Welcome back to the playoff big board! Another week that was chalk for our contenders… Our board will consist of all ranked undefeated teams and all ranked one-loss Power 5 teams from the the playoff committee rankings. 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, 10-0
Next game: vs. the Citadel
Resume wins to date: at #7 LSU, vs. #21 Mississippi State
Possible resume wins: #5 Georgia (SEC championship game)
538 table-running probability: 59%
Alabama picked up its second quality win of the season this week with their dominant defeat of Mississippi State. It wasn’t without penalty, though, as Tua Tagavailoa came up gimpy twice and his continued health is very much a question mark. He won’t be tested this week at all as Bama takes on the fearsome Citadel in SEC Body Bag Week, but it’s something to watch for the Iron Bowl and the SEC championship game against Georgia.
#2 Clemson, 10-0
Next game: vs. Duke
Resume wins to date: vs. #12 Syracuse, at #20 Boston College
Possible resume wins: ACC Coastal winner
538 table-running probability: 80%
Had Clemson not knocked out Boston College QB Anthony Brown early, their game this week might have been more interesting. They choked the life out of the Eagles’ offense, but their own offense was sluggish throughout. The final score was padded by a punt return touchdown, which means the offense only accounted for 20 points against a good-not-great defense. Most likely it was some November doldrums in an unusually cold setting, but it’s worth watching how they do this weekend against a decent-not-great Duke defense.
#3 Notre Dame, 10-0
Next game: vs. #12 Syracuse (in New York City)
Resume wins to date: vs. #4 Michigan, at #22 Northwestern
Possible resume wins: vs. #12 Syracuse (in New York City)
538 table-running probability: 57%
The Irish emphatically put to bed concerns about frigid game-time temperatures, Ian Book’s injury-related absence, and their mundane performance against Northwestern with a 42-13 thumping of hapless Florida State. The Noles are mired in a lost season, but the performance is still significant because it’s what a good team should do to a bad team. Also of note is that Florida State hasn’t been dominated this thoroughly on defense in quite some time:
- FSU came into the game allowing 111 rushing yards per game and 2.8 yards per carry; the Irish racked up 365 yards at a 7.3 yard-per-carry clip.
- The 365 rushing yards were the most by an FSU opponent since triple-option Georgia Tech’s 401 in 2009.
- The 7.3 yards per carry were the most by an FSU opponent since Florida’s 8.0 in 2009 (bad year for FSU defense, apparently).
- It was the first time FSU was held without a TFL since the BCS title game against Virginia Tech on January 4, 2000.
- Dexter Williams became the first 200-yard rusher against the Noles since – are you sitting down? – 1982.
To sum up… We got ’em good.
Notre Dame has a surprise gift at the end of a weaker-than-expected schedule this week. In a year when Stanford, USC, Virginia Tech, and Florida State are all down, Syracuse comes into the next game ranked #12. They’re competent enough on both sides of the ball to cause a problem if Notre Dame comes in sluggish or unfocused. At the same time, they might not really be all that good; by S&P+, they’re a slightly better version of Pitt’s offense (38th vs. 44th) and a slightly worse version of Stanford’s defense (68th vs. 55th). Doesn’t exactly scare you, right?
So they’re not without danger, but the Irish will have a chance for a comfortable win over a top 15 opponent in November to move to 11-0. Bring it on, man.
#4 Michigan, 9-1
Next game: vs. Indiana
Resume wins to date: at #22 Northwestern, vs. #14 Penn State
Possible resume wins: at #10 Ohio State, vs. #21 Northwestern in Big Ten title game
The one loss: at #3 Notre Dame (never not funny)
538 table-running probability: 42%
Michigan flopped around with Rutgers for about 20 minutes before cleaning up their act and pulling away. That does little to dispel Notre Dame fans’ complaints that they’re only doing well because they’re playing bad teams, and of course nothing will dispel Michigan fans’ complaints that nobody’s giving them credit for being better than the ’85 Bears. With Michigan State’s thorough beating at the hands of a so-so Ohio State, Michigan is down to one quality win to date. Northwestern just locked up the Big Ten West with their win over Iowa. If Michigan stays winless versus Ohio State in the Harbaugh era, that won’t be too relevant. If they get off the schneid, they’ll get to prove that their earlier struggles with Northwestern were a fluke. Stay tuned.
In The Conversation
Next game: vs. UMass
Resume wins to date: vs. #13 Florida (in Jacksonville), at #17 Kentucky
Possible resume wins: vs. #1 Alabama (SEC championship game)
The one loss: at #7 LSU
538 table-running probability: 31%
Georgia hammered Auburn to close out their regular season conference schedule. They’re on cruise control until the SEC title game, where they’re guaranteed to face Alabama – both teams punched their tickets two games ago, when they knocked off Kentucky and LSU. They’re the only team outside the current top four that fully controls their own destiny.
