2018 Playoff Big Board: Week 8

Welcome back to the playoff big board! Not too many upsets this week, but one of the few was an earth-shaker. Boiler Up!

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 #4 LSU

Resume wins to date: #16 Texas A&M

Possible resume wins: at #4 LSU, SEC East winner

538 table-running probability: 42%

Alabama covered a 30 point spread against Tennessee with a touchdown to spare. Not too shabby, although it’s just Tennessee… Bama will take a week off and then travel to Death Valley West to face just their second ranked opponent of the season – and likely their last until a potential SEC title game. A little shabbier. Digs at the SEC aside, there’s no question that this is the matchup of the year to date; LSU looks good, and Alabama looks great but hasn’t really been tested yet. That will end next week. The winner gets a huge boost on the playoff race; 538 shows Alabama’s playoff probability jumping 12 percentage points with a win, and LSU’s jumping 28 points.

#2 Clemson

Next game: at Florida State

Resume wins to date: at #16 Texas A&M, vs. #22 NC State

Possible resume wins: ACC Coastal winner

538 table-running probability: 50%

Clemson waxed NC State, which was realistically the last remaining speed bump on the way to the ACC title game – where they could end up with an unranked opponent. They have the softest schedule of any playoff contender this year, as evidenced by also having the highest probability of winning out.

#3 Notre Dame

Next game: at Navy (in San Diego)

Resume wins to date: vs. #5 Michigan, vs. #24 Stanford

Possible resume wins: None

538 table-running probability: 39%

I thought we’d [tee hee] be too highly ranked [heh heh] to benefit from cheeseburgers this week [snort], but as it turns out…



The Irish moved up in both human polls, in S&P+ and FEI, and in 538’s win probability percentage. That’s pretty good for not lifting a competitive finger.

#10 UCF

Next game: vs. Temple

Resume wins to date: None

Possible resume wins: at #21 South Florida, American West division winner

538 table-running probability: 29%

UCF hammered a sorry East Carolina team Saturday for their 20th straight win. Included in that stretch is a 38-10 win over Maryland, a 34-27 win over end-of-season #10 Auburn, and a 45-14 win over Pitt. They have easily the longest active win streak in FBS. And for the second consecutive week, they won and were jumped by an idle team – last week it was Oklahoma, this week it’s Florida. I can’t blame them for being ticked off at this point, no matter what you think about their schedule. They deserve more respect than that.

#21 South Florida

Next game: at Houston

Resume wins to date: None

Possible resume wins: #10 UCF, American West division winner

538 table-running probability: 2%

Nearly an impossible hill to climb, and squeaking by a truly terrible UConn team is hardly confidence-inspiring. Nonetheless, until they lose, they’ll be here.

One Loss Teams

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

#4 LSU

Next game: vs. #1 Alabama

Resume wins to date: vs. #7 Georgia

Possible resume wins: vs. #1 Alabama, at #16 Texas A&M, SEC East winner

The one loss: at #9 Florida

538 table-running probability: 9%

The highest-ranked one loss team earned their spot here with a dominant win over Georgia a couple of weeks ago, but the recent outpouring of love for them may be a bit misplaced. Saturday evening, ESPN gushed about how LSU had more wins against ranked teams than anyone else in FBS; they neglected to mention that they meant ranked at game time, not currently ranked. We now know that then-#8 Miami and then-#7 Auburn actually stink, and LSU knocked then-#22 Mississippi State out of the polls themselves. Whee. Plus, you know, they lost a game. Kudos for the win over Georgia, but I’d love for Herbie or any of the 12 AP voters who put them ahead of us to explain why a win over #7 and a loss is a better resume than wins over #5 and #24 and no losses.

It’ll all sort itself out soon enough. Like Alabama, LSU will also have a week off before their titanic matchup. They’ll each have an extra week to gameplan, get healthy, etc. If LSU wins, I fully expect them to jump Notre Dame, but that’s OK. The Irish just need to keep taking care of business and they’ll be fine.

#5 Michigan

Next game: vs. #17 Penn State

Resume wins to date: #20 Wisconsin

Possible resume wins: vs. #17 Penn State, at #11 Ohio State

The one loss: at #3 Notre Dame. Suck it, Skunkbears.

