Playoff Big Board: Week 13

Welcome back to the playoff big board! One fringe contender fell by the wayside and one more very nearly did, and a couple of serious contenders looked sluggish before taking care of business. You know who didn’t fall into either category? Yeah, you know who…

The astute among you may notice that last week’s post was for week 11 and this one is for week 13. I had treated the first weekend of the season, with just a handful of games, as week 0. Pretty much everywhere else counts it as week 1; I don’t like it, but to avoid confusion I’ll give in. There are hills worth dying on for principle, and then there’s this.

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, 11-0

Next game: vs. Auburn

Resume wins to date: vs. #22 Texas A&M, at #7 LSU, vs. #18 Mississippi State

Possible resume wins: #5 Georgia (SEC championship game)

538 table-running probability: 57%

Alabama, shockingly, had a legitimate struggle on their hands against the Citadel. The underdogs were tied 10-10 at the half and missed a field goal on the first drive of the second half. There were thisclose to having the lead. Against Alabama. In the third quarter.

Alabama next draws Auburn for rivalry week. I can’t see a path for Auburn to pull out a win, but I would’ve had you committed if you predicted Alabama would be tied with the Citadel this past weekend. So who knows?

#2 Clemson, 11-0

Next game: vs. South Carolina

Resume wins to date: at #22 Texas A&M, vs. #20 Syracuse

Possible resume wins: #24 Pitt (ACC championship game)

538 table-running probability: 86%

A week after overcoming a sluggish start to slowly pull away from Boston College, Clemson did the same thing against Duke. The Blue Devils were up 6-0 through one quarter and down just 14-6 at the half; Clemson won the second half 21-0 to put it away. Are these games the mark of a dominant team that got bored towards the end of the season? Or of a team that is maybe not quite as dominant as they seemed earlier and is vulnerable now? We probably won’t learn anything this weekend as Clemson faces a decidedly mediocre South Carolina in their annual rivalry game. A vastly improved Pitt lurks in the ACC title game, though, and could make things interesting.

#3 Notre Dame, 11-0

Next game: at USC

Resume wins to date: vs. #4 Michigan, vs. #24 Pitt, at #19 Northwestern, vs. #20 Syracuse (in NYC)

Possible resume wins: None

538 table-running probability: 82%

You might want to sit down for this one… Notre Dame made a statement in November. I know, I know, it sounds crazy. But it really happened! In their 11th game of the season, the Irish manhandled a badly overmatched top 15 team. Syracuse’s last two possessions, both in the fourth quarter, down 29-0 and 36-0, featured their first team offense against Notre Dame’s second team defense. On those two drives they gained 127 yards on 29 plays, for a sad 4.4 yards per play. Through the previous three quarters, they had gained 107 yards on 44 plays, for a downright morose 2.4 yards per play. Overall the Orange managed a paltry 3.21 yards per play, which is the second lowest non-weather-assisted number of the Kelly era behind only the 3.13 given up to 2015 Texas. If you’re wondering, 2014 Stanford (3.01 in heavy freezing rain) and 2016 NC State (3.05 IN A BLOODY HURRICANE) are lower.

The dominating win over Syracuse combined with late surges by Northwestern and Pitt give Notre Dame four wins over currently-ranked teams, more than any other team in the country. Oklahoma, Wazzu, and UCF have one. Clemson, Michigan, and Georgia each have two. Alabama has three. A matchup with a floundering USC program that will likely be in the market for a new coach a week from now is the only thing that stands between Notre Dame and a playoff berth. I almost feel sorry for the Men of Troy… Almost.

#4 Michigan, 10-1

Next game: at #10 Ohio State

Resume wins to date: at #19 Northwestern, vs. #12 Penn State

Possible resume wins: at #10 Ohio State, vs. #19 Northwestern (Big Ten championship game)

The one loss: at #3 Notre Dame (never not funny)

538 table-running probability: 44%

For the second straight week and third time in the last four games, Michigan mucked around with an inferior opponent for a while before eventually pulling away. Rutgers, who is on an express train to 1-11, only kept it competitive for about 20 minutes last week. Indiana isn’t good but they’re better than Rutgers, and accordingly, they held a 17-15 lead at halftime and hit a field goal to pull within 28-20 with just six minutes to play. I don’t think Ohio State is any good this year, but man, I’m not sure that Michigan is as good as their ranking either. Will this be the week that finally bites the Wolverines in the tuchus?

