Welcome back to the playoff big board! Our board will consist of all ranked undefeated teams and all ranked one-loss Power 5 teams from the the playoff committee rankings. With the playoff rankings out now, I’ve changed the board format from undefeated/one-loss to in-the-playoff/in-the-conversation. 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.
Resume wins and 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.
Today’s Playoff Group
#1 Alabama, 9-0
Next game: vs. #16 Mississippi State
Resume wins to date: at #7 LSU
Possible resume wins: vs. #16 Mississippi State, #5 Georgia (SEC championship game)
538 table-running probability: 51%
LSU is the only team in Alabama’s rearview that is currently ranked, which made the rivalry game very interesting. Problem is, it wasn’t very rival-ish, as the Tide stomped all over LSU on the road en route to a 29-0 statement win. Alabama hosts a suddenly top 15 Mississippi State team that might be over-ranked, but then again everyone after the top dozen or so is pretty interchangeable this year so who cares. Anyway, you know what’s coming here.
#2 Clemson, 9-0
Next game: at #17 Boston College
Resume wins to date: vs. #13 Syracuse
Possible resume wins: at #17 Boston College, ACC Coastal winner
538 table-running probability: 67%
Clemson flirted with disaster against Syracuse in week 5, as they needed a late score to pull out the win; since then, they’ve outscored four conference opponents by a total of 240-36. Granted, three of those four are objectively bad teams, but even so, that’s impressive. They likely hastened Bobby Petrino’s demise with a 77-16 pasting of Louisville this week, which featured offensive scores by Dabo’s son Will, who is a walk-on, and DT Dexter Lawrence, who did his best William Perry impersonation. A November road game at a respectable Boston College might provide a bit of a speed bump, but don’t get your hopes up.
#3 Notre Dame, 9-0
Next game: vs. Florida State
Resume wins to date: vs. #4 Michigan
Possible resume wins: vs. #13 Syracuse (in New York City)
538 table-running probability: 49%
For the third consecutive week, Notre Dame lost while winning. It’s a pretty cool trick… The reality, of course, is that a ton of stupid crap (some self-inflicted) went Northwestern’s way, and still the best they could do was a 10-point loss at home. Which is three times the size of Michigan’s margin over the same Northwestern team, if you’re scoring at home. The same Michigan that Notre Dame beat without our current two best offensive players. But I digress…
Next up is a mortally wounded Seminoles team that has played three ranked teams to date and has been outscored 136-45 in those three games. There has also been some public player-on-player sniping about effort. And the forecast for Saturday calls for a high of 36 degrees and snow showers. Did I mention that the line opened at Notre Dame -18? Now, as a long-tenured Irish fan, all of those factors give me a considerable amount of agita about this game. As a normal sports fan, though, I’m licking my chops. Any given Saturday, yada yada, but this is probably Notre Dame’s best chance for highly-coveted style points down the stretch. I expect Kelly to take advantage of it if he has the opportunity.
Also, from the not-so-fast department – our softer-than-expected schedule is going to get a nice little bump from Syracuse, assuming they can hold serve against moribund Louisville this week. They’ll enter the Yankee Stadium game as a fringe top 10 team; they won’t go the ACC title game, so there’s a very good chance they’ll stay in the top 25 even if they lose to Notre Dame and Boston College in their last two games. If they beat Boston College, they should stay in or near the top 20 and maintain quality win status.
#4 Michigan, 8-1
Next game: at Rutgers
Resume wins to date: at #18 Michigan State, vs. #21 Penn State
Possible resume wins: at #10 Ohio State, Big Ten West winner (winner may be ranked)
The one loss: at #3 Notre Dame (never not funny)
538 table-running probability: 43%
Michigan hammered a Penn State team that looked like they forgot how the game works. Penn State (a) is now 0-3 against ranked teams this year and (b) has recorded one-score wins over Appalachian State, Indiana, and Iowa. Kudos to Michigan for beating up on them, but meh. It hardly moves the needle enough for me to forget that they lost to us, or that we beat our common opponent worse than they did. But what do I know…
In The Conversation
Next game: at #11 Kentucky
Resume wins to date: vs. #15 Florida (in Jacksonville), at #11 Kentucky
Possible resume wins: vs. #1 Alabama (SEC championship game)
The one loss: at #7 LSU
538 table-running probability: 28%
A week after clobbering then-#9 Florida at a neutral site, Georgia clobbered then-#9 Kentucky on the road and clinched the SEC East. Pretty solid eight day stretch. Their loss to now-#7 LSU looks like a substantial outlier at this point. The Dawgs have three likely formalities on their march to Atlanta, all at home: Auburn, UMass, and Georgia Tech.
