What needs to happen for Alabama, Notre Dame, Cincinnati and more to make the CFP

    Bill Connelly is a staff writer for ESPN.com.

Each offseason, I write what I call the “ifs list.” I take all of the top national title contenders (using the offseason betting odds) in college football and ask myself how many “ifs” it would take me to make them national champions. How many key holes do they have to fill? How many questions do they need to find good answers for?

Granted, this year’s exercise, which took place in the weirdest offseason of most of our respective lifetimes, was a bit off-kilter, referencing players who wouldn’t even end up playing (hello, Jamie Newman) and schedules that wouldn’t actually come to fruition. Still, going through this exercise creates a hierarchy of sorts. The top teams might need only one or two “ifs” to break right, but others might need a lot more.

This offseason exercise serves a purpose in season, too. Using the Allstate Playoff Predictor as our guide — and ignoring, for now, all 2020-specific “if a certain number of games don’t get canceled”-style qualifiers — let’s see how many ifs it takes us to create champions out of the current field.

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