Playoff Big Board: Week 9

Welcome back to the playoff big board! Most of the higher-ranked teams played as expected, but overall it was a very bloody day for ranked teams. No fewer than eleven AP top 25 teams lost this week, and eight of those eleven fell to unranked opponents. Ouch, as they say.

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.

As Fate whittles the board down, we’ll adjust the format – I’ll probably switch from undefeated/one-loss teams to in/on the outside looking in/out or something like that.

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: #25 Texas A&M

Possible resume wins: at #4 LSU, #21 Mississippi State, SEC East winner

538 table-running probability: 39%

Alabama was idle heading into the game of the year against LSU this weekend. As dominant as they’ve been, they’ve just barely faced a single ranked team to date. They opened as 14.5 point favorites – against #4, on the road. So obviously Vegas isn’t too concerned about their strength of schedule.

#2 Clemson

Next game: vs. Louisville

Resume wins to date: at #25 Texas A&M

Possible resume wins: ACC Coastal winner

538 table-running probability: 64%

A week after blowing out then-ranked NC State, Clemson handed Florida State its worst home loss in program history. The game wasn’t as close as the 59-10 final indicates. Kudos to the Seminoles for providing what will likely stand as the best sad-trombone moment of the season when a DB, bereft of emotion, donned their grad school backpack turnover prop down 59-3. They’re all but assured of winning out at this point.

#3 Notre Dame

Next game: at Northwestern

Resume wins to date: vs. #5 Michigan

Possible resume wins: #22 Syracuse (in New York City)

538 table-running probability: 38%

It’s really hard to swallow our loss from Saturday, and… Wait, no, I mean we scraped one out again against Navy… Wait, hang on, that’s still not right. We won by 22, outgained them by 240 yards, had twice as many first downs, converted 7 of 15 third downs and allowed Navy to convert only 2 of 12 third downs, had a QB complete 81% of his passes for 10 yards per attempt, had one RB with 26 touches for 169 yards and another with 14 touches for 106 yards…

The third quarter wasn’t fun, definitely. But damn, folks, let’s enjoy a three-score win over a perennially pesky opponent to move to 8-0. Doesn’t happen all that often. Next up is a road test against Northwestern, who has a respectable defense and a pathetic offense.

#9 UCF

Next game: vs. Temple

Resume wins to date: None

Possible resume wins: American West division winner

538 table-running probability: 28%

This is really getting ridiculous. Two weeks ago, UCF won and was jumped by idle Oklahoma. Last week, they won and were jumped by idle Florida. This week, they were idle and were jumped by idle Ohio State, who was last seen getting steamrolled by Purdue. Three consecutive weeks in which UCF won or was idle and was jumped by an idle team. Do better, AP voters. If you don’t take them seriously, rank them lower to begin with. If you do take them seriously, stop jumping them based only on conference brand equity.

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. #6 Georgia

Possible resume wins: vs. #1 Alabama, at #25 Texas A&M, SEC East winner

The one loss: at #13 Florida

538 table-running probability: 9%

LSU has just the one resounding quality win, when they dismantled #6 Georgia. The earlier opponents who looked good turned out to stink. So how good are they really? We’ll find out soon enough when they take on #1 Alabama this weeek.

#5 Michigan

Next game: vs. #14 Penn State

Resume wins to date: None

Possible resume wins: vs. #14 Penn State, at #8 Ohio State

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

538 table-running probability: 23%

Michigan was off this week, but they still had time to tarnish their resume a bit. When they beat Wisconsin two weeks ago, people thought maybe they were pretty good. I think most of those same people stopped thinking when Wisconsin got blown out by a mediocre Northwestern team. Penn State isn’t really any good, but they’ll step in this weekend as Michigan’s toughest opponent since they dropped the opener to the Irish.

#6 Georgia

Next game: at #11 Kentucky

Resume wins to date: vs. #13 Florida (in Jacksonville)

Possible resume wins: vs. #9 Florida (in Jacksonville), at #11 Kentucky, SEC West winner

The one loss: at #4 LSU, resoundingly

538 table-running probability: 23%

Georgia absolutely smashed Florida in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, putting them on track for a massive showdown in – I swear I’m not making this up – Lexington this weekend. Whoever wins will pretty much lock up the SEC East title.

#7 Oklahoma

Next game: at Texas Tech

Resume wins to date: None

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

The one loss: vs. #15 Texas

538 table-running probability: 28%

Yawn – another week, another 50+ point output for the Sooners. Texas Tech opened as a 10.5 point home underdog, so there might not be many believers outside Lubbock. But I’ll say this is a game that deserves some attention, as Tech has some offensive firepower of their own and could prove a tough out.

