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CFP Chaos Theory: How Michigan, Ohio State can both make the playoff

Here’s a look at how the last few games of the college football season could send the entire sport into a spiral.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Michigan
Michigan Wolverines running back Blake Corum rushes in the second half against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Stadium.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The first domino of the 2023-24 College Football Playoff fell Saturday afternoon when No. 3 Michigan took out No. 2 Ohio State in “The Game” for the third straight year, sending the Wolverines to the Big Ten title game for date with Iowa. The Buckeyes will now have to sit back and root for chaos to have a chance at a national title.

While this piece is all about embracing the unpredictable nature of college football, we’re going to abide by some basic rules. There will be no ties, and we will not be picking Iowa to to win the Big Ten. Here’s a look at some chaos scenarios as we head towards championship week.

Chaos Theory 1

Michigan beats Iowa
Alabama beats Georgia
Louisville beats Florida State
Oregon beats Washington
Texas beats Oklahoma State

Projected CFP field: Michigan, Alabama, Texas, Oregon

There’s some easy narratives for Oregon and Texas to make the final field over Florida State and Ohio State despite everyone being a 1-loss team, assuming the Noles handle Florida. The Ducks and Longhorns would both be conference champions, and Oregon would be vanquishing a team it lost to earlier in the season. Alabama gets in as a one-loss SEC champion, and Michigan is the lone unbeaten team in the field.

Chaos Theory 2

Michigan beats Iowa
Alabama beats Georgia
Florida State beats Louisville
Oregon beats Washington
Texas beats Oklahoma State

Projected CFP field: Michigan, Alabama, Florida State, Texas

Assuming Florida State beats Florida and goes on to defeat Louisville in the ACC title game, it’ll be very difficult for the committee to leave the Seminoles out even with Jordan Travis done. After all, winning a conference title does mean something. The discussion would come down to Texas and Oregon in this scenario and while the Ducks have a revenge win in the title game, only the Longhorns would have a win over another CFP team with their victory at Alabama.

Chaos Theory 3

Michigan beats Iowa
Alabama beats Georgia
Louisville beats Florida State
Washington beats Oregon
Oklahoma State beats Texas

Projected CFP field: Michigan, Alabama, Washington, Ohio State

This is where Travis being out really hurts Florida State. A 1-loss Seminoles team that doesn’t win the ACC might have held up against a 1-loss Ohio State if the star quarterback was healthy. However, the Buckeyes would have the better loss in this scenario and would likely get into the final field over a 1-loss Georgia side. Georgia’s loss would also be respectable but the committee might value Ohio State’s win over Notre Dame more than Georgia’s win over Missouri. If Oregon beats Washington in this scenario, the Ducks likely replace the Huskies in the final field. The question will be whether Ohio State’s loss in a regular season game holds more weight than a loss in a championship game.