The only 14 teams that can win the College Football Playoff

play
College football's first week holds playoff implications (1:43)

Heather Dinich examines the Week 1 College Football Playoff implications for some major teams. (1:43)

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said in 2015, when undefeated Clemson steamrolled into the national championship game against Alabama, that he knew as early as spring practice that his team was going to have a chance "to be in the hunt."

In 2016 and 2017, he had hunches too.

After advancing to the College Football Playoff semifinals in three of the past four seasons, Swinney has pinpointed several factors helpful in identifying a contender: depth at critical positions, a little bit of luck when it comes to injuries, and being a well-rounded team that can win in multiple ways.

"I always say there's probably 10 or 12 teams that really have a shot," he said. "We just want to be in that group."

Clemson isn't just "in that group" -- the Tigers are leading it heading into Week 1 this season.

According to ESPN Analytics research, there are 19 teams with at least a 1 percent chance of reaching the playoff, 14 of which have at least a 1 percent chance of winning it all -- and Clemson leads the pack. The Tigers have a 66 percent chance to reach the semifinals and a 24 percent chance to win the national title. Clemson's early-season edge is because the Tigers are such a heavy favorite to win the ACC. ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) gives Clemson a 69 percent chance to win its league -- the highest of any team in FBS.

Before you crown Clemson, though, look at the rest of the field in ESPN's Playoff Predictor, which answers the question: Who will make the playoff on selection day? Heading into Week 1, three of the top 10 teams -- Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State -- are all in the Big Ten East.

"Is it challenging? Yeah. But we embrace that challenge," Penn State coach James Franklin said. "That's what makes it so exciting about being at Penn State and that's why players come here to play in those types of games, but that's also why we have to be very strategic about what we do out of conference, and that's what we try to do. I try to be as strategic as we possibly can with every aspect of the program. Scheduling is one part of that to give us the best chance to be as successful as we all want to be."

Here are the 14 teams with the best chance to win the national title, according to the research, and how trends from the first four years on the playoff could work in their favor.

1. Clemson Tigers
Chance to make playoff: 66 percent
Chance to win the title: 24 percent
Strength of schedule is integral to the committee's debates each week, and Clemson enters the season No. 15 in the country in SOS rank, according to FPI. Clemson faces Florida State in Tallahassee this year, and plays two SEC teams, Texas A&M and rival South Carolina. All past 16 CFP semifinalists played a regular-season schedule ranked among the top 55 in FBS. The Tigers also have a coaching pedigree working in their favor, as 13 of the 16 semifinalists had a head coach that had previously won a conference title.

2. Alabama Crimson Tide
Chance to make playoff:
47 percent
Chance to win the title: 14 percent
The Tide's strength of schedule is No. 28, according to FPI, with November games against three opponents currently ranked in the AP Top 25 (at No. 25 LSU, vs. No. 18 Mississippi State, and vs. No. 9 Auburn). Although Alabama didn't win its division last year, coach Nick Saban has still taken the Tide to the playoff in each of the past four seasons. Regardless of who emerges as the full-time starting quarterback, Alabama will have another bonus in the experience of either Tua Tagovailoa or Jalen Hurts.

3. Georgia Bulldogs
Chance to make playoff:
45 percent
Chance to win the title: 13 percent
Georgia could have an opportunity for some eye-opening wins, which has been a common denominator for the past 16 semifinalists, all of which entered bowl season with at least two wins over AP-ranked opponents. Georgia is favored by FPI to win at No. 25 LSU on Oct. 13 and against No. 9 Auburn on Nov. 10. Coach Kirby Smart was in only his second season last year when he guided Georgia to the playoff, but he does have the championship experience.

4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Chance to make playoff:
42 percent
Chance to win the title: 10 percent
Notre Dame ranks sixth in FPI thanks largely to a defense that ranked 10th in unit efficiency last season and returns nine starters. In addition, it ranks 20th in strength of schedule. A possible 11-1 record against a lineup that currently includes five ranked opponents would be nearly impossible for the committee to ignore.

