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CFP projections: Is TCU already a lock? Can Alabama sneak?

The end of the college football regular season has arrived and with only the conference championship weekend remaining, the college football playoff picture is nearly complete with five teams. should remain but a sixth still has an outside shot.

Michigan’s rout of Ohio State in Columbus on Saturday all but guaranteed a second straight appearance for Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines as they are 12-0 and can probably afford a loss in the Big Championship Game. Ten against Purdue and still find a spot in the top 4. Georgia seems to be in the same boat. The defending national champions once again sailed through the regular season unscathed and, just like last year, will most likely receive an offer should they lose to LSU in the SEC Championship Game.

After those two, however, things get a little murky.

TCU is also 12-0, but the Horned Frogs haven’t been in the same position as other undefeated teams in the eyes of the committee so far. With all the other teams dropping out of contention over the last few weeks, is TCU firmly in the playoff like Georgia and Michigan seem to be? I tend to think horned frogs are, but with USC and Ohio State like the other two schools, a catastrophic loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game could at least get the committee thinking.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that if USC avenges their loss to Utah and finishes the season as 12-1 Pac-12 champions, then the Trojans ticket to the Playoffs will be void. A loss, however, would see their hopes dashed. It’s pretty straightforward for Trojan fans this weekend. Win Friday night and you’re in the playoff. Lose and you are not.

And then there’s Ohio State. Ohio State fans should look for two things and maybe only one of them is realistic. First and foremost, you are looking for a USC loss. That would certainly eliminate the Trojans and the Buckeyes have the best case to slip into the Playoffs. If USC wins, however, all hope is not lost. There is the slightest chance that TCU will be routed by Kansas State and the loss will kick TCU out of the playoffs. It’s not likely, but hearing the committee talk about “game control” or something on Sunday wouldn’t be that shocking.

Let’s talk about this sixth team with an outside shot. That will be confirmed by tonight’s standings, but there’s some buzz that Alabama could slip past Ohio State and then be the team rooting for a loss to USC. I don’t think that should be the case because the Crimson Tide lost two games to Ohio State when the schedules are comparable and it could be argued that Ohio State was slightly more difficult. Add to that the fact that Alabama lost to two teams that aren’t in the playoff conversation while Ohio State lost to one of two teams that all but earned a spot in the top 4 and the argument isn’t really an argument.

My playoff algorithm doesn’t give Nick Saban’s team a chance, but committees can assess different things at any given time in any given season. Let the record show, however, that based on past committee rankings, Ohio State is expected to be ranked ahead of Alabama tonight.

How the leaderboards work: Using the committee’s past rankings, I looked at various metrics that have been evaluated in the past and after some guesswork and checking, I found a formula that worked well against the actual rankings. Now, there are a few caveats. The committee changes from year to year and I have no way of knowing if staff changes will change what is valued. But I’m pretty confident that the changes won’t be drastic and that the formula I created will probably be pretty accurate regardless. After all, it’s a sport where you rank higher if you win matches and you lose if you lose.

Projected College Football Playoff Rankings

There are two things that stand out for me in my algorithm rankings this week. First, Ohio State gets the green light on USC by the slimmest of margins. Don’t panic! USC easily overtakes Ohio State with a victory over Utah on Friday night. The second is that Tennessee is once again ahead of Alabama. The head-to-head victory gives Tennessee the advantage here, as both teams have similar resumes. Maybe the committee is shutting down Tennessee for the Hendon Hooker injury, but based on the performance of these teams and how previous committees have ranked teams, Tennessee should get the nod here.

College Football Playoff Odds After Week 13

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What happens if…?

Consider the following scenario:

  • Georgia 13-0 SEC Champion
  • Michigan 13-0 Big Ten Champion
  • USC 12-1 Pac-12 Champion
  • Ohio State 11-1
  • TCU 12-1, loss to Kansas State 59-0

In a throwback to the 2014 College Football Playoffs, let’s assume TCU loses 59-0. Do they enter the state of Ohio? Maybe we don’t need to make the score so dramatic, but if TCU loses by 17 or more to Kansas State this weekend, who do you put in fourth place? My playoff algorithm struggles to adjust for big margins, but it thinks 12-1 TCU would have a more impressive resume than 11-1 Ohio State.

Subjectively, I somewhat agree. I’m all for having the best teams in the playoffs and Ohio State would definitely be favored on neutral ground against TCU but with the Buckeyes smoked at home against Michigan I can’t penalize TCU for have to play an extra game. Has TCU played someone as good as Michigan all season? No. But at the end of the day, games matter and I’m not in favor of penalizing TCU for losing an extra game when Ohio State couldn’t play one.

(Photo by Emari Demercado: Raymond Carlin III/USA Today)

#CFP #projections #TCU #lock #Alabama #sneak

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