Calculating Tennessee football wins needed for College Football Playoff at-large bid

How many wins does Tennessee need to earn an at-large bid in the 12-team College Football Playoff?
Austin Peay v Tennessee
Austin Peay v Tennessee / Eakin Howard/GettyImages

The 2024 season marks the first year of the 12-team College Football Playoff. The new extended playoffs bring playoff opportunities for teams across every conference in college football. 

It also allows Tennessee football to cement itself as a long-term CFP team by making its first CFP in 2024. Kelley Ford breaks down how many wins each team in college football will need to make the inaugural 12-team College Football Playoff using the KFord Ratings

Tennessee comes into the 2024 season in an interesting situation. Josh Heupel has guided the Vols to 20 wins over the past two seasons, which should set them up to be a CFP contender this year. According to Ford's rankings, it would take Tennessee ten wins to make the PlayoffsPlayoff.

Tennessee joins teams like Michigan, Texas, Ole Miss, Clemson, and Ohio State. SEC rivals Georgia, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Alabama, and Auburn would need nine wins, while Florida would only need eight wins. 

The system also heavily weighs the strength of the schedule, which is why Florida is alone with eight wins. They would have to beat at least four opponents: Miami, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Georgia, Texas, LSU, Ole Miss, and Florida State. 

Ford also noted that the order is important. Michigan State's nine wins would be more impressive than Tennessee's, which could serve as the tie-breaker between the two teams looking to get into the playoffs with nine wins. 

Where will the ten wins from Tennessee come from?

If Tennessee wants to reach ten wins this season, the Vols must start the year 3-0. That means beating Chattanooga, North Carolina State, and Kent State. This seems relatively simple, with the only potential hiccup coming against NC State. 

If Tennessee can do that and win its midseason game against UTEP, the Vols need to go 6-2 against its SEC opponents. 

The Vols will face Oklahoma, Arkansas, Florida, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Georgia, and Vanderbilt. Tennessee should be heavily favored against Arkansas, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt and should beat those three teams. 

That leaves three wins against Oklahoma, Florida, Alabama, Kentucky, and Georgia. The obvious season-breaking games on the schedule are Alabama and Georgia. If Tennessee can win at least one of those games, the Vols will likely lock themselves into the 12-team Playoff. 

If the Vols can't split those games, they have to win every other game on their schedule. Even with nine wins, Tennessee has a chance to make the 12-team Playoffs. 

Tennessee's floor sits at 8-4 with a ceiling of 11-1. I think Tennessee can beat Oklahoma, Florida, Kentucky, and Alabama, but we will have to see how the Vols fare in the SEC gauntlet under freshman quarterback Nico Iamaleava.

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