What Louisville’s Loss to Houston Means for the College Football Playoff Picture

As little as we actually know about how the final playoff bracket will look, Tuesday’s rankings made things a little more clear. At No. 5 in the rankings, the Louisville Cardinals were right where they needed to be. That is, until Houston pulled off the upset in a dominating 36-10 win.

With Ohio State and Michigan slated to play next week, an opening in the top four was likely. It was assumed that Louisville could jump to that spot, but Thursday’s night loss all but puts the Cards out of contention. What does the playoff picture look like now, and which teams are in the best position to capitalize off Louisville’s loss?

Washington is the first team that comes to mind. The Huskies suffered an ugly loss to USC a week ago, but it helps that the Trojans are now ranked 13th in the rankings. Also, they have a chance to make up ground with possible ranked-matchups against Washington State and the Pac-12 Championship. The conference title will likely pair the Washington/Washington State winner against either USC or Colorado, and that could be another chance to take down a team in the top 25.

Other possibilities to consider are Wisconsin and Penn State. The Badgers control their own destiny in the West, and Penn State still has a chance to represent the East in Big Ten Championship Game. If Ohio State beats Michigan, the Nittany Lions will win the division as long as they beat Rutgers and Michigan State. If it ends up being Penn State versus Wisconsin, the committee will then have to consider a two-loss team.

I mean, is taking a two-loss team that far-fetched right now? Five teams in the top 10 lost last week, and this weekend has started the same with the fifth-ranked Cardinals going down. The first two years of the College Football Playoff has shown us that the committee values conference championships, and that could eventually be enough to boost Washington or even the Big Ten champ into the mix.

What about Oklahoma? Some are chattering for the Sooners, but not having a conference championship game has been the Achilles heel for the Big 12 in the playoff format. They have a chance to add to their resume with West Virginia and Oklahoma State up next, but not having that 13th game could be the sticking point for keeping them out. The fact that the committee ranked Wisconsin and Penn State ahead of Oklahoma this week is pretty indicative of how it feels about the Big 12.

Like Oklahoma, Colorado is a long shot, but winning the Pac 12 with two losses won’t get it done. If we are going to see a two-loss team get in, it will be from the Big 10. In another crazy scenario, the loser of the Ohio State-Michigan game could also get a look if that game is close. If Ohio State loses by a late field goal, do you actually think the committee would completely dismiss the Buckeyes? Or Michigan?

The moral of this season has been that anything is possible in college football. Alabama is almost a lock to get in, but the other three spots are still up for grabs. And Louisville’s loss opens up that door of possibility just a little more for teams like Washington, Wisconsin and Penn State.

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About Zach Gilliland

Contributor for All Sports Talk, Bleacher Report, and Saturday Edge. Senior at the University of South Carolina-Upstate, where I hope to graduate with a degree in Education and a minor in Journalism in 2017. If it's Saturday, I'm 100 percent likely to be sitting in front of a television watching college football. Follow me on Twitter @ZachGilliland93