In The Conversation

#5 Georgia, 10-1

Next game: vs. Georgia Tech

Resume wins to date: vs. #11 Florida (in Jacksonville), at #15 Kentucky

Possible resume wins: vs. #1 Alabama (SEC championship game)

The one loss: at #7 LSU

538 table-running probability: 33%

A week after clobbering Auburn, Georgia looked a little sleepy against UMass. True, they scored 66, but allowing 27 to a near-FCS-level team raises an eyebrow. Most likely it was a sleepwalk in an essential scrimmage, and they’ll come out and paste Georgia Tech at home this week. They’re already into the SEC title game and have been for a couple of weeks now.

#6 Oklahoma, 10-1

Next game: at #13 West Virginia

Resume wins to date: at #25 Iowa State

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

The one loss: vs. #14 Texas

538 table-running probability: 36%

Oklahoma’s last three weeks: Beat Texas Tech 51-46, beat Oklahoma State 48-47, beat Kansas 55-40. Those teams are 5-6, 6-5, and 3-8. They now travel to West Virginia, who is probably going to be pretty ticked off after their slim playoff hopes were dashed by Okie Light. As noted in here last week (when we presciently told you to watch out for Okie Light), West Virginia is a different team on the road and at home this year. Buckle up.

#8 Washington State, 10-1

Next game: vs. #16 Washington

Resume wins to date: vs. #17 Utah

Possible resume wins: vs. #16 Washington, Pac 12 South winner

The one loss: at USC

538 table-running probability: 32%

Wazzu just punked Arizona in a game that wasn’t as close as the 69-28 final would indicate – it was 55-14 AT HALFTIME. I mean, have some mercy, Dread Pirate Leach. Their schedule has worked out very favorably, but even so, they’re a stupidly bad no-targeting call away from being 11-0 themselves. They’ll get a chance to put an exclamation point on their regular season in the Apple Cup this week, which is at Pullman. Arrrr, mateys!

#9 UCF, 10-0

Next game: at South Florida

Resume wins to date: vs. #24 Pitt

Possible resume wins: American West division winner

538 table-running probability: 61%

UCF dominated then-#24 Cincinnati 38-13 this past weekend in their desperate bid to make a strong enough statement to get into the playoff. The reality is that, with their strength of schedule, they need a boatload of help to make it work. I understand why they’re frustrated, but the size of the chip on their shoulder now has taken them from “lovable underdogs” to “team everyone wants to see lose so they shut up already.” They’re not likely to lose until bowl season at least, but the college football world awaits nonetheless.

On the upside, they finally moved up!

#10 Ohio State, 10-1

Next game: vs. #4 Michigan

Resume wins to date: at #12 Penn State

Possible resume wins: vs. #4 Michigan, Big Ten West Winner

The one loss: at Purdue

538 table-running probability: 35%

The Buckeyes came so, so close to disaster Saturday, squeaking past Maryland 52-51 in overtime. Going first in overtime, Ohio State had to convert on fourth down before eventually scoring. When the Terps had their turn, QB Tyrell Pigrome missed an open Jeshaun Jones in the end zone on the would-be game winning two point try in the first extra session, and that was it. Of particular concern for Buckeye fans is that their defense allowed Anthony McFarland to run for 298 yards at more than double his yards-per-carry number in the season’s first ten games. Also of concern is that, while Maryland only completed seven passes on the day, they went for 28.0 yards per completion.

They have a lot to clean up before they face Michigan this weekend, in a matchup that will likely break their streak of 51 consecutive games as the betting favorite – Michigan opened as a 3.5 point favorite and it has already slid up to 4 points. I can almost hear Meyer’s aneurysm from here.

Off the Board

#13 West Virginia is out barring major chaos thanks to their dramatic, literal last-second loss to Oklahoma State. They’re still very much alive for the Big 12 title, but with two losses they would need an unreasonable amount of help in a very short amount of time to get in.

By |2018-11-20T23:34:08+00:00November 20th, 2018|Football|27 Comments

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gbskClearwallKGPublius2010HolyCrossHog Recent comment authors
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This pretty much sums up my feelings about UCF:

” the size of the chip on their shoulder now has taken them from “lovable underdogs” to “team everyone wants to see lose so they shut up already.”

Eric Murtaugh

This isn’t necessarily a defense of UCF but are we all crystal clear that no one outside of the Power 5 is ever getting in the 4-team playoff? I think UCF cements that fact.

