ACC Championship.

NC State Wolfpack

While many are already dreaming about a third straight College Football Playoff title game between Alabama and Clemson, the Wolfpack will have something to say about that. Since NC State dropped its season opener to the Gamecocks they have been on a tear, taking down Florida State, Syracuse and no. 17 Louisville. The 39-25 win over the Cardinals was particularly impressive, as NC State drove into Louisville territory in its first nine possessions of the game.

Considering the Wolfpack’s only loss came by seven points to a USC team they dominated in nearly every statistical category, they are not out of CFP contention. Wins in back-to-back games against Notre Dame and no. 2 Clemson would put them firmly in the mix.

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