College Football Playoff projections: Alabama, Oregon jump up after dominant wins

The story of college football last week was Clemson overcoming a double-digit deficit to beat Syracuse and increasing its College Football Playoff odds from 41.3% to 60.3%. When someone goes up, someone must come down. Unfortunately for Michigan fans, they were the victim this week. Despite being on a bye, Michigan finds itself dropping from 48.0% to make the Playoff to 40.1%. The main reason for this is a 12-1 ACC champion Clemson is firmly above an 11-1 Michigan.

While there wasn’t too much shuffling at the top, we did see Alabama rise in the projections. While its odds to make the Playoff only increased by three percentage points, its championship odds increased by two points and the Crimson Tide are now back as the third most likely national champion behind Ohio State (35.9%) and Georgia (34.1%).

Oregon beat down UCLA last week and has now quietly entered the Playoff conversation. The Ducks already scored a loss to Georgia in 1 and it was a bad loss for optics as the ended up 49-3. But since that game Oregon has been on fire and Bo Nix is ​​making a little noise in the Heisman race. Oregon currently projects to make the Playoff in 15.1% of my model’s simulations as well as win the national title 1.7% of the time, which is seventh-highest in the country.

About the model: I have developed a season simulator that produces odds for winning the national title, making the CFP, and winning conference and division titles. After every simulation is complete, I have developed a model that selects playoff teams. The playoff selection model is quite simple and very similar, in my opinion, to the selection process of the committee in that it creates a “resume strength rating,” which is derived from prior resume strength ratings, past playoff rankings and playoff selections for each season.

College Football Playoff projections after Week 8

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What happens if…?

Every year as the regular season winds down, the college football world discusses different scenarios on who would be in the Playoff and who would be out. This got me thinking.

Every time I sit down and run my sims, I look at the College Football Playoff matchups for that specific season. When I ran the sims this week, this is the first sim that got spit out:

  • 13-0 Big Ten champion Ohio State
  • 12-1 SEC champion Alabama
  • 12-1 SEC Championship Game loser Georgia
  • 12-1 Big 12 champion TCU
  • 12-1 ACC champion Clemson

I think we all agree that Ohio State would be the unanimous No. 1 seed, but who do you leave out among the other four teams? Alabama is probably the unanimous No. 2 considering the Tide would have won college football’s toughest conference and its only loss was on the road against a great team as time expired. But the final two spots get a little dicey. Georgia probably defaults to No. 3 as its loss happened to be to the unanimous No. 2.

So we are down to two teams: Clemson and TCU. In this simulated season, the odd team out happens to be Clemson. It’s very, very close. The edge probably comes down to my model thinking the Big 12 is much better than the ACC. Now, whether the actual selection committee believes that is up for debate.

Week 9 games to watch

Ohio State (-15.5) at Penn State

This is quite the spread for two teams ranked inside the top 13 and the favorite going on the road, but that’s the powerhouse that Ohio State seems to be this season. It’s likely the offense gets theirs, but this will come down to whether or not the good version of Penn State’s offense shows up. Sean Clifford has shown plenty of skill throughout his career at Penn State, but there is quite the inconsistency from him and the entire offense as a whole. Penn State will need its offense to be on its A-game if the Nittany Lions want to spring an upset and keep their playoff hopes alive.

TCU (-7.5) at West Virginia

While a 3-4 team doesn’t seem like much of a threat against an undefeated team this late in the season, TCU is favored by just over a touchdown in this one. Sonny Dykes’ offense has been absolutely electric this season and it’ll need to continue to perform at an elite level if the Horned Frogs want to continue through the Big 12 conference schedule undefeated.

Oklahoma State at Kansas State (-1.5)

A top-10 team as an underdog on the road will always make the games to watch section. I’m not sure if Oklahoma State is a true contender, but the Cowboys have just one loss and being ranked as high as they are now will allow them to continue to rise if they keep winning. It’s very difficult to leave a one-loss Power 5 conference champion out of the Playoff and the Cowboys still have a shot of achieving that.

Kentucky at Tennessee (-12.5)

Kentucky likes to grind games to a halt while Tennessee likes to play at the speed of light so this will be one of the more drastic differences in styles of play you’ll see all season. Kentucky is n’t a team to be slept on and if Will Levis can play to his talent level, Kentucky can beat just about anyone. That’s a big if, though. Hendon Hooker is the much more consistent and probably better quarterback here. One thing to note, though, is that Tennessee has a showdown with Georgia next week. Could the Vols be caught looking ahead? Kentucky seems to be the prime team to pounce on a slow start.

(Photo of Cam McCormick: / USA Today)


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