#8 Ohio State

Next game: at Nebraska

Resume wins to date: at #14 Penn State

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

The one loss: at Purdue

538 table-running probability: 21%

I’m not sure how Ohio State loses by four touchdown to Purdue and then moves up three spots while idle. Voters are weird. What I am sure of is that Ohio State has systemic issues, and it’s going to bite them at least once more.

#10 Washington State

Next game: vs. Cal

Resume wins to date: at #16 Utah

Possible resume wins: Pac 12 South winner

The one loss: at USC

538 table-running probability: 15%

Guys… It might be time to take the Cougars seriously. Many observers, myself included, thought they would be vulnerable against Stanford after clawing to hold off Oregon last week. Whoops. Turns out they had more counter-punches in their arsenal, as they played the Rasputin role to the Cardinal that the Cardinal has played to the Irish so often. Wazzu cracks the AP top ten this week with their 7-1 record – a record that, I need to highlight again, would likely be 8-0 if not for the absurdly crooked Pac 12 refs protecting USC. Next up is a Cal team that just beat Washington without scoring an offensive touchdown.

This sounds kind of crazy to say, but barring an unprecedented amount of chaos in the final month of the season Wazzu is the Pac 12’s last shot at getting a playoff team. Arrrrr!

#11 Kentucky

Next game: vs. #6 Georgia

Resume wins to date: at #13 Florida

Possible resume wins: vs. #6 Georgia, SEC West winner

The one loss: at #25 Texas A&M

538 table-running probability: 4%

Kentucky’s home date with Georgia this weekend is the biggest game for Kentucky football since… ever, maybe? At 7-1 and with Tennessee, Middle Tennessee State, and Louisville ahead after Georgia, they’re in great position to win ten games. If they do, it would be their first ten-win season since Fran Curci’s 1977 10-1 campaign and the third in program history, joining 1977 and 1950’s 11-1 edition. That 1950 team was coached by none other than Bear Bryant himself; they were #7 in the final AP poll, which at that time came out before the bowl games, and then beat #1 Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.

If they can somehow get past Georgia, they’ll have a solid shot at putting up arguably the best regular season in school history. Heady times indeed for the Wildcats.

#13 West Virginia

Next game: at #15 Texas

Resume wins to date: None

Possible resume wins: at #15 Texas, vs. #7 Oklahoma, Big 12 title game opponent

The one loss: at Iowa State

538 table-running probability: 7%

West Virginia set Baylor on fire, ran over them with a semi, put it in reverse to make sure, then stuffed the remains into a fireworks shell and shot it into the sky. The first quarter wasn’t too crazy, as the Mountaineers built a reasonable 10-0 lead. They then dropped 31 points in the second quarter. Yikes. They outgained Baylor by almost 300 yards, had a +4 turnover margin, an average scoring play length of 31 yards, and a dozen tackles for loss. I think they spent their bye week getting a bit ticked off about the lost to Iowa State… Texas might be in for a nasty time on Saturday.

Off the Board

#13 Florida picked up their second loss as Georgia smacked them around. Perhaps they forgot to have the cocktails after the game.

#15 Texas picked up their second loss when they just couldn’t find the answers for plucky Oklahoma State. This is great news for Notre Dame, as Texas is now free to play spoiler in the Big 12.

#19 Iowa fell to #14 Penn State, which was their second loss and likely their last chance at a quality win until bowl season.

A week after conference mate Cincinnati dropped from the ranks of the unbeaten, NR South Florida followed suit in a convincing loss to Houston. Bye.

NR NC State fell to Syracuse a week after getting smashed by Clemson. That 5-0 start turned south pretty quickly. Perhaps they can regain some pride against a reeling Florida State squad this week.

By |2018-10-29T10:29:18+00:00October 29th, 2018|Football|43 Comments

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Brendan RScarponiHitmanmy name is inigo montoyaDan Zibton Recent comment authors
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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 – One tier one win (Texas A&M), two tier two wins (Ole Miss and Missouri)
2. Notre Dame – One tier one win (Michigan), two tier two wins (Stanford and Virginia Tech)
3. Clemson – Two tier one wins (Texas A&M and Syracuse), one tier two win (NC State)
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), two tier two wins (South Carolina and Missouri)
6. Michigan – Lost at Notre Dame, one tier one win (Wisconsin), two tier two wins (Michigan State and Maryland)
7. Georgia – Lost at LSU, one tier one win (Florida), one tier two win (Missouri and South Carolina)
8. Washington State – Lost at USC, one tier one wins (Utah), two tier two wins (Stanford and Oregon)
9. Ohio State – Lost at Purdue, one tier one win (Penn State), one tier two win (Minnesota)
10. UCF – Zero tier one wins, one tier two win (Memphis)

Missing the cut – Oklahoma 0/1 and West Virginia 0/1 round out the one loss P5 teams. TCU lost to Kansas this weekend to drop them off of Oklahoma’s tier two wins, allow me to reiterate: Oklahoma ain’t played nobody (except Texas, who they lost to). There are two guaranteed losses in the top 10 this week as Georgia goes to Kentucky and LSU hosts Alabama, additionally 10 of the 12 teams listed, excluding Clemson and Ohio State, play quality opponents this weekend. Get ready for some chaos, hopefully none in Evanston.


