2018 Playoff Big Board: Week 7

Welcome back to the playoff big board! Man, week 7 was eventful, as four of the top eight teams in the AP poll went down. As you might imagine, that shook up the board quite a bit.

Our board will consist of all ranked undefeated teams and all ranked one-loss Power 5 teams – first from the AP poll, then from the committee rankings when they’re available in a few weeks. I define “resume wins” for our purposes as wins over currently-ranked teams; it gets too complicated to project whether teams will drop out of or climb into the rankings as the year progresses.

Possible resume wins are listed in schedule order. The “538 Table-Running Probability” is taken from the nifty predictor tool available here. I don’t have a preference for 538’s table over S&P+ win probabilities – I think both methodologies are sound. 538’s presentation is just a lot easier to work with versus pulling up individual S&P+ win probabilities for everyone.

Undefeated Teams

With apologies to UCF, an undefeated team will generally control its own destiny. All these teams, again with apologies to UCF, are thus sitting pretty for the playoff as of today.

#1 Alabama

Next game: at Tennessee

Resume wins to date: #22 Texas A&M

Possible resume wins: at #5 LSU, vs. #22 Mississippi State, SEC East winner

538 table-running probability: 35%

Alabama handled Missouri about as easily as expected, but they got a big scare when Tua Tagovailoa aggravated a knee sprain suffered against Arkansas last week. Of course, since this is Bama, they replaced him with a guy who has a 26-2 record as a starter. Even so, Tua beat Jalen Hurts out for a reason, and if this knee issue lingers it could spell trouble for the Tide. At some point. Maybe.

#2 Ohio State

Next game: at Purdue

Resume wins to date: at #18 Penn State

Possible resume wins: at #24 Michigan State, vs. #12 Michigan, Big Ten West Winner

538 table-running probability: 29%

Don’t be misled by the 30-14 score. Ohio State struggled at Minnesota, where the Gophers missed a field goal that would’ve pulled them within six points with just under six minutes to go.  In fact, the Buckeyes’ game performance helped drop their 538 win-out probability four percentage points. They seem like they have at least one loss waiting out there for them.

#3 Clemson

Next game: vs. #16 NC State

Resume wins to date: at #17 Texas A&M

Possible resume wins: vs. #16 NC State, ACC Coastal winner

538 table-running probability: 39%

Clemson had cheeseburgers and slid up a spot in the polls, thanks to Georgia’s surprising crash and burn in Death Valley (more on that below). They still have a clear path to the ACC title, along with the highest probability of winning out and of making the playoffs per 538.

#4 Notre Dame

Next game: at Navy (in San Diego)

Resume wins to date: #6 Michigan

Possible resume wins: None

538 table-running probability: 37%

Well, that was ugly… Notre Dame took care of business, barely, against a badly overmatched Pitt team. If you’re looking for positive news, Stanford and USC are knocking on the door of the top 25, with both sitting just outside the polls this week. The bye week comes at a great time for the Irish, who will get a chance to regroup as they enjoy some cheeseburgers of their own.

#10 UCF

Next game: at Memphis

Resume wins to date: None

Possible resume wins: vs. #20 Cincinnati, at #21 South Florida, American West division winner

538 table-running probability: 25%

UCF flirted with disaster last week, rallying from 16 points down to nip unranked Memphis 31-30. The final month of the season, with Temple, Navy, USF, and Cincinnati, may be dangerous enough to derail their two-year Cinderella story.

#16 NC State

Next game: at #3 Clemson

Resume wins to date: None

Possible resume wins: at #3 Clemson, ACC Coastal division winner

538 Table-Running Probability: 3%

Another cheeseburger beneficiary, jumping a whopping four spots while idle. Time to find out how legitimate the Wolfpack is, as they travel to Clemson this week. The winner will have a virtually unimpeded path to the ACC title game.

#20 Cincinnati / #21 South Florida

Next game: at Temple / vs. UConn

Resume wins to date: Georgia Tech / UCLA (not ranked, but they do each get some credit for knocking off Power 5 teams)

Possible resume wins: Each other, #10 UCF, AAC title game opponent

538 table-running probability: 3% / 5%

Still lumping these guys together as the conference mates are pretty much interchangeable. They each have an outside chance if they remain flawless and other wacky stuff happens.

One Loss Teams

These teams aren’t out of it but will need some breaks to fall their way. The good news for them is that every college football season contains a looooot of breaks.

#5 LSU

Next game: vs. #22 Mississippi State

Resume wins to date: vs. #8 Georgia

Possible resume wins: vs. #22 Mississippi State, vs. #1 Alabama, at #17 Texas A&M, SEC East winner

The one loss: at #14 Florida

538 table-running probability: 7%

The board is set up as no-loss/one-loss, but let’s be real – if it was in control/not in control, LSU would be firmly in the former group. They absolutely dominated the at-the-time #2 team in the country, posting a non-fluky 36-16 win over a Georgia team that was favored by seven. The only downside of this past weekend for them is that they lost a quality win when then-#21 Auburn fell to Tennessee.

