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.
What do the analytics say about the Badgers 2nd half schedule?
Yes, the loss to Michigan has everyone reeling and plenty of people questioning if the Wisconsin Badgers will ever truly become a national contender.
It’s been one step forward and two giant steps backwards every time the path has been there for the Badgers to date. But, the bitter loss to Michigan is in the rearview mirror and it also was the end of the first half of the Badgers schedule.
So, we thought it would be a good idea to see how some of the computers believe the second half of the schedule looks for the Cardinal and White.
Will the Badgers run the table and get to 10 wins again? Is there disappointment ahead?
Answers vary depending on the models used, but let’s explore how analytics see things going for Paul Chryst’s crew.
Unsurprisingly, the analytics tell us that the Badgers are going to have one big game and a whole lot of control towards a potential 10-win season still in the mix.
According to ESPN’s FPI index, Wisconsin will be favored in all but one game the remainder of the season. That one game of course is the trip to Happy Valley to take on Penn State. The FPI index gives the Badgers a 20 percent chance to win that game.
However, they do give the Badgers better odds against most of the rest of the schedule. It starts with a 95 percent chance at winning the Homecoming matchup with Illinois this weekend.
Wisconsin is also favored to win by 80 percent or more in two other games — Rutgers (97.6) and Minnesota (82.9). The Rutgers result is expected given how little resistance the Scarlet Knights have given to other teams at the bottom of the Big Ten pecking order so far this season.
As for the other games, perhaps the toughest to figure out on the schedule will surprise you. That’s because the FPI believes Purdue will be the biggest challenge outside of the Penn State game. Wisconsin has just a 58.2 chance of winning that game.
That leaves Northwestern in two weeks, and the FPI believes the Badgers have a 62.9 percent chance to win that game in Evanston. With the Wildcats finally getting on a win at Ryan Field last weekend, it will be interesting to see how this contest tracks after this upcoming weekend.
So, if all things hold out ESPN’s FPI see’s the Badgers at 9-3 to end the regular season and still winning the Big Ten West division championship. However, their projections have UW closer to 8-4 and that would likely mean a third loss inside the conference and if that is the case it could be an interesting race in the West division.
ESPN’s rating system is just one of many, so what do the others have to say?
College Football Analytics believes a lot of the same things as ESPN does, but they give the Badgers a good chance of finishing 9-3 overall. To be exact, they put UW’s probability of winning 9 games at 64.4 percent.
Perhaps the most interesting projection comes in the Penn State game, where they give the Badgers much better odds of pulling that game off. Currently, UW is given a win probability of 42.4 precent in that game and a score of 40.2 to 32.9.
Like the FPI, this model has the Badgers winning every other game on its schedule and doing so handily over Illinois, Rutgers and Minnesota. It also believes UW’s biggest toss-up game will be against Purdue, where the Badgers are just a 51 percent favorite to win that game.
But, it’s always good to get a third set of data to work with. That comes from the S&P+ system and not shockingly, they too have the Badgers finishing 9-3 on the season.
But, like the CFB Analytics numbers and unlike the FPI, they believe this game is going to be much closer than expected. The S&P+ system believes it will be less than a touchdown difference in the game.
This model also sees the game at Purdue as the biggest toss up on the UW schedule, with the Badgers given a 57 percent chance of winning and only an expected winning margin of 3.2 points.
So, as you can see there is a lot of agreement amongst the analytics side of the college football world.
It’s hard to disagree with their thoughts given the relative softness of the Badgers overall schedule in the second half of the season.
Pair of Big Ten players named to PFF mid-season All-American team
It hasn’t been a banner year for the Big Ten, with it seeming more and more like the days of the big two and little 10 (12 today). So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that All-American honors are few and far between.
But, it was near barren for the Big Ten when Pro Football Focus gave out its mid-season All-American honors. Just two players — both on offense — made the cut from the conference.
Ohio State wide receiver K.J. Hill and Wisconsin right guard Beau Benzschawel were both named to the offensive All-American team.
Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor was named honorable mention. So was OSU defensive tackle Dre’mont Jones on the other side of the ball.
What makes Pro Football Focus’ lists so different are the fact that they are based on analyzing actual play from every player in college football throughout the season.
It means, actual play on the field dictates getting on this list and not reputation or PR.
Benzschawel is the second-highest rated guard in the country according to PFF, as they say this about his performance at the midway mark:
Benzschawel is close behind [Terrone] Prescod, grading at 81.1 as a run-blocker, good for sixth among guards while allowing only three pressures on 151 snaps in pass protection.
Much like Benzschawel, Hill is also the second highest rated player at his position. Hill trails only Colorado’s superstar receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. and has a grade of 90.9 on the season.
According to PFF, “Hill has been incredibly efficient as well, catching 85.1% of his targets while averaging 8.2 yards after the catch per reception.”
It will be interesting to see how thing shake out in the second half of the season and if players like Chase Winovich, Rashan Gary or many other of the Badgers offensive lineman grade out better.
Good, Bad, Ugly: The tale of Buckeyes, Badgers and Illini in Week 3
There is no two ways about it — Week 3 was the Big Ten’s collective worst nightmare.
Just take a look at the final scores from the weekend:
So, on a Saturday in which contenders were dropping like flies, how do we make sense of what took place?
Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from Week 3 around the Big Ten.
