Welcome back to the playoff big board! We had to sweat more than we wanted, but this became a phenomenal weekend for the Irish faithful: We’re in, and Michigan sucks. Q.E.D.
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, 12-0
Next game: vs. #4 Georgia (SEC championship game)
Resume wins to date: vs. #19 Texas A&M, vs. #24 Missouri, at #10 LSU, vs. #18 Mississippi State
Possible resume wins: #4 Georgia (SEC championship game)
538 conference title game win probability: 62%
For the second week in a row, Alabama played down to their opponent in the first half – first it was a 10-10 tie with the Citadel at halftime, then a scant 17-14 lead over Auburn at halftime. Both ended up laughers, but still, given Alabama’s dominance through the first ten games of the year it raises an eyebrow ever so slightly. Is it that Winning Is Hard™, even for Palpatine and the Death Star? Are they bored? Did they peak too soon?
The smart money is still on just being bored. Georgia won’t be as kind to a lethargic Alabama as the Tide’s last two opponents have been, so we’ll find out soon enough.
#2 Clemson, 12-0
Next game: vs. Pitt (ACC championship game)
Resume wins to date: at #19 Texas A&M, vs. #20 Syracuse
Possible resume wins: Pitt (ACC championship game)
538 conference title game win probability: 94%
Clemson let South Carolina hang around before opening it up in the third quarter. Like Alabama, they’ve put up a string of less-than-inspiring first halves recently; they were up 13-7 on Boston College at the half, 14-6 on Duke, and 28-21 on South Carolina before pulling away. Are they also bored? ACC title game opponent Pitt flopped against Miami this week, but the erstwhile giant-killer still looms large.
#3 Notre Dame, 12-0
Next game: TBD
Resume wins to date: vs. #7 Michigan, at #21 Northwestern, vs. #20 Syracuse (in NYC)
Possible resume wins: None
Notre Dame’s resume took a bit of a blow this week when Pitt was upset by Miami, knocking down one of their quality wins. It took a slightly less deleterious blow [snicker] when Michigan [heh heh] got smoked [hahahaha] by Ohio State [GUFFAW GUFFAW GUFFAW]. More on that in a bit. Thankfully Northwestern and Syracuse won and will stay inside the top 20 for the time being, which will help offset those dings a bit.
I’m seeing a lot of #HotTakes about how Notre Dame is cheating by not being in a conference and not “having” to play in a conference title game. Well, I would say we’re hurting by not “getting” to play in a conference title game. Clemson is going to get a bunch of credit for playing Pitt in the ACC title game, and Ohio State is going to get a bunch of credit for playing Northwestern in the Big Ten game. That’s unranked 7-5 Pitt, who is a 23.5 point dog, and barely-ranked 8-4 Northwestern, who is a 14 point dog. Some test… Also, without that last chance to make a good impression, we’re operating with a much narrower margin for error. It will be very, very difficult for Notre Dame to make the playoff as currently constructed with just one loss. On the flip side, of the 16 playoff participants to date, 13 finished the regular season with a loss.
* Not really an upset as, despite the human ranking disparity, Miami was a 5.5 point favorite. But it’s fun to say that Pitt was upset by Miami. Cats sleeping with dogs, and all that.
#4 Georgia, 11-1
Next game: vs. #1 Alabama (SEC championship game)
Resume wins to date: vs. #9 Florida (in Jacksonville), at #15 Kentucky
Possible resume wins: vs. #1 Alabama (SEC championship game)
The one loss: at #10 LSU
538 conference title game win probability: 38%
Georgia took care of business in their nominal rivalry game with Georgia Tech, and now prepare for
ARMAGEDDON I mean the SEC title game, in which only the best kind of football will be played between the clear top two teams in the country. Or something like that.
In The Conversation
#5 Oklahoma, 10-1
Next game: vs. #14 Texas (Big 12 championship game)
Resume wins to date: at #23 Iowa State, at #16 West Virginia
Possible resume wins: vs. #14 Texas (Big 12 championship game)
The one loss: vs. #14 Texas
538 conference title game win probability: 69%
Oklahoma’s last four weeks: Beat Texas Tech 51-46, beat Oklahoma State 48-47, beat Kansas 55-40, beat West Virginia 59-56. They’ll probably beat Texas and sneak into the playoffs, and their offense is probably good enough to put up some points on Alabama, but man, they might give up 90.
#6 Ohio State, 11-1
Next game: vs. #21 Northwestern (Big Ten championship game)
Resume wins to date: at #12 Penn State, vs. #7 Michigan
Possible resume wins: vs. #21 Northwestern (Big Ten championship game)
The one loss: at Purdue
538 conference title game win probability: 78%
A week after sneaking past Maryland in overtime, Ohio State obliterated The Team That Is Playing Better Than Anyone in a schadenfreude exercise for the ages. As dirty as I felt pulling for Ohio State, I did it anyway, and in the aftermath I have to say that if that was wrong I don’t want to be right. They’ve looked shaky all season, but they have a chance to sneak into the playoffs as well if Oklahoma drops the rematch with Texas. They’ll get beaten by Alabama worse than Oklahoma would, which I guess is some consolation for wanting them to win this past weekend.
#8 UCF, 11-0
Next game: vs. Memphis (AAC championship game)
Resume wins to date: None
Possible resume wins: vs. Memphis (AAC championship game)
538 conference title game win probability: 70%
UCF logged the most Pyrrhic victory this weekend, knocking off South Florida for their 26th consecutive win but losing star quarterback Mackenzie Milton to a gruesome leg injury. Milton suffered a catastrophic tibia/fibula break on a low tackle, with players from both teams clearly shaken in the aftermath. His season is over and his career is likely in question. As for the team, UCF now has to face a Memphis squad that very nearly knocked them off a few weeks ago, but without Milton to save them.
Further complicating matters is that they somehow stayed behind two-loss Michigan, who just got punked. It’s not right, and it also virtually assures that UCF will he shut out of the playoff. Even if they did get in, facing Alabama without their best player hardly sounds like fun.
Off the Board
#7 Michigan crashed to earth in a big way. In this space a week ago:
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.
I rest my case. Jim Harbaugh became the first coach in Michigan history – like, ever! – to lose to Ohio State in each of his first four seasons. Sucking worse than Shembechler at, well, anything is truly exceptional work. I saw someone point out on Twitter that when Michigan lost by 23 in Jimbo’s first season, the story was that he needed to get his players in, so he got his players in and developed them and lost by 29, with two more losses in between. Michigan fans have, predictably, pivoted from crowing about how much better than us they are to how we’re cheating by not being in a conference. Setting aside the irony of the program that blackballed us when we actually wanted to join a conference making that complaint now, I’ll just say this: Michigan sucks.
Michigan could potentially still back in if utter chaos strikes (almost) everyone else, which would earn them the privilege of getting boat-raced by Alabama in the first round. That could be fun.
#12 Washington State met only sadness in their rivalry game as well, as they were throttled pretty completely by Washington. Wazzu also lost their seat at the conference title game and any slim chance they had of making the playoffs. And they could lose their coach this offseason as well. All in all, a pretty disastrous weekend for the Cougars.