538 table-running probability: 22%

Michigan inched upwards on the backs of their S&P+ #1 defense once again, as Michigan State somehow mustered just 95 yards of total offense in a 60-minute game. Michigan fans are elated that Harbaugh got off the schneid, temporarily at least, in rivalry games. They also fervently believe that they would wreck Notre Dame in a rematch, and that they will march unimpeded to glory in the playoff. Uh, sure guys. Here’s their drive chart for the the first 42 minutes of the MSU game:

Punt, TD, punt, punt, punt, missed FG, punt, fumble, fumble, punt.

Their next three drives went TD, TD, punt, but it’s hard to tell if that was suddenly-discovered effectiveness or if MSU’s defense was shot after being on the field for 3/4 of the game time – MSU’s longest possession was 7 plays. Michigan’s defense is champion level. Their offense is… not. They still are in good position for the Big Ten title, with Penn State and Ohio State as the semi-speed-bumps remaining. They get the Lions after taking this Saturday off.

#6 Texas

Next game: at Oklahoma State

Resume wins to date: at #8 Oklahoma

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

The one loss: at Maryland

538 table-running probability: 7%

Yet another beneficiary of Buckeye largesse while idle. Texas will host an Okie State team this week that has lost three of four, so it should be a winnable game. I still don’t really know what to make of the Longhorns; they beat up on USC and TCU and had the dramatic win over Oklahoma, but they also lost to Maryland! and squeaked past Tulsa, Kansas State, and Baylor. The next couple of weeks, against the Pokes and West Virginia, should clear it up some.

#7 Georgia

Next game: The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party

Resume wins to date: None

Possible resume wins: vs. #9 Florida (in Jacksonville), at #12 Kentucky, SEC West winner

The one loss: at #4 LSU, resoundingly

538 table-running probability: 15%

Georgia got doubled up in their only game against a ranked opponent this year. They then took a week to think about it before they take on their second ranked opponent, #9 Florida, this week in Jacksonville. There’s a lot riding on this game for the Bulldogs – not just control of the SEC East and their playoff destiny, but perhaps an answer to some existential questions that the nature of the LSU loss brought to the surface. Kirby Smart’s seat is ice cold, of course, but getting blown out as the #2 team tends to make fans a little restless.

#8 Oklahoma

Next game: vs. Kansas State

Resume wins to date: None

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

The one loss: vs. #6 Texas

538 table-running probability: 24%

Oklahoma had some trouble early with TCU, leading 28-24 at halftime. The second half was all Sooners, though, as they tallied a 24-3 advantage to run away with the game. They’re allowing 29.5 points per game to Power 5 opponents, but much like last year, their offense has generally been so good that their defensive softness doesn’t matter. Doesn’t feel like the kind of thing that can hold, though…

#9 Florida

Next game: #7 Georgia (in Jacksonville)

Resume wins to date: vs. #4 LSU

Possible resume wins: #7 Georgia (in Jacksonville), SEC West winner

The one loss: at #12 Kentucky

538 table-running probability: 7%

The Cocktail Party is a playoff elimination game, and the toughest game either team has left before a potential berth in the SEC title game. Florida is another team that’s tough to figure out in Dan Mullen’s first year; they have the best win of anyone so far in #4 LSU, but they also lost convincingly at home to Kentucky and struggled for large portions of the game against bad Ole Miss and Vandy teams. They’re searching for the legitimacy in this game that Georgia earned last year.

#11 Ohio State

Next game: at Nebraska

Resume wins to date: at #17 Penn State

Possible resume wins: vs. #5 Michigan, Big Ten West Winner

The one loss: at Purdue

538 table-running probability: 20%

Despite some deceivingly comfortable scores, Ohio State has been playing with fire for the last five weeks. It finally bit them in an enormous way Saturday,, as Purdue thoroughly dominated the Buckeyes from kickoff to final whistle. The Boilers scored first, and after going up 21-6 halfway through the second quarter they never led by less than 15 en route to a 49-20 win. Ohio State tried to claw back into it in the second half, but Purdue answered both of their scoring drives with lightning strikes of their own – and added a pick six to ice it in spectacularly enjoyable fashion.

Ohio State managed just 76 rushing yards on 25 attempts, while Dwayne Haskins threw an astounding 73 times. He’s probably still icing his arm today. Adding insult to injury, the defense gave up a whopping 7.8 yards per play to humble Purdue. Questions abound in Columbus for a team that’s very fortunate to be ranked this highly based on what I saw on Saturday. They’ll get a week off before taking on a Nebraska squad that finally broke through for its first win of the Scott Frost era this weekend. They’re still very much alive for the Big Ten title, but after their third four-plus-score loss in their last 23 games… It’s not pretty.