#6 Michigan

Next game: at #24 Michigan State

Resume wins to date: #23 Wisconsin

Possible resume wins: vs. #18 Penn State, at #2 Ohio State

The one loss: You know what it is. BWA HA HA HA HA.

538 table-running probability: 11%

Michigan made a big move up in the polls thanks to top ten carnage and a convincing win over Wisconsin, their first quality win of the year. While Wolverines fans are so excited about that they need new khakis, they should consider that it’s roughly comparable to Notre Dame’s win over Stanford. And that they have nothing approaching the quality of a win over the #6 team. You know who does, though…

#7 Texas

Next game: at Oklahoma State

Resume wins to date: at #9 Oklahoma

Possible resume wins: vs. #13 West Virginia, Big 12 title game opponent

The one loss: at Maryland

538 table-running probability: 8%

Texas very nearly had a one-week stay in the top ten, as Baylor had three shots at the end zone and the upset in the waning seconds this week. QB Sam Ehlinger also left the game with a shoulder sprain in the first quarter, which is something to watch moving forward. They get a week off before facing Okie Light.

#8 Georgia

Next game: The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party

Resume wins to date: None

Possible resume wins: vs. #11 Florida (in Jacksonville), at #14 Kentucky, SEC West winner

The one loss: The LSU obliteration mentioned above

538 table-running probability: 15%

Georgia’s playoff hopes took a massive blow with LSU’s big win. Yes, it’s just one loss, but that’s one that can dog them. Even assuming they run the table, which now looks like it’s far from a sure thing, they don’t have a safety net. We saw last year that a one-loss SEC runner-up can get into the playoff if things break right elsewhere, but that luxury is gone for Georgia – they need to win out now. Like Texas, they have a week to ruminate before their next game.

#9 Oklahoma

Next game: at TCU

Resume wins to date: None

Possible resume wins: at #13 West Virginia, Big 12 title game opponent

The one loss: vs. #9 Texas

538 table-running probability: 18%

Oklahoma enjoyed some tasty burgers while they jumped UCF, who if you missed it above won their game. Go figure. TCU is a big game for them – the Frogs aren’t very good, but the Sooners need to rebound from a loss against the one decent team they’ve faced. How they respond in this game could say a lot about their playoff chances.

#11 Florida

Next game: at Vanderbilt

Resume wins to date: at #22 Mississippi State, vs. #5 LSU

Possible resume wins: #8 Georgia (in Jacksonville), SEC West winner

The one loss: at #14 Kentucky

538 table-running probability: 4%

Florida was in a dogfight with Vandy for much of the game before pulling away late. See? It’s not just us. They actually have one of the better quality win resumes so far, but they also have that loss to a Kentucky team that nobody really trusts yet. Like Georgia, they also have a week off before the Cocktail Party and they also have a ton riding on that game. The loser will effectively be eliminated from the playoff.

#12 Oregon

Next game: vs. #7 Washington

Resume wins to date: None

Possible resume wins: at #25 Washington State, Pac 12 South winner

The one loss: vs. Stanford

538 table-running probability: 6%

The Ducks are just kind of hanging around the playoff picture. It’s crazy to think that absent one of the wackiest fourth quarter collapses in memory, they’d be undefeated and probably #5 or #6 in the country right now. I don’t think they’re anywhere near that good, but winning games kind of helps you climb the polls a bit. Their impending road test against a frisky Wazzu should give us some insight.

#13 West Virginia

Next game: vs. Baylor

Resume wins to date: None

Possible resume wins: at #7 Texas, vs. #9 Oklahoma, Big 12 title game opponent

538 table-running probability: 5%

Absolutely embarrassed by Iowa State, and waiting on a Thursday date next week with a Baylor team that is likely seething over their last-second loss to Texas. Doesn’t seem like a great spot to be in. Similar to other one-loss teams, the safety net is completely gone for the Mountaineers, although with two top ten opponents left in the regular season they might have more of a chance to climb back up.

#14 Kentucky

Next game: vs. Vanderbilt

Resume wins to date: at #11 Florida, vs. #22 Mississippi State

Possible resume wins: vs. #8 Georgia, SEC West winner

The one loss: at #17 Texas A&M

538 table-running probability: 3%

538 holds a dim view of the Wildcats, but hey, gotta be in it to win it. They have a couple of pretty good wins in the bag already to go with a “good” loss, relatively speaking. If they can hold serve against Vandy and handle a road trip to Mizzou, they could very well host Georgia with the SEC East on the line. Insanity.

#19 Iowa

Next game: vs. Maryland

Resume wins to date: None

Possible resume wins: at #18 Penn State, Big Ten East winner

The one loss: vs. #23 Wisconsin

538 table-running probability: 5%

Iowa jumped all the way to 19th from “others receiving votes” this week – despite only three team dropping out of the top 25. They debuted just ahead of Cincinnati and South Florida, who were ranked last week, which makes you think there are some voters who don’t like casting ballots for Group of 5 teams. But I digress… They clearly need to win out to make the playoff and will probably need help even then, but they’re alive.

