It’s not impossible for Texas A&M to make it into the College Football Playoff.
The Aggies are currently ranked No. 7 in the AP Poll, but do not control their own path to the SEC Championship game. But college football is often unpredictable. And as history tells us, one of the four unbeaten Power 5 teams will lose, as there has never been a season where there are four unbeaten teams at the end of the regular season.
We’ll start with the most clear cut path to the College Football Playoff and go to the more complicated scenarios.
Simple theory: Texas A&M wins out, Alabama loses twice.
We’ve seen that the College Football Playoff committee places value on confernce champions—TCU and Baylor were famously left out after splitting the Big 12 title in 2014—and getting another big game would help the Aggies. In this hypothetical scenario, let’s say the Aggies are playing a one-loss Florida team in the SEC Championship game. If the Aggies win that, they are in.
The biggest problem with this hypothetical is that it requires Alabama to lose two of its final four games. The Crimson Tide have won 20 games in a row and haven’t lost to a non-Ole Miss SEC team since 2013. The last time Alabama lost two or more regular-season SEC games was back in 2010.
A crazy theory: Alabama losses to Auburn, Texas A&M wins out, South Carolina and Kentucky finish 4-4 in the SEC, Georgia and Vanderbilt all finish 3-5 in the SEC, Tennessee goes 2-6 in the SEC. Texas A&M wins the coin flip and thus the SEC West.
So in this scenario, Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M all finish 7-1 in the SEC. Based on the tiebreaker scenario, it would come down to whichever team’s cross-divisional opponents has the best record. Auburn’s opponents are Georgia and Vanderbilt. Texas A&M and Alabama both played Tennessee. The Aggies played the Gamecocks and the Crimson Tide played the Wildcats.
In this hypothetical, the three teams cross divisional record would be 6-10. The next step in SEC tiebreakers is a three way coin flip. Texas A&M wins that and then wins the SEC.
A chaos theory: Alabama wins out, Texas A&M wins out, some combination of Louisville, Ohio State, and one of Washington, Michigan and Clemson to lose.
So in this scenario we would have two SEC teams in the picture. Let’s go the easy route and say the Cardinals lose to Houston. Ohio State then falls to Michigan. At the end of the regular season, A&M would be the top one loss team.
Alabama, Michigan, Clemson and Washington would all play in conference championship games the following weekend while the Aggies are off. With the Aggies sitting at the No. 5 spot, only one of those four teams would need to lose. Michigan and Washington have already had close cross-divisional games against Wisconsin and Utah, respectively. Clemson squeaked by North Carolina in the ACC Championship last year, and that Clemson team looked much better than this year’s team.
We’ll say Alabama goes undefeated because debating a one loss Alabama vs. a one loss Texas A&M would probably end in an Alabama victory. And if a one-loss Florida wins the SEC, then A&M is probably out anyway. But let’s say Washington falls to Utah or Colorado. Then Texas A&M can slide in as the No. 4 team and make it into the playoff.
There’s also a chance Alabama, Texas A&M, Michigan Clemson, Louisville, Ohio State, Florida all finish with one loss. If that is the case, Ohio State is probably in as a one loss Big Ten champ. Same for Florida in the SEC. A loss for Washington probably eliminates them at this point, so they’ll have to be unbeaten to get in. From there, good luck deciding between four teams for one spot.