#12 Kentucky

Next game: at Missouri

Resume wins to date: at #9 Florida

Possible resume wins: vs. #7 Georgia, SEC West winner

The one loss: at #16 Texas A&M

538 table-running probability: 2%

Kentucky actually has a pretty solid resume – you don’t have to squint too hard to view them as one of the better of the one-loss teams. Their 14-7 win over Vandy this week didn’t do anything to convince their doubters that it’s more than smoke and mirrors, though. If they can get through Missouri they’ll have a great chance to prove it’s for real at home against Georgia. If they beat Georgia, with the head-to-head win over Florida and only Tennessee left on the conference schedule they would almost be a lock for the SEC East crown.

#13 West Virginia

Next game: vs. Baylor

Resume wins to date: None

Possible resume wins: at #6 Texas, vs. #8 Oklahoma, Big 12 title game opponent

The one loss: at Iowa State

538 table-running probability: 4%

The Mountaineers had a week to lick their wounds after getting smacked around by Iowa State, which put a serious dent in their postseason aspirations. They have a Thursday date with Baylor, who also had a week off after coming thisclose to knocking off #6 Texas in their last game. If this game was in Waco I would like the Bears, but for now, I expect West Virginia to keep it on the rails before visiting Texas next.

#14 Washington State

Next game: at #24 Stanford

Resume wins to date: #19 Oregon

Possible resume wins: at #24 Stanford, vs. #15 Washington, Pac 12 South winner

The one loss: at USC

538 table-running probability: 7%

I expected Wazzu to follow their usual script under Mike Leach – get off to a promising start, and yak against the first stiff competition they face. They almost did exactly that as Oregon climbed back into it after a fast Wazzu start; ultimately the normal order of nature prevailed when the Cougars offed the Ducks. The Pullman Pirates travel to Stanford this week to face a Cardinal team that just clawed its way back into the rankings. The Cougs are very much alive for the Pac 12 North title and the overall Pac 12 title, a height they haven’t reached since the days of Mike Price.

#18 Iowa

Next game: at #17 Penn State

Resume wins to date: None

Possible resume wins: at #17 Penn State, Big Ten East winner

The one loss: vs. #20 Wisconsin

538 table-running probability: 5%

Iowa is quietly putting together a decent season; since the come-from-ahead loss to Iowa, they’ve beaten Minnesota, Indiana, and Maryland by a combined score of 113-47 to move to 7-1. Not a murderer’s row by any means, but they’re handling their business. They travel to Penn State this week for another crack at a good (sort of) win.

#22 NC State

Next game: at Syracuse

Resume wins to date: None

Possible resume wins: ACC Coastal division winner

The loss: at #2 Clemson

538 Table-Running Probability: 20%

Still theoretically alive, but the Clemson loss is crippling on a a couple of levels. First, I don’t think anyone really believed they were a serious contender, and getting blown out by Clemson validates those perceptions. Second, to get into the ACC title game, they need to win out while Clemson has to drop at least two of their four remaining conference games. Those Clemson opponents are Florida State, Louisville, Boston College, and Duke. I have a hard time finding a half that Clemson will lose in there, let alone two full games.

Regardless, I have a hunch that NC State will render this all academic very soon by adding a second loss.

Off the Board

#19 Oregon‘s playoff hopes died when they couldn’t rally against Wazzu.

NR Cincinnati fell to Temple on the road, 24-17.

By |2018-10-23T14:03:23+00:00October 22nd, 2018|Football|27 Comments

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hooks orpik
hooks orpik

I am sorry to be a h8r but I’m buying into the UCF snub. Their SoS is 124 out of 130. 124! If you give me them or a UF, UGA, tOSU and ask which one to rank higher, I can ignore the loss and choose on talent. Hell, I’m not even sure I’d put UCF over the WVU/Wazzu tier of teams.

Also, a bad scenario for Notre Dame seems to be if LSU wins out. Is the committee going to leave out a 1-loss Bama team? They’ve put them in before despite not winning the division, let alone the conference. Seems better if we can have a perfect Bama team. A true nightmare would have been Clemson/tOSU running the table plus Bama losing to LSU. I’m of the belief an uNDeafted team gets in, but that would have been one to sweat out. Luckily Ohio State tripping up spares that problem.


If the only two undefeated teams are the ACC champ (Clemson) and ND then there’s one spot for a one-loss SEC champ and one spot for a one-loss B1G champ. No other one loss teams will be considered until one of those four stumble.