Now, I’ve been someone who think they should split off the Power 5 teams anyway so it doesn’t bother me too much. Until they do it, though…it sucks for someone like UCF.

They’re 7th in S&P right now, one spot below Notre Dame. And no sniff of the playoff with an undefeated record. They just beat the No. 36 S&P team very, very soundly in a big game and it doesn’t move the needle the same way with ND beating the No. 48 team this past weekend. That doesn’t seem that fair, Syracuse really isn’t that good.

Plus, the AAC is a solid conference! Not crazy different than the old Big East. They have 5 teams in the Top 40 of the S&P rankings right now.

UCF finished 7th in S&P last year and they were 12th in the final CFP poll, 5 spots below an Auburn team with 2 losses who the Knights would hand their 3rd loss.

To me, it feels like the playoff rankings are putting a little too much weight on strength of schedule. Still, UCF is 9th in the rankings (and I have them 6th) so I guess it’s not too crazy. Still sucks for them.


UCF behind 2 loss LSU is really the dumb thing to me. The top 5 teams are all clearly better than UCF (in my eyes). Is Oklahoma? Probably, but that defense stinks. Is WSU? Probably, especially after what they did Saturday night. But LSU, with 2 losses? With a QB who has made like 8 good plays all season? Nah, dumb.

Eric Murtaugh

I agree.

That’s where I think schedule strength being so overwhelmingly used as the barometer goes wrong. LSU has spent all but 2 weeks looking pretty average for a Power 5 program and that should matter when they’ve already lost twice.


And they’re still coasting on credit for beating a “Top 10 team” in week one, despite the fact that Miami is warmed-over garbage this year.


A team that plays consistently inferior competition can put up big numbers on both sides of the ball and inflate their S&P+ stats. I want to see more head to head competition against at least average Power 5 teams. I think the weakest and least deserving NC in memory was BYU in ’84 where their marquee win was against a 6-5 Michigan team in the Holiday Bowl by only a TD.

Dan Zibton

My counter is that if you’re a G5 team with aspirations of making the playoff, you cannot, under any circumstances play Austin Peay one year and South Carolina St the next. Literally leave a blank spot in your schedule and scream and yell about how “nobody from the P5 will play us”.

I think a G5 team can make the playoffs, but it has to be a UCF/Boise St/Utah/TCU type team who builds up multiple years of goodwill and *then* has a schedule that includes at least one legitimately decent team on it. Pitt and UNC don’t cut it and when your game vs UNC gets cancelled, it helps even less. At the time they played Pitt, Pitt had just gotten beaten by UNC and 3 weeks prior had lost to Penn St 51-6. If they played Pitt tomorrow, that would get a decent amount more publicity, but that’s not how it works.


So ND should get less credit for beating Michigan in week 1? Because most ND fans have been up in arms about that idea.

UCF smoked a Power 5 division winner. Personally, I find a win to be a win, no matter when it occurred.

Dan Zibton

Couple of distinctions, but yes, I think it’s acceptable to argue a team has changed over the course of a year and is better/worse than they were at a different point in time.

First off, head to head still matters, so if you’re arguing Michigan played badly when they lost to ND but is better than ND now, that’s a tough barrier to overcome. We all think/agree that that’s garbage. Two, with Michigan, there’s not any real clear distinction that they’re playing significantly better now than they were then. They blew out (who we believe to be overrated) Wisconsin/Penn St at home, but they had close games against Michigan St/Indiana/Northwestern.

But I have no problem with the general argument that teams mature and change over the course of a season. If we think we should get credit for having Ian Book tearing up defenses and ignoring what we did vs Ball St/Vandy, I think it’s ok to argue that an offense (like Michigan’s) who is working in a new QB over the course of the year can improve. And I think it’s ok to look at results like scoring 6 pts on Penn St and losing to UNC compared to hanging with us and racking up 13.8 yards per play against Virginia Tech and think “yea, they’ve figured some things out as the year has gone along”. It’s ok to use some common sense in trying to figure things out.

Eric Murtaugh

In other words, a G5 team can’t make the playoffs.

Theoretically, how long would UCF’s winning streak have to reach at their current scheduling for them to get this goodwill? Or, which one team (which they would notch a win in this scenario) would they have to beat in place of South Carolina State for goodwill?

I’m not saying you’re 100% wrong but we already know a team like UCF’s SoS isn’t usually going to be the same as others. But then the rankings are often just measures of SoS so it’s like UCF gets slammed twice. Where others (like LSU) can lose a couple times and actually benefit.