Next game: vs. Kansas
Resume wins to date: at #16 Iowa State
Possible resume wins: at #9 West Virginia, Big 12 title game opponent
The one loss: vs. #15 Texas
538 table-running probability: 36%
For the second straight week, Oklahoma’s putrid defense nearly knocked them out of the conversation. A week after surviving Texas Tech 51-46, they stopped a final-minute two point conversion attempt to beat Oklahoma State 48-47. Both Texas Tech and Okie Light are 5-5, by the way. It sure does feel like Oklahoma is living on borrowed time. It might not bite them this week against a Kansas team that has been competitive once in its last seven games. That road trip to West Virginia to close out the regular season, though? Watch out.
#8 Washington State
Next game: vs. Arizona
Resume wins to date: vs. #19 Utah
Possible resume wins: vs. #18 Washington, Pac 12 South winner
The one loss: at USC
538 table-running probability: 25%
Wazzu went on the road and clobbered Colorado, who is an exercise in symmetry – after opening 5-0, they’ve gone 0-5. Congrats, I guess? The game was most notable for the postgame comments of the president of the Gardiner Minshew Fan Club:
Leach lamented – I think jokingly, but with him you never know – that lots of other guys on the team have great mustaches but people only want to talk about Minshew’s mustache.
Res ipsa loquitor.
#9 West Virginia
Next game: at Oklahoma State
Resume wins to date: at #15 Texas
Possible resume wins: vs. #6 Oklahoma, Big 12 title game opponent
The one loss: at #16 Iowa State
538 table-running probability: 17%
West Virginia has a significant road test this week against an Oklahoma State team that, in the last two weeks, beat Texas and very nearly beat Oklahoma. Can the Pokes possibly be up for their third big game in a row? Can the Mountaineers buck the trend of their home/road scoring splits – +33 margin per game at home, +5 on the road? How many times will the camera catch Dana Holgorsen putting a wad of chew in? So many questions.
#10 Ohio State
Next game: at Maryland
Resume wins to date: at #14 Penn State
Possible resume wins: vs. #4 Michigan, Big Ten West Winner
The one loss: at Purdue
538 table-running probability: 18%
Ohio State righted the ship a bit in handling Michigan State with ease; after getting blasted by Purdue and scraping past Nebraska, the Buckeye faithful were ready to start burning couches in a non-celebratory fashion. Of course, that might be a sign of the general suckitude of the Big Ten more than anything else, but I digress. They face a Maryland team that has been a bit Jekyll-and-Hyde this year, which is hardly surprising given all the stuff going on around that program. This will be their final tuneup before the big game against Michigan; a win there will send them to the Big Ten title game for the fourth time in Meyer’s six postseason-eligible seasons there.
Next game: vs. #24 Cincinnati
Resume wins to date: None
Possible resume wins: vs. #24 Cincinnati, American West division winner
538 table-running probability: 44%
UCF logged a workmanlike win over Navy in their inexorable march to playoff exclusion. They’ll play a quality opponent this week as Cincinnati comes to Orlando, but it’s a bit of a Catch-22; if the Knights win Cincinnati will almost certainly drop out of the rankings never to return, so there goes the quality win. They have no realistic path to the playoff at this point, but they deserve to be here for being undefeated.
Off the Board
Oklahoma made it interesting, but in the end all the contenders on last week’s board won this week so they get to hang around. This week features very few compelling matchups – Notre Dame-Syracuse is easily the best, with Texas-Iowa State the only other matchup of two ranked teams. Kinda sad. On that note, I’d like to highlight the SEC’s schedule this week:
- Alabama vs. the Citadel
- Georgia vs. UMass
- Kentucky vs. Middle Tennessee
- Florida vs. Idaho
- Auburn vs. Liberty
- Texas A&M vs. UAB
- LSU vs. Rice
- South Carolina vs. Chattanooga
- Vandy vs. Ole Miss
- Mississippi State vs. Arkansas
- Tennessee vs. Missouri
Most of them now schedule two virtual FCS games – one actual and one against a new or bottom-feeding FBS program – per year. The next time someone says anything to you about how Notre Dame lacks the “13th data point” of a conference team, please remind them that top SEC brands played the Citadel, Idaho, Liberty, and Chattanooga in November this year. What really cracks me up about this list is that I’m not sure the bigger schools realize that not all of these are patsies – UAB and Middle Tennessee in particular could actually be dangerous. What fun that would be…