If you want some serious (but unlikely) chaos – Auburn could beat both Alabama and Georgia down the stretch and yet not knock either from the SEC championship game. If Georgia was then to win the conference title, you would have a two-loss SEC champ and a two-loss SEC runner up. There’s maybe – maybe – a 0.5% chance of that happening, but it sure would be fun.
Next game: vs. Oklahoma State
Resume wins to date: at #22 Iowa State
Possible resume wins: at #8 West Virginia, Big 12 title game opponent
The one loss: vs. #18 Texas
538 table-running probability: 37%
From last week’s big board: “…This is a game that deserves some attention, as Tech has some offensive firepower of their own and could prove a tough out.” And sure enough, Oklahoma eked out a 51-46 win, even though Texas Tech had to play their backup QB the entire second half. Okie State has run hot and cold this year; if the hot one shows up for Bedlam, it could well be another shootout.
#8 Washington State
Next game: at Colorado
Resume wins to date: None
Possible resume wins: vs. #25 Washington, Pac 12 South winner
The one loss: at USC
538 table-running probability: 19%
Justin Wilcox seems to have something figured out about Wazzu’s offense; after holding them to their lowest output by far last year, Cal did it again this year. The difference this time around was that the Cougs played well enough on defense to pull out the win anyway. With winnable games against Colorado and Arizona ahead, the Good Ship Leach could pull into the Apple Cup – at home, no less – very much in the playoff picture. They’re going to need some help because their schedule is soft, but if a couple of teams stub the proverbial toe Wazzu will be right there.
And they’ll likely get immolated by Alabama in the first round, but hey, can’t dance if you’re not at the party.
#9 West Virginia
Next game: vs. TCU
Resume wins to date: at #18 Texas
Possible resume wins: vs. #6 Oklahoma, Big 12 title game opponent
The one loss: at #21 Iowa State
538 table-running probability: 11%
Dana Holgorsen made an extremely gutsy call to go for two down a point with 15 seconds remaining, and it paid off big time. West Virginia finally has a big win to hang their hat on, and their playoff fortunes – while still not excellent – improve considerably as a result. The Big 12 stretch run has an interesting fulcrum in the Iowa State-Texas game. If Iowa State beats Texas and West Virginia beats Oklahoma or if Texas beats Iowa State and Oklahoma beats West Virginia, we’ll get an immediate OU-WV rematch in the title game. If Iowa State beats Texas and Oklahoma beats West Virginia, we’ll get an Oklahoma-Iowa State title game. If Texas beats Iowa State and West Virginia beats Oklahoma, we’ll get a West Virginia-Texas title game.
Of course, that all assumes everyone takes care of business against everyone else, which is no sure thing. What a tangled web we weave.
#10 Ohio State
Next game: at #18 Michigan State
Resume wins to date: None
Possible resume wins: vs. #4 Michigan, Big Ten West Winner
The one loss: at Purdue
538 table-running probability: 18%
Ohio State just barely hung on against 2-7 Nebraska, which did nothing to soothe their fans who had spent two weeks seething over the 49-20 loss to Purdue. Michigan State isn’t very good, but they’ll give the Buckeyes at least a bit of an opportunity to right the ship a couple of weeks ahead of the most important game of their season. For all their struggles this year, they still control their destiny in the Big Ten East; beat Michigan State, Maryland, and Michigan, and they’ll head to Indianapolis again.
Next game: vs. Navy
Resume wins to date: None
Possible resume wins: American West division winner
538 table-running probability: 40%
For the fourth consecutive week, UCF won or was idle and was jumped in the AP poll. Go figure. The playoff committee has never been that impressed with UCF because of their schedule strength, which is always going to be a massive albatross for them. I’m not sold they’ll make it through the regular season unscathed, but even if they do, they’re going to need all kinds of carnage above them to get in. I think they’d need to go undefeated and have every other contender for the fourth playoff spot with at least two losses. Seems unlikely.
Off the Board
After Alabama handed them their second loss decisively, #7 LSU would need so much carnage that it’s not reasonable to consider them in the race anymore. Even if Alabama loses to Mississippi State and Auburn, which, let’s be serious, LSU still couldn’t get into the conference championship game. So thanks for playing, DA COACH O.
#11 Kentucky hung around for a bit, but ultimately Georgia proved too much for them. Like LSU they have no way back into the SEC championship game, so like LSU their playoff dreams are dead.