Why do you have Clemson behind both Bama and ND in this list? Wouldn’t 2 Tier 1 wins trump 1 Tier 2 win?


I’m basically tracking three things, great wins, quality wins, and losses and using that to inform the rankings, which is my interpretation of basically what the playoff committee does.

So I’ve “shown my work” so to speak on what each team’s resume is and don’t let anyone get too far out of whack with what they’ve accomplished, then add a bit of totally-unfair-subjective analysis: Is Syracuse AP/SP ranked 22/51 really a better win than Mizzou UR/27? Not by much if at all. Is Texas A&M 25/26 as good Michigan 5/4? Not even close. Does Alabama dominate every team they play? Yeah, pretty much.

There was a situation for a couple weeks while Texas still only had one loss where Texas had lost to Maryland and was one tier-two win better than Michigan who beat Maryland and I had Michigan above Texas due to that common opponent.

So to make a short answer long I think by objectively tracking team accomplishments I’m creating a better top ten than the AP Poll, which largely is based off the preseason top 25 poll then teams move up as teams in front of them lose with only tertiary consideration to whether the teams that are being beaten are worth a spot on the field. This has been most clear all season in my rankings vs the AP regarding Kentucky and Oklahoma.

Russell Knox
Russell Knox

I like it.


This makes sense. Just sort of seemed like you were presenting an objective ranking based on Tier 1 & Tier 2 wins. Did not get the sense that it was subjective.


The reason tOSU jumps up so much is because they are tOSU. Everyone had them in their Top 3 at the start of the season, and you can let a little thing like a 4 TD loss to a mediocre, but improving, Purdue team stand in the way of conventional wisdom.

If we have one loss and tOSU and OU have one loss, preseason conventional wisdom will put both of them ahead of us.

I will be interested in seeing if Kentucky and WSU start getting some love.

We will likely bid a fond farewell to LSU this weekend, and will bid a fond farewell to either Georgia or Kentucky this weekend. Hopefully, our status does not change.

Fox is hyping the Nebraska-tOSU game as if this were the 1970s. That game will likely make the Clemson-FSU game look like a photo finish.

Assume the top 3 win out.

the fourth team will be the winner of scum and tOSU, unless they both have a second loss THEN,

the winner of OU and WVU, unless they have taken a second loss, THEN

Wassu, unless they have taken a second loss, THEN

the two loss SEC runner-up, unless it has a third loss, THEN

undefeated UCF.


FiveThirtyEight seems to think Alabama losing this weekend would be good for ND’s playoff chances (+2%), but I completely disagree. The best SEC scenario for ND is Bama winning out, which likely eliminates any chance that a second SEC team gets in over a 1-loss ND team. We’d need more chaos for a 1-loss ND team to make it (ideally the B1G West champ winning the championship game), but 13-0 Alabama is probably step one.


FiveThirtyEight thinks we would be the least likely team to get in if Clem/Bama/Ohio State/Oklahoma/ND win out, which, nah.

Andy Roberts

That 2% bump is probably due to the aggregate chance of Alabama & LSU both ending up with 2 losses going up under that scenario. I’m sure it’s mathematically sound, but if we’re looking at this from a risk assessment point of view, I’d rather just concede Alabama getting in (they’re not losing twice, period) and ensure no other SEC teams are on our tail.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Great stuff Brendan.

Here’s a fun hypothetical to toss around before Tuesday night…Assume Notre Dame is NOT ranked #3 by the committee. What spot are they?

I think I’d lean to 2 over 4 at this point. 3 is probably the most likely and makes the most sense for Bama and Clemson to be 1-2 again.


2 is more likely than 4. Having the undefeated team with the best win in the country ranked below a one-loss team would risk seriously damaging the committee’s credibility not just with Notre Dame fans, but fans of all non-SEC conferences as well.


Hypothetically, LSU beats Bama this Sat. Does anyone blink an eye if they are then #1?


Top 4 in that scenario, assuming (fingers crossed) we win: LSU, Clem, ND, Bama

That’s basically the B1G nightmare scenario because then they could have a 12-1 champion not get in.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

True even though a Coach O led team surely isn’t going to go 12-1, right? Seems like they would trip again (UGA in SECG?) at some point.

