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What has to happen for Ole Miss to make the College Football Playoff? Here are the hypotheticals

Lane Kiffin
Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics

Nothing is impossible.

That’s what Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin has been telling his team as the No. 9 Rebels still have a chance to make their first-ever playoff appearance as the home stretch of the 2023 season sets in.

Riding a five-game winning streak that has featured nail-biting victories over LSU, Arkansas, and Texas A&M, the “Lane Train” is continuing to garner steam in pursuit of becoming one of four teams selected by the College Football Playoff committee on December 3

The Rebels have made waves this season with quarterback Jaxson Dart ranking among the top signal-callers in the nation and All-American running back Quinshon Judkins on pace to surpass 1,000 yards on the ground for the second straight year. Ole Miss is also the only FBS team in the nation to have three wide receivers (Tre Harris, Jordan Watkins, and Dayton Wade) with over 600 yards at this point.

The addition of former Alabama defensive coordinator Pete Golding has paid dividends with Ole Miss sitting in the top half of the SEC in getting to the quarterback and interceptions. Golding’s squad ranks second in the conference in sacks with 31 and fourth in interceptions with 10.

The Rebels have been red hot in recent weeks. However, the team’s loss at Alabama early in the season remains a stain on a resumé that otherwise might be destined for the playoff. That doesn’t mean making the CFP is entirely impossible and here’s how.

Where do the Rebels currently stand?

For the playoff to even be an option, Ole Miss must win out and the task won’t be easy with a road match at No. 2 Georgia this weekend. If they can find a way to take down the defending national champions, the last two games against Louisiana Monroe and Mississippi State should be easier to bear but the big “if” still remains and that’s beating Georgia.

Of the 11 teams with the highest chances to make the playoff, Ole Miss stands at 10th with a 6% likelihood. Other teams on the list include:

  • No. 1 Ohio State (9-0, 6-0 Big 10) — 77%
  • No. 4 Florida State (9-0, 6-0 ACC) — 66%
  • No. 3 Michigan (9-0, 6-0 Big 10) — 43%
  • No. 8 Alabama (8-1, 6-0 SEC) — 41%
  • No. 7 Texas (8-1, 5-1 Big 12) — 40%
  • No. 2 Georgia (9-0, 6-0 SEC) — 39%
  • No. 6 Oregon (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12) — 38%
  • No. 5 Washington (9-0, 6-0 Pac-12) — 31%
  • No. 10 Penn State (8-1, 5-1 Big 10) — 21%
  • No. 9 Ole Miss (8-1, 5-1 SEC) — 6%
  • No. 11 Louisville (8-1, 5-1 ACC) — 2%

To earn a favorable nod from the CFP committee, not only must Ole Miss (8-1, 5-1 SEC) handle business down the stretch, but Kiffin’s squad will need teams ahead of them in the polls to lose a game or two here in the next few weeks.

With Alabama dropping its next two conference games unlikely, the Rebels’ chances of getting a spot in the SEC championship game is also unlikely. Thus, cards across the country will have to fall perfectly for Ole Miss to be one of possibly two SEC teams selected for the playoff.

What has to happen for Ole Miss to make the CFP?

No. 3 Michigan, a program under scrutiny for an alleged sign-stealing scheme, faces No. 10 Penn State before closing out the regular season against No. 1 Ohio State. Presuming the Buckeyes close out strong and win the Big Ten championship, a one-loss Michigan squad could be seen less favorably than the Rebels given the present circumstances surrounding the Wolverines’ program.

On the West Coast, both Oregon and Washington will be met with resistance from rivaling Pac-12 opponents in the final three weeks. The tail end of the Ducks’ campaign includes battles against USC, led by Heisman-winning quarterback Caleb Williams, as well as No. 12 Oregon State.

The undefeated Huskies will finish with No. 13 Utah, the Beavers, and in-state rival Washington State as they continue their impressive run that includes a win over Oregon. It’s no guarantee that both teams will win out, but in a hypothetical scenario where the two meet again in the Pac-12 Championship, Ole Miss would benefit greatly from Washington giving Heisman hopeful Bo Nix and the Ducks their second loss of the year. It would also be advantageous for the Rebels if the Huskies happened to drop a game down the stretch and were defeated by Oregon in a rematch.

Texas, a one-loss team currently in the driver’s seat of the Big 12, is anticipated to cruise through their remaining opponents. As things stand, though, two-loss Oklahoma State is on a five-game winning streak and could end up in the Big 12 Championship game. If the Cowboys were to make it that far and beat Texas once they get there, it would do nothing but help the Rebels’ chances.

Down in the Atlantic, Florida State meets two in-state rivals in Miami and Florida to close things out. A regular season loss, or two, paired with a possible defeat in the ACC Championship could put the Seminoles in jeopardy of being leaped by the Rebels.

Other hopes for Ole Miss could hinge on Alabama falling to a hypothetical one-loss Georgia in the SEC championship, giving the Crimson Tide their second loss of the year assuming they win their last three regular season games.

First thing’s first though and that’s Ole Miss having to beat Georgia this weekend if any of these hypotheticals are even worth considering come Monday. That game will kick off at 6 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on ESPN as well as participating SuperTalk Mississippi stations.

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