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A look at Tennessee football's chances for the College Football Playoff

After a loss to Georgia, the Vols look to make the College Football Playoff as a one-loss team that likely won't play in the SEC Championship game.
Credit: AP
Tennessee coach Josh Heupel watches from the sideline during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Georgia on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee suffered its first loss of the season 27-13 to the hands of Georgia on Saturday.

The Vols will lose their No. 1 ranking in the College Football Playoff when Tuesday rolls around and whether they will make the playoffs is more questionable now.

Their bid for an SEC Championship is now very unlikely as Georgia would have to lose their final two games in the SEC to Kentucky and Missouri while Tennessee would have to win out in the regular season against Missouri, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

The latter is likely, but the Bulldogs almost certainly won't lose out in SEC play.

So at best that leaves Tennessee as a one-loss team that didn't appear in their conference title game.

What are their chances of making it to the playoffs now? here's a breakdown.


Tennessee got some help on Saturday even though they lost.

Clemson, who was ranked No. 4 in the last rankings, got dominated in a 35-14 loss to Notre Dame. Alabama, who was ranked No. 6, in the last rankings, also lost in a thrilling overtime 32-31 win for LSU.

Either two things will happen to Tennessee as a result.

The Vols will manage to stay in the top four behind Georgia, Ohio State and Michigan in one scenario. The other is Tennessee falls to No. 5 behind TCU. who is undefeated in the Big 12 Conference.

It's very possible Tennessee falls to No. 4 because of how the playoff selection committee ranked TCU last week. They had TCU, to reiterate was (and still is) undefeated, at No. 7 behind Alabama who at the time had one loss.

Alabama's one loss was to No. 1 Tennessee on the road. Now Tennessee's one loss will be to likely No. 1 Georgia on the road. Will the committee rank the Vols ahead of TCU exactly like they did Alabama? That would be the more consistent result.


Two-loss teams aren't going to be considered for these scenarios on the basis a two-loss team has never made the College Football Playoff.

Georgia is pretty much a lock for the College Football Playoff as long as they don't colossally collapse in their final three games of the regular season.

That leaves three spots for contenders Tennessee, Big 10 champion, TCU or the Pac-12 champion.

In the Big 10, Ohio State or Michigan are the only teams that have a chance. Both are undefeated, but one will likely be knocked out of playoff contention when they play in the final game of the regular season.

It would help Tennessee if TCU didn't win the Big 12 Championship.

The three teams in Pac-12 Championship contention all already have one loss in Oregon, USC and UCLA.

One outside threat would be Ole Miss if they win the SEC Championship. They currently have only one loss. However, they lost to LSU this season and don't hold the tiebreak to represent the SEC West in the conference championship game as of now. They would need to win out in the regular season and hope LSU loses a game.


If Tennessee is No. 4 in the new CFP rankings- it will show what the committee thinks of its resume- which is impressive.

If Tennessee is a one-loss team by the end of the regular season, their only loss is to the No. 1 team in the country, plus the quality of wins they have, they'd have a very strong case.

The Vols have the best strength of schedule amongst any of those teams I named by a long shot. No other one-loss team will have a better resume than Tennessee whether they win a conference championship or not.


You may be wondering if a team who didn't compete in their conference championship with one loss ever make the College Football Playoff.

The answer is yes.

In the 2017-2018 season, Alabama did just that, getting ranked No. 4 in the College Football Playoff.

They went on to win the national championship by beating Georgia in overtime, 26-23.

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