5. Washington Huskies
Chance to make playoff:
41 percent
Chance to win the title: 10 percent
It starts with senior star power. Washington quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin are both Heisman hopefuls, and 13 of the past 16 CFP participants have had a player finish in the top 10 of the Heisman Trophy voting that season. Washington's SOS sits at No. 45, but the Huskies do have an enormous opportunity for a statement win in the season opener against No. 9 Auburn. Fifteen of the past 16 semifinalists had a regular-season nonconference win against a Power 5 opponent. (Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech in 2014 and still got in.)

6. Ohio State Buckeyes
Chance to make playoff:
37 percent
Chance to win the title: 10 percent
The Buckeyes still have Urban Meyer, even if not for the first three games. According to FPI, there's a 95 percent chance Ohio State wins its first two games and a 79 percent chance it goes 3-0 before Meyer's return. With four opponents currently ranked, including No. 16 TCU, Ohio State has opportunities to earn its way into the top four in spite of the offseason storylines.

7. Oklahoma Sooners
Chance to make playoff:
23 percent
Chance to win the title: 4.1 percent
The Sooners have the No. 24 SOS in the country, are favored to win every game by at least 64 percent, and have a Heisman contender in running back Rodney Anderson. Their Sept. 8 foe, UCLA, is a strong Power 5 nonconference opponent that could help separate the Sooners in a résumé debate, should they win.

8. Penn State Nittany Lions
Chance to make playoff:
21 percent
Chance to win the title: 4 percent
It starts with senior QB Trace McSorley, whose 81.5 Total QBR last season ranked ninth in FBS and second in the Big Ten. McSorley's leadership, coupled with what should be an improved offensive line, can help offset the losses of RB Saquon Barkley, WR DaeSean Hamilton and TE Mike Gesicki. The Nittany Lions are favored by FPI in every game but one, the Nov. 3 road trip to Michigan (44.6 percent chance to win).

9. Auburn Tigers
Chance to make playoff:
17 percent
Chance to win the title: 3.6 percent
None bigger than experience. Auburn ran through a nearly identical gantlet of a schedule last year and narrowly missed becoming the first two-loss team in the playoff. With a marquee opener against Washington and November road trips to Georgia and Alabama, Auburn will either play itself right in or out of the top four. Auburn also returns starting QB Jarrett Stidham, whose downfield passing was a major factor in the Tigers winning the SEC West last season.

10. Michigan State Spartans
Chance to make playoff:
15 percent
Chance to win the title: 2.6 percent
The No. 22 SOS in the country includes a nonconference game against Arizona State, a road trip to Penn State, and home games against Ohio State and Michigan. The Spartans lost only four starters from last year's 10-win team and return starting quarterback Brian Lewerke.

11. Wisconsin Badgers
Chance to make playoff:
11 percent
Chance to win the title: 2 percent
Sophomore RB Jonathan Taylor is No. 2 on ESPN's first Heisman Watch, and he will have arguably the nation's best offensive line blocking for him. If Wisconsin enters the Big Ten championship undefeated like it did last year, its chances of reaching the playoff will increase to 66 percent, along with an 11 percent chance to win the national title.

12. Michigan Wolverines
Chance to make playoff:
7 percent
Chance to win the title: 1 percent
The Wolverines' SOS is currently ranked No. 4 -- four! -- by FPI, and they begin Saturday at Notre Dame. Michigan also faces Michigan State and Ohio State on the road this year. Of course, that only works in their favor if they win those games.

13. Miami Hurricanes
Chance to make playoff:
7 percent
Chance to win the title: 1 percent
Coach Mark Richt led the Canes to the ACC championship last year but came up short to Clemson. FPI favors Miami in every game this season, including the season opener against LSU (65.7 percent chance to win).

14. Stanford Cardinal
Chance to make playoff:
5 percent
Chance to win the title: 1 percent
Bryce Love, Bryce Love and Bryce Love. The senior RB is leading the Heisman Watch after finishing second in the voting last year and turned down millions in the NFL to come back and get his degree in human biology -- and play a little football. Stanford also has the No. 12 SOS in the country, with road trips to Notre Dame and Washington.

Others with a chance to make the playoff: Texas (3 percent), Mississippi State (3 percent), USC (2 percent), Oklahoma State (1 percent), Florida State (1 percent)