This is getting convoluted but hypothetically that would have to mean only UGA (12-1) makes it, no? I don’t think an 11-1 Bama team is hopping a 12-1 Michigan BIG10 champ.


I think 11-1 Bama is in over 12-1 Ohio State, assuming Bama loses close to LSU and then continues to rack up big wins otherwise. Questionable over 12-1 Oklahoma or Michigan.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Would be interesting to see. A hypothetical 12-1 tOSU has a win over Michigan, Penn St, Big10 West winner….If Bama goes 11-1 their best win is…Texas A&M? Miss St? Not much there for them.

But, who knows, we’ve seen committee give non-division winner Bama the nod before based on just believing they’re a top team despite resume and results sometimes..This year I would say in theory a 12-1 OSU/Mich should get a nod over an 11-1 Bama but yeah sometimes it doesn’t play out like that.

IDK if the bowl alignments work but it would be hilarious if Bama got left out, drew UCF in a NY6 and beat them like 66-0 to prove a point.


11-1 Bama got in over two-loss Big10 champ OSU and two-loss Pac12 champ USC that year and over 12-1 Wisconsin that OSU beat during Championship week. I have very serious doubts that 11-1 Bama gets in over any one-loss conference champion this year, even including Wazzou and West Virginia if they defy the odds and run the table.

Andy Roberts

2 is far more likely than 4. Given the apparent quality of the Michigan win, there is no coherent argument whatsoever for ranking a 1-loss team ahead of ND right now.

Dan Zibton

No chance we’re 4, but I’ll go out on a limb here: The chance we’re at #3 is very low as well, and there’s a greater chance that we’re at #1 than there is that we’re at #3.

Actual wins over teams with a pulse matters and there’s no more important game in CFB than ND/Michigan right now. LSU/Georgia might be a close second, but I think there’s a legit possibility that the committee lines us up at #1 until Alabama actually has to play someone. If I were doing the ranking, I’d be blending strength of resume and some eye test factors and have us at #2 above Clemson and below Bama, and think that’s the most likely outcome for tonight, but won’t be shocked if they stay strictly based on resume and land us at the very top.


…you sure about that?

Dan Zibton

….yea that didn’t pan out


comment image

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Love this look. Reminds me to slow the roll a little, in my mind it’s like 80-90% chance of 10-0 now, not 68.1%. Would be very disappointing to fall at this point.

Andy Roberts

We’re now to the point where every remaining game scares me. Navy was the only one left that I felt it would take a calamity to lose. We’re better than all 4 remaining teams, but I only feel fairly comfortable about the FSU game right now (I’ll take ‘things that would’ve sounded really weird in August’ for $1000, Alex).


One game at a time for me! I hate that I think like this but: (a) Northwestern scares me because of a Navy hangover, (b) FSU scares me because while they are crapping the bed this year, they still have some talent, (c) Syracuse scares me because they played Clemson tight and ND voluntarily turned a home game into a travel game, and (d) USC scares me because it’s a November road game plus the travel mileage will be piling up by that time.

More Noise
More Noise

Got the same fears, Spider-Man! So, one at a time, right? Beat the ‘Cats!


I agree with all the fears. As I’ve said before, USC is weirdly the one I’m least worried about. Helton’s getting fired, and USC has never been all that mentally tough when things go against them. Getting punched in the mouth early by an ND team that’s 11-0 and seeing the finish line, they’ll crumple like last year. I’m only worried because of the stakes.

The rest…I agree with everything here, and I think Syracuse is a legit “good” team that deserves to be ranked. They’ve had a clunker or two, but so have we. That’s our toughest game remaining in terms of straight-up opponent and matchup. Northwestern is lucky trash that we should beat soundly, but who knows how up they’ll be and how hung over we’ll be from Navy (hopefully not much, since it was a comfortable win). FSU is a talented dumpster fire right now, but I can’t help but worry that somehow they pull it together for one game, and it’s our game. Their D is pretty good, their O has talent, and they’d be good if they got out of their own way. I watched most of the Clemson game and it was weird, for much of it (until the 2nd half turned really super ugly, anyway) it didn’t look like FSU was that much worse than Clemson, they just didn’t finish plays and Clemson did. It gave the impression that FSU wasn’t that bad, and then you looked up and holy crap Clemson had scored 28 points in the 2nd quarter and the game was over. It was kind of weird–domination without feeling like it was, at least until FSU flat gave up.


I have had those same thoughts about FSU — I really hope they don’t put things together for one magical night in South Bend. On the bright side, they might fold because of the (I’m assuming) cold November midwestern night-time weather.


I WANT SNOW. I WANT SNOW IN SOUTH BEND THAT DAY SO BAD (he says from his couch in New Jersey)


While I love the idea of snow games, Ian Book throwing 40 out routes in the snow