Last week, I lamented the unusual lack of suspense in college football’s playoff race: Barring an abrupt plot twist down the stretch, the four teams most likely to comprise the final bracket — Alabama, Clemson, Washington, and the winner of a blockbuster Michigan/Ohio State tilt to close the regular season — all have such a straight path to the playoff that they’re already beginning to feel like foregone conclusions.
This week, that premise still holds. Even after watching both Clemson and Ohio State survive down-to-the-wire, overtime nail-biters last weekend, the Big Five are so entrenched at the top of the polls that it will take a major upset to shake any of them loose.
Then again, this is college football we’re talking about, where late-breaking twists, upsets, and earthquakes are par for the course. So this week, let’s dispense the status quo and embrace the chaos we all know is simmering just over the horizon: If one of the presumed frontrunners takes a hit over the next six weeks, who’s in the best position to fill the void?
Here are the top 10 midseason dark horses, ranked from least likely to crash the playoff field to most likely.