I mean, they are the defending national champions.


So here’s what needs to happen for 4 of the 5 power 5 conferences to be left out:

1. Big 10 champion Northwestern;
2. Pac 12 champion Utah or Washington;
3. Clemson loses to South Carolina;
4. ACC champion Pittsburgh;
5. 2+ loss Big 12 champion (this could still be any of Texas, West Virginia, or Oklahoma);
6. Georgia beats Alabama for the SEC championship;
7. Other ND, Georgia, Alabama, UCF games all chalk.

That’d give us:
12-0 Notre Dame
12-1 Georgia
12-1 Alabama
12-0 UCF

No other P5 team with fewer than 2 losses.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Call me crazy but I think (and would be OK with) a 1-loss Clemson making it in over undefeated UCF. You might have a point since UCF blew out Pitt who would then have to somehow beat Clemson still to come, so maybe that transitive property gets them in…

But the committee chair also just said Clemson and Bama are in a tier of their own being “more complete teams with strength on both sides of the ball” than everyone else. Would they really give ’em the boot?


I agree, and am fine with, one-loss Clemson making it over UCF, that’s why Clemson has to lose this weekend to South Carolina and next weekend to Pittsburgh in order to leave out the ACC.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Ahh, gotcha, I didn’t read you quite right there. That would be a lot of chaos, I’m here for it.


That would be wild. Also, Bama wins out and Clemson only loses to Pitt. Could we see this scenario?

1) 13-0 Bama
2) 12-0 Notre Dame (with a close win over Pitt)
3) 12-0 UCF (with a big win over Pitt)
4) 12-1 Clemson (with a loss to Pitt)

This is pretty much the dream scenario for us, right? Of course, then again, maybe ND fans wouldn’t want to have the possibility of losing to a G5 team in the playoff.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

You would need Oklahoma AND Michigan (AND Ohio State) to lose one more…Washington State too. I agree with Eric’s comments above it’s going to be tough for a Cinderella to crash the party and actually make the top-4. Just about any P5 1-loss champion is making it in over UCF.

Dan Zibton

Agree with all those things, and I think you’re missing LSU must lose to TAMU this weekend. I think that will likely happen, but it’s another 50/50 shot that needs to go UCF’s way. 2L LSU with wins over Georgia/TAMU/Miss St/Miami probably still gets in over UCF.


I think ‘Bama gets the dubious honor of smooshing UCF in that scenario with Clemson being #3.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

That would be wonderful to watch a motivated Alabama team vs UCF. Would go a long way to stopping all the chest beating and social media bragging from the Floridians…

Dan Zibton

It’s amazing how fast everyone has turned on them and just hopes they get smoked. I’m with you — I’d love a game between UCF and a motivated, top-tier opponent. It would be instructive either way.

Either we could put the narrative of the plucky underdog that should get a shot at the big boys to rest as Bama stomps their way through them, or we’ll learn that the gap between the P5 and G5 is smaller than everyone thinks and going 12-0/13-0 is valuable no matter who you actually play.


I generally think the gap is pretty big, but I also think having a legit QB like UCF means you can play with anybody when you’re having a good day. For example, I don’t think there’s any way Cincy, who might be the 4th best G5 team, would even hang around any of the top 4. But I think UCF could make a game of it (I think they’d beat ND maybe 3 out of 10 times).

So most years, I don’t think the best G5 team is close (see the undefeated boat rowing Western Michigan team a few years back), but some years, with the right QB, the best G5 team is one of the 10 best in the country (like UCF).


This week is Week 13, and last week was Week 12. ND is playing it’s twelfth game in Week 13, as we had a bye. We played our first game in Week 1. There was a Week 0, the weekend before the Michigan game. Perhaps you miscounted one week somewhere along the way.

In other words: there is an argument that this Week 14, but there is no argument to be made this is Week 12.


If you look at the word ‘week’ too many times, you start to think “what a weird word”




I think we all kind of thought UCF was being funny and making a new meme to laugh at. We all kinda played along with the “National Champs” thing and had a collective chuckle at our fantasy. But now we’re learning UCF seriously b thinks they belong with the big boys because they play trash all year. The joke isn’t a joke anymore and now they’re an annoying PITA.
I know we’d get absolutely nothing out of it. The narrative would be “ND still hasnt beaten a major team in the playoffs /bowls” but id love to expose UCF.