The second edition of the 2016 college football playoffs were released on Tuesday as the rest of the nation was looking in on presidential election results.
With only four weeks of the season left, it is officially time to begin hypothesizing about each team and their chances of making the playoff. We know that the playoff participants will be teams from the College Football Playoff Top 25, but we also know that plenty of teams are already eliminated from consideration within that top 25.
Florida State is ranked No. 18, but the Seminoles already have three losses and are three games back of Clemson in the ACC Atlantic Division. They will not be selected for the playoff this season.
Western Michigan may very well run the table and go 12-0, but they are sitting at No. 21 in the rankings and have zero top 25 teams on their schedule, which ranks 103 out of 128 FBS teams in the nation.
Western Michigan will not be selected for the playoff due to a lack of good wins. Playing in the MAC hurt them greatly.
Boise State sits at No. 22 in the new rankings but will also not be selected for the playoff due to a lack of good competition and a head-scratching loss to Wyoming.
LSU, which dropped from No. 13 to No. 24 in this week’s rankings, will not be selected for the playoffs after the loss against Alabama guaranteed that LSU will not win the SEC West, let alone the conference title this season. With three losses, the only way the Tigers would be considered is if they won the conference and that simply isn’t happening.
Arkansas, which sits at No. 25 in the rankings, will also not be selected for the playoff since Alabama will win the SEC West division, meaning that Arkansas will not win the SEC conference this season.
The other 20 teams in the rankings all have a statistical chance to make the playoffs if they win out and things fall their way. Obviously, some teams have much greater odds than others. I will be examining each teams’ chance of making the playoffs as we move from power conference to power conference.
Let’s start with the Big Ten. The Big Ten has five playoff contenders at the moment. In the Big Ten East division, Michigan controls its destiny for both the Big Ten championship and the playoffs.
Michigan – currently No. 3 in the CFP rankings. Chance to make playoff: 50%
Analysis: Michigan has very good odds at making the playoff. If they can survive a sneaky tough road game at Iowa and win The Game in Columbus Ohio against the Buckeyes, then they will be extremely difficult to leave out of the playoff, even if they lose the Big Ten Championship game to Wisconsin, Nebraska, or Minnesota.
Ohio State also controls its destiny for the playoff, the Buckeyes need to win out, including wins over Michigan and whoever they would ultimately face in the Big Ten Championship game.
Ohio State – currently No. 5 in CFP rankings. Chance to make playoffs: 40%
Penn State needs Ohio State to beat Michigan in The Game to win the Big Ten East by tiebreaker. Penn State would need the extra boost of winning the Big Ten to be a reasonable candidate for the playoff.
Penn State – currently No. 10 in CFP rankings. Chance to make playoffs: 5%
In the Big Ten West, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Minnesota all control their own destiny inside the Big Ten West division, but only Wisconsin controls their destiny for the playoff. Wisconsin would need to win out and defeat whoever they face in the Big Ten Championship game to guarantee a playoff bid.
Wisconsin – currently No. 7 in CFP rankings. Chance to make playoffs: 30%
Nebraska needs to win out convincingly and hope Wisconsin loses once more. In the hypothetical Big Ten championship game, Nebraska would need to win convincingly against whoever they faced. An unlikely scenario to say the least, but the Cornhuskers are not out just yet.
Nebraska – currently No.19 in CFP rankings. Chance to make playoffs: less than 1%
In the SEC, the Eastern division has already bowed out of the playoff race, but three SEC West teams remain. Alabama is the favorite to land a playoff spot, followed by Auburn and Texas A&M. Alabama and Auburn control their own destiny, while Texas A&M needs to win out and hope for chaos.
Alabama just needs to defeat Auburn and they will be in the playoffs, regardless of how they perform in the SEC championship game.
Alabama – currently No. 1 in CFP rankings. Chance to make playoff: 80%
Auburn also controls its own destiny for the playoff. Auburn must win out, including wins over Georgia and Alabama, and must win the SEC championship game against whoever they would face. All in all, Auburn is in decent position for the playoffs.
Auburn – currently No. 9 in CFP rankings. Chance to make playoff: 30%
Texas A&M must win out and root for chaos to ensue. Alabama going unbeaten would strengthen their argument, but losing to Mississippi State and losing QB Trevor Knight is bad news for the Aggies moving forward.
Texas A&M – currently No. 8 in CFP rankings. Chance to make playoff: 5%
In the Pac-12, things get a little bit tricky. In the South division, Colorado, USC, and Utah all have an opportunity to reach the Pac-12 championship game. All three teams need to win out, win the Pac-12 championship game, and hope for chaos.
Colorado – currently No. 12 in CFP rankings. Chance to make playoffs: 5%
USC needs to win out and do it convincingly, hope to face Washington for a second time in the Pac-12 title game, and defeat them again to make a statement to the selection committee. With three losses, USC is facing an uphill battle, as no three-loss team has ever made the playoff before. Their chances remain very slim
USC – currently No. 20 in CFP rankings. Chance to make playoffs: less than 1%
Utah needs to win out, do it convincingly, and win the Pac-12 championship in the process. Similar to Colorado but Utah didn’t face Michigan in non-conference play, which will help the Buffs.
Utah – currently No. 15 in CFP rankings. Chance to make playoffs: 1%
In the North division, Washington and Washington State remain unbeaten in conference play. The Huskies are huge favorites to win the Pac-12 and make the playoffs now, but things could change if Luke Falk and Washington State upset the Huskies in a few weeks.
Washington – currently No. 4 in CFP rankings. Chance to make playoffs: 50%
Washington State – currently No. 23 in CFP rankings. Chance to make playoffs: less than 1%
In the Big 12, Oklahoma rode a dominate finish to the 2015 season to the playoffs and is looking to do the same in 2016. Oklahoma and West Virginia have not been mathematically eliminated yet, but are long shots to reach the playoff. All three teams need to win out and do it convincingly. No Big 12 title game hurts the conferences chance at the playoff selection table.
Oklahoma – currently No. 11 in CFP rankings. Chance to make playoffs: 10%
Oklahoma State – currently No. 13 in CFP rankings. Chance to make playoffs: 1%
West Virginia – currently No. 16 in CFP rankings. Chance to make playoffs: 1%
In the ACC, Clemson and Louisville are the favorites and playoff front-runners, but North Carolina and Virginia Tech have yet to be mathematically eliminated.
In the Atlantic Division, both teams need to win out, Louisville could benefit from style points and Clemson and Florida State to continue to look dominate, as Louisville needs their lone loss to Clemson to look as good as possible going into championship week.
Clemson – currently No. 2 in CFP rankings. Chance to make playoffs: 75%
Louisville – currently No. 6 in CFP rankings: Chance to make playoffs: 25%
In the Coastal division, North Carolina needs Virginia Tech to lose another game in addition to winning out in dominate fashion in the hopes of reaching the ACC title game, in which they would need to defeat Clemson to get the selection committee’s attention. Still a longshot. Virginia Tech needs to win out, defeat Clemson, and hope for chaos. Slightly better odds.
North Carolina – currently No. 17 in CFP rankings. Chance to make playoffs: less than 1%
Virginia Tech – currently No. 14 in CFP rankings: Chance to make playoffs: 1%
Based on these projections: the playoffs will consist of:
No 1. Alabama vs. No. 4 Washington
No 2. Clemson vs. No. 3 Michigan/Ohio State winner
Teams in Control of Their Own Destiny:
Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, Washington, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Auburn.
Teams Rooting for Chaos:
Louisville, Texas A&M, Penn State, Oklahoma, Colorado, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, Utah, West Virginia, North Carolina, Nebraska, USC, and Washington State.