According to a survey of fifteen Power Five Conference ADs conducted by USA Today, yes, the Cougars could have a path to the College Football Playoff. But there are a lot of games to be played yet, including a game against #3 Louisville in Houston on November 17.
The way things look right now, the match-up versus Louisville would be even more demanding than the game the Cougars won in Norman over Oklahoma, which was also ranked #3 on the opening Saturday of college football season when the two teams played. Louisville impressively dismantled Florida State last week; so, they are likely to be a team to be reckoned with.
I'm pulling for the Cougars for a great season, not just because they play in the non-Power Five American Athletic Conference and I love rooting for the "little guys," but mostly because the Cougars' head coach is Tom Herman. Herman was the offensive coordinator for my Ohio State Buckeyes when OSU won the first College Football Playoff championship two seasons ago. His play-calling then was masterful. And he's done an amazing job with all facets of his job with the Cougars.
Houston is rumored to be one of the schools that the Big 12, a Power Five conference, is looking to add to their number. Should the Cougars go 13-0 in regular season play, as seems likely, it would only burnish the case for their admission among major colleges.
Admission into the Big 12 might also entice Herman, who could probably write his own ticket to any available major college program, to stay at Houston. The heightened level of competition and the bigger salary he could likely count on might keep him on. Houston is already a major hotbed for high school football player recruitment and Herman is winning many of them over. He's building something there.
[UPDATE: The likeliest scenario by which Houston could get into the playoffs, I think, is for Oklahoma, now 1-2, to win out the rest of the season as Houston similarly takes care of business in their own weaker conference. This will make their win over Oklahoma a more impressive item on their resume. Houston is still a long shot.]
Of course, if, improbably, Houston gets into the College Football Playoff and faces off against my Buckeyes, who have a great chance to make it to the final four this year, I'll hope that the Cougars just roll over and play dead.