#25 Washington State

Next game: vs. #12 Oregon

Resume wins to date: None

Possible resume wins: vs. #12 Oregon, Pac 12 South winner

The one loss: at USC

538 table-running probability: 4%

Not a typo! Washington State is an AP-ranked, one-loss team, so here they are. Pros: They have just the one loss, and that game was likely stolen from them by a horrific non-targeting call late. So they could be undefeated! Cons: Their schedule really, really stinks! Their five wins are over Wyoming, San Jose St., Eastern Washington, Utah, and Oregon State. Utah isn’t terrible, but the rest of that group is awful. We’ll see how they do against Oregon this week.

Off the Board

#15 Washington fell out of the top 10 with a dramatic overtime loss to Oregon, their second of the season. Oregon now sits in the Pac 12 North driver’s seat and Washington, well, doesn’t.

#18 Penn State also crashed out of the top ten with their second straight loss, this time to then-unranked Michigan State. There’s no realistic path left for them to get into the Big Ten title game – they’re not mathematically eliminated, but they’re functionally eliminated.

#23 Wisconsin might still be over-ranked after getting crushed by Michigan. To review, they’ve beaten Western Kentucky, New Mexico, Iowa, and Nebraska. They lost at home to BYU and got smacked by Michigan. That’s not a great resume.

NR Miami dropped a game to Virginia, which is bad enough, but to make matters worse they worked really, really hard to make sure they lost at the end. Item 1: A terrible onside kick with two minutes left gave the Cavs the ball well into Miami territory. Item 2: A third down stop was negated by a very late and very stupid personal foul. Item 3: A third-and-goal stop would’ve gotten Miami the ball back with a chance to claw out a win, but a roughing the kicker flag gave Virginia a new set of downs while Miami had no timeouts left. One kneeldown later, it was mercifully over. That’s some impressive yakking right there.

NR Colorado was blasted by USC in a game that wasn’t as close as the 31-20 final would indicate. Their case was tenuous as it was; their visit to Washington next week will likely pull the plug completely on their chances.


By |2018-10-17T01:16:18+00:00October 16th, 2018|Football|14 Comments

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Andy RobertsMichael Bryangambit1077opivy028Clearwall Recent comment authors
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I hate that in college football people argue, or even care, about who has the better loss. This is one of my biggest pet peeves in any of these discussions.


My problem with listing possible resume wins, is that it only looks at who is currently ranked and does not look forward at who they have left. Teams that are ranked 20 to 25 will likely not be ranked if they lose to the team whose resume is looking to be strengthened. For example, UCF has two possible resume wins in #25 Cincinnati and #23 South Florida. Alabama has #24 Mississippi State and #21 Auburn (mistake?). However, if UCF and Alabama win, those teams will drop out, probably for good. On the other hand, there are a lot of 4-2 teams on ND’s schedule. Although USC is not currently ranked, there is a very good chance that they will be ranked at the end of the season and may remain ranked even if ND beats them. Same thing with Syracuse, not to mention VTech and Stanford, who are also at 4-2. I think there is a good chance that of those four at least two will be ranked at the end of the season. I suspect you are only looking at who is currently ranked. But looking behind the numbers a bit shows that ND actually has several possible resume wins.

Bottom line, though – win out and none of this matters.


This is something I think about as well. On SC, how high do you think they can honestly be, though, when we play them? If they’re any lower than, I say 20, unless they lose close to us, they’ll just drop out again. If they receive another 49-14 type beating from us(which I want, of course) and they’re at 21 or 22…you have to assume they’ll get punished for that.


If USC is 9-2 coming in, they could be ranked fairly high, say somewhere between 13 and 18 (they won’t have any great wins; their schedule is weak af), and remain ranked even after losing. They would also still have the PAC-12 title game, which they could certainly win cuz the Pac-12 isn’t looking super great (although Oregon could be legit). All that being said, we should just go undefeated and not find reasons to hope USC or Michigan or Stanford win to make us look good.

Michael Bryan

I hope Ohio State @ Purdue turns into a fun game. The Boilers are 17th in Offensive S&P+ (and better lately, with Blough as full time QB instead of an early, disastrous time-share with Sindelar). OSU is far worse than usual on defense so far, 41st in Defensive S&P+ and Bosa is not coming back. Brohm is a smart / ballsy coach who will make smart decisions knowing the long shot they have. Purdue’s defense is ghastly, but there could be a shootout, and with some bounces a close game. This is the biggest game they’ve hosted (with any hope) in some while.

Andy Roberts

The one that comes to mind, actually, is 2005 against us, when they still had some hype left over from the successful Brees/Orton years and came in ranked and having clubbed us a year prior.

Hopefully that night goes better for them than the one in 2005.

Michael Bryan

They took out OSU at home in ’09 for their only B1G loss. That was a Terrelle Pryor team that won the conference and beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl, so a gigantic one. But yeah, Michigan last year I think was big early in the season but these opportunities (with any real hope) have been few and far between.