Will your team make the College Football Playoff?
Unlike most media sites, Bleacher Report doesn’t give you a yes or no answer. Instead, we use analytics and the committee rankings to assign your team a probability of making the playoff.
The interactive visual shows the results of 10,000 simulations of the remainder of the season. You can find more information about the simulation methods at The Power Rank.
Ranking teams based on their playoff chances is different from what the playoff committee does. While the committee’s decisions are, at least in part, based on the eye test, my analytics look to predict the future based on the remaining schedule.
The strength of schedule rating considers only FBS opponents played so far—not a team’s entire schedule. It also accounts for whether a team faced an opponent at home or on the road.
Now, let’s look at some key talking points after the latest release of the College Football Playoff rankings.
Michigan at Ohio State Looms Large
Michigan travels to Ohio State on Saturday in a game that will bring clarity to the playoff picture. Both teams have elite defenses, as the Wolverines and Buckeyes rank second and fourth in yards allowed per play.
When Ohio State has the ball, J.T. Barrett will deal with a Michigan pass rush that has sacked the quarterback on 11.5 percent of pass attempts, which is tops in the nation. However, Barrett could use the Wolverines’ aggressiveness against them, as a pass-rusher who goes too far upfield could give him space to make plays with his feet.
For the Michigan offense, the big question is at quarterback. Starter Wilton Speight got hurt against Iowa on Nov. 12, and his replacement, John O’Korn, struggled against Indiana last week.
According to George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press, both have taken reps in practice this week. Speight, a better passer than O’Korn, would give the Wolverines their best chance against the Buckeyes. My numbers rate Ohio State a single point better than Michigan at a neutral site. With three points for home-field advantage, however, the Buckeyes have a 62 percent chance to win.
Big Ten Hegemony in the Top 10
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The Big Ten has four teams in the Top Seven of the selection committee rankings, which begs the question: What is the chance that two Big Ten teams make it?
For that to occur, the most likely scenario is that Ohio State beats Michigan but loses the Big Ten East when Penn State beats Michigan State (there is a 42.7 percent chance this scenario happens by my numbers). The Buckeyes would stay at No. 2 and join the Big Ten champion in the four-team playoff.
But with four teams lurking in the Top Seven, there are other scenarios in which two Big Ten teams could make the playoff, which becomes more likely if a three-loss team like USC takes out a frontrunner like Washington in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Apple Cup Adds to Rivalry Week Intrigue
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Washington travels to Washington State on Friday for an Apple Cup that will decide the Pac-12 North. Analytics favors the Huskies on both sides of the ball. In particular, the Washington defense has allowed 4.7 yards per play, which is 11th-best in the nation. This unit should slow the Cougars’ aerial attack.
However, don’t discount Washington State’s home-field advantage. My numbers give the Cougars a 34 percent chance to pull off the upset and head to the Pac-12 title game, which would provide additional glimmers of hope to teams in other conferences—namely the Big Ten and Big 12.
The USC Dilemma
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There was no more talked-about team on Tuesday’s rankings show than the USC Trojans, who’ve lit the college football world on fire since Sam Darnold took over at quarterback against Utah in late September. USC has since won seven straight games, and no one wants to play it right now.
Two factors, however, are working against the Trojans:
- USC has lost three games, including two in ugly fashion against Alabama and Stanford.
- USC can’t win the Pac-12 South unless Colorado loses to Utah on Saturday (the Buffaloes have a 65 percent chance to win by my numbers).
But since the committee is obsessed with ranking teams by losses and conference championships, these two points should effectively eliminate the Trojans from playoff contention. My numbers give them a 1.3 percent chance to make the playoff.
Ed Feng is Bleacher Report’s playoff probability guru and runs the sports analytics site The Power Rank. Stats provided by The Power Rank unless otherwise noted. You can find Ed on Twitter @thepowerrank.