On a weekend that saw so much carnage from Big Ten teams, there is no doubt that Ohio State’s big win over TCU is the good of the weekend. It wasn’t just that the pickings were slim either, the Buckeyes put on a show in the win over the Horned Frogs at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
With the eyes of most of the college football world on them, OSU came up big. They punched hard first, going up 10-0 and then took a big punch from TCU for a pair of touchdowns, the last of which was a school-record 93-yard run by Darius Anderson for the 14-10 lead early in the second quarter.
Let’s not forget there were two defensive touchdowns (albeit one shouldn’t have counted after further review that never happened on the field), including a “fat guy” TD by Dre’mont Jones.
Lost in some of the craziness was the fact that Dwayne Haskins showed out in a big way. He was 24 of 38 for a crazy 344 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Haskins also had a rushing touchdown to cap off all the offensive scoring for his team.
Sure, the defense gave up 511 yards, but it seemed more a byproduct of TCU’s offensive style than anything worrisome about the Buckeyes defense. After all, they forced three total turnovers, had three sacks and seven tackles for loss on the day.
It was a shot across the bow of the rest of the elite in college football and arguable the most dangerous the Buckeyes have looked on both sides of the ball in awhile.
There’s no where to go here other than to head to Madison, Wis. where the Badgers came in to their contest against BYU with a 41-game home non-conference win streak.
By the time the mid-afternoon matchup was over, the Badgers streak was also over and it wasn’t a fluke. The visiting Cougars took a page out of the Wisconsin playbook and simply out-muscled the Badgers on both sides of the ball.
UW’s normally potent run game averaged just 4.7 yards per carry. Its defense allowed 191 yards to BYU on the ground. That pretty much sums up the shock that happened inside Camp Randall.
For the first time in over 15 years, a non-conference opponent came in to Camp Randall, outplayed and finally beat the Badgers. We’ll see if this is a wake up call or the start of a snowball effect that can’t be stopped.
Having rival Iowa on the road and at night should certainly get the Badgers attention this coming week.
Sure, we could’ve gone with Northwestern getting blown out by a MAC opponent at home. There was also Rutgers’ piss-poor day at Kansas and Temple working over Maryland. But, those were all blowouts and there was just one loss that hurt more than any other…Illinois.
For just over 57 minutes, this week felt different for Illini fans…until South Florida’s Darnell Salomon hauled in a 50-yard touchdown from Blake Barnett with 2:24 to play.
That was just a downright brutal blow to a program that could’ve used the win in the worst way. Illinois got an early touchdown from running back Mike Epstein and then four field goals (three of which were over 40 yards) for a 19-7 lead late in the third quarter.
Then the fourth quarter happened and you could just feel the game slipping away. Just over three minutes after the last of Illinois last field goal, it was Salomon who broke through with a 14-yard touchdown catch to make it a 5-point game. Add in a field goal midway through the quarter and a 19-7 lead was whittled down to 19-17.
But, the Illini really only have themselves to blame. After all, they squandered four drives that were in USF territory and couldn’t get in the end zone. The Illini also couldn’t score a single point in the final quarter, and that’s usually not a good thing.
The play in the final stanza was particularly brutal, as USF’s defense held the Illini to just 94 total yards and forced them to go 2-of-7 on third downs. That’s how you lose a game you should’ve taken care of.
If there was a silver lining in the ugly way this loss happened, it was that MJ Rivers’ debut at quarterback was a success. He was 20 of 29 passing for 168 yards. While he didn’t get in to the end zone through the air, Rivers also didn’t turn the ball over while passing either. That’s a positive step lost in the brutal way this loss took place.
Badgers win big battle for 2019 LB Spencer Lytle
The 2019 Wisconsin Badgers football recruiting class already has hit new heights. But, there was one key piece to the puzzle the coaching staff was waiting on — its top of the board linebacker.
On Saturday, UW got the answer it was looking for as three-star linebacker Spencer Lytle committed to the Badgers over his other finalist, Clemson.
Lytle was the No. 1 outside linebacker on the Badgers board and the biggest missing piece to the puzzle for this recruiting class. While the three-star rating may not blow you away, make no mistake, Lytle was one of the most sought-after players at his position in the country.
It is easy to see why when you put on the tape, and equally so when you see his numbers on paper. Lytle had 77 tackles, 3.0 sacks, and nine additional hurries for Servite High School in Anaheim last season.
He held offers from 40-plus programs, most of which reads like a who’s who of national contenders on an annual basis. In the end, it came down to Wisconsin and Clemson, with few really knowing where Lytle was leaning.
The Badgers got their biggest target at outside linebacker and alongside in-state product Leo Chenal, appear done with recruiting the overall linebacker position for the 2019 class.
UW’s class now has 13 verbal commits and Lytle’s pledge pushed the Badgers near the top 25 in the national team rankings. Currently, Wisconsin sits No. 26 in the 247Sports composite rankings. The Badgers jumped seven spots with this announcement on Saturday.
Lytle was able to keep his recruitment tight-lipped and same with his commitment choice. Few knew what was really going to happen when he announced earlier on Saturday, but it went the Badgers way.
Wisconsin also continues to make small inroads in recruiting one of the biggest states for talent in the country — California. Lytle’s commitment means back-to-back seasons with a prospect from the state, as Alexander Smith signed in the 2018 class and will likely redshirt this upcoming season.
Equally important, Lytle is attending one of the top high school programs in the country this year in St. John Bosco. They are the preseason No. 1 team in the country and consistently put out high-level FBS players.
While Lytle will only be there for one season, he could be a good foot in the door for UW at the school.
It will be interesting to see how quickly Lytle fits in at Wisconsin, because after this season things will be wide open on one side of the outside linebacker spot as Andrew Van Ginkel will graduate.