The College Football Playoff is still well out of view, but after five weeks of the season, the path to the playoff is starting to take shape. As it stands now, according to ESPN’s Playoff Predictor, there are nine teams that have at least a 1 percent shot at winning the national championship at season’s end.
Of those nine teams, six are still undefeated. We know, however, from the past playoff scenarios that a team does not need to be undefeated to make it to the playoff and ultimately win the championship.
In 2017, none of the teams to make the playoff were undefeated. In 2016, 2015 and 2014, three of the four teams to make the playoff each season had one loss. The common denominator among all the teams, though, has been how well they had recruited the previous four recruiting classes.
As we outlined in February, only three teams — Michigan State, Washington and Oregon — averaged a recruiting class ranking lower than 15th for four years prior to their playoff berth.
In addition to those numbers, each of the past seven national champions has averaged a top-10 recruiting class for four years prior to winning the title, and all seven have landed at least one recruiting class ranked in the top four in the two years prior to their title win.
Now that we have the recruiting data and the percentages for each team’s chances to make the playoff and win the championship, we can cross-reference those numbers to see who really has the best shot to be one of the last four teams standing this season.