There’s no way to spin an 11-1 season where Alabama’s best win is against 3-loss Texas A&M or 4-loss Auburn with a loss to LSU as better than an undefeated ND. I would sleep like a baby leading up to that final ranking.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Right, now that tOSU has lost I rest easy as well. If there was undefeated ACC PLUS Big10 PLUS 1-loss Bama PLUS 1-loss SEC champ….I would not be as confident. Sure, in theory it’s an undefeated ND team making it, but they’ve bent over to squeeze Saban in before and I think media/fan narrative would be heavily against ND as an independent (See Herbstreit already moving LSU above ND)…


The bigger reason to hope for an undefeated Bama is because if we win out as well, we don’t face them in the first round of the playoff. They’ll be #1 and an undefeated Irish team would be #2 or #3.


This is my fear, too. I want Bama to win out – and ND to win out – so we will not have to play them (until the championship)


Tier one wins – over teams in either the AP or S&P+ top 25. Tier 2 wins – over teams at least .500 and in the S&P+ top 60.

1. Alabama – Two tier one wins (Texas A&M and Missouri), one tier two win (Ole Miss)
2. Notre Dame – Two tier one wins (Michigan and Stanford), one tier two win (Virginia Tech)
3. Clemson – Two tier one wins (Texas A&M and NC State), one tier two win (Syracuse)
4. LSU – Lost at Florida, four tier one wins (Miami, Auburn, Mississippi State, and Georgia), one tier two win (Ole Miss)
5. Kentucky – Lost at Texas A&M, two tier one wins (Florida and Mississippi State), one tier two win (South Carolina)
6. Florida – Lost at Kentucky, two tier one wins (Mississippi State and LSU), zero tier two wins
7. Washington State – Lost at USC, two tier one wins (Oregon and Utah), zero tier two wins
8. Michigan – Lost at Notre Dame, one tier one win (Wisconsin), one tier two win (Michigan State)
9. Texas – Lost at Maryland, one tier one win (Oklahoma), two tier two wins (Baylor and USC)
10. Georgia – Lost at LSU, one tier one win (Missouri), one tier two win (South Carolina)

Missing the cut – Undefeateds: UCF 0/1 is off this week, but has three top 60 teams in their last four games while South Florida continues to sit at 0/0 and will get a shot at top 60 Houston this week, their first of four top 60 teams in their final five games. Oklahoma 0/2 and NC State 0/2 are your next two one loss teams, I’ll stick them behind UCF for now. Pulling up the caboose of technically-not-eliminated-one-loss-teams Ohio State 1/0, West Virginia 0/1, and Iowa 0/1 would all be well advised to beat good teams.


Mizzou is a tier one???


They’re number 25 in S&P+, I was surprised by that when I went to update these as well. Kentucky at Mizzou could be a sneaky good game this weekend. In football.


We’re #1 in ESPN’s Strength of Record – http://www.espn.com/college-football/playoffPicture

Light up Grace?


(To be clear, I mean this proverbially, because Joyce is already lit thanks to Arike Ogunbowale 🙂 )


And now men’s hockey as well. – https://www.ncaa.com/rankings/icehockey-men/d1/uschocom


comment image


Losing to Utah made S&P+ angry at USC. They dropped from 30th to 48th.


Pretty ticked at USC. I was hoping for true chaos in Pac12 and have USC v. Stanford for conference championship. Plus, want them to feel good about themselves. We will already have played a Navy and Northwestern that will throw everything to win. Probably FSU too. I can’t believe we have an 82.8% shot at beating FSU. Too much talent.


S&P+ thinks our chances against USC look pretty nice right now


I didn’t realize how underwhelming USC’s wins were. By 4 over Arizona, by 3 over Wazzu. Colorado and UNLV are the only ones that weren’t a coin flip.


And they now are down to their 3rd string QB.


Also, minor nit to pick: The game this week in San Diego isn’t HOME (it’s not the Shamrock Series), it’s AWAY (because we always play Navy at some different location in years it is scheduled to be a Navy home game).



Nice analysis. I think you meant something else as I don’t think OSU plays Purdue two weeks in a row and I don’t think Clemson plays NC St. two weeks in a row.

Eric Murtaugh

I think you meant Brendan as Eric did not write this post.


I agree with Tyler. Eric did not write this post.


Sorry about that, Eric. I can blame Brendan now.


I think that I am too scarred from past November collapses to hop on the ND playoff train right now. The combination of [a bunch of games away from ND stadium + too many close calls already + Navy hangovers + going undefeated is really difficult] does not fill me with confidence. I am hoping for the best, but am being cautious.