We’re not expecting anything about the 2020 college football season to look or feel normal, including the fact that Week 1 is in the books and not every team has played yet — excluding those that have opted out of the season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But without fail, the teams with the best chances of making the College Football Playoff this year — which will still happen as long as the season continues — feature some familiar faces. And that’s even without the Big Ten or Pac-12, which are hoping to play a football season at some point in 2021 (or maybe sooner).
So even though it’s ridiculously early in this strange football season, here’s a look at the four teams with the best chances to make the College Football Playoff after Week 1, according to ESPN’s Playoff Predictor, which considers the same factors the playoff committee does. These teams are used to being among those with at least the top-5 best chances, so they’re hardly surprises, even if they have yet to play a game.
1. Clemson Tigers
Playoff: 88 percent
National championship game: 63.5 percent
Win championship: 41.3 percent
First game: At Wake Forest (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET)
2. Alabama Crimson Tide
Playoff: 76.5 percent
National championship game: 52.3 percent
Win championship: 29.8 percent
First game: At Missouri (Sept. 26)
Playoff: 39.9 percent
National championship game: 18.4 percent
Win championship: 7.8 percent
First game: At Arkansas (Sept. 26)
4. Oklahoma Sooners
National championship game: 10.7
Win championship: 3.3
First game: Against Missouri State (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET)
Beyond the top-4 teams is where things get fun. Most of the remaining teams rounding out the top-10 also haven’t played yet, and half are from the SEC, which is also pretty standard this early in the season.
But teams like Texas and UCF are getting stronger consideration from the Playoff Predictor algorithm in part because only a handful of conferences are playing a fall season. And in the case of BYU — which absolutely rocked Navy on Monday, 55-3 — a big win can lead to an even bigger boost.
Without teams like Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State or Washington, among others, to fill the top spots on this list, the Longhorns and Knights are moving up.
Prior to their first games in 2019, neither Texas nor UCF were among the top-15 teams with the best playoff chances. And even when UCF did make it on the board after a few weeks, its chances remained in single digits.
Not this year. And UCF is pretty pumped about it.
Here’s the rest of the top-10 teams with the best chances to make the playoff, per ESPN’s Playoff Predictor.
5. Texas Longhorns
Playoff: 28.7 percent
National championship game: 10.1 percent
Win championship: 3.2 percent
First game: Against UTEP (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET)
6. UCF Knights
Playoff: 27.2 percent
National championship game: 8.1 percent
Win championship: 2.5 percent
7. Auburn Tigers
Playoff: 26.1 percent
National championship game: 10.7 percent
Win championship: 3.8 percent
8. LSU Tigers
Playoff: 23.7 percent
National championship game: 9.4 percent
Win championship: 3.3 percent
9. Florida Gators
Playoff: 22.5 percent
National championship game: 8.2 percent
Win championship: 2.9 percent
10. BYU Cougars
Playoff: 8.3 percent
National championship game: 1.3 percent
Win championship: 0.3 percent
First game: W vs. Navy, 55-3
After dominating Navy, BYU jumped 57 spots with its playoff chances, surely aided by the lack of Big Ten and Pac-12 programs. Teams that missed being among the top-10 include Texas A&M, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State and Louisville.
As ESPN previously noted, its Playoff Predictor is based on factors such as strength of record, number of losses, conference championships, the Football Power Index and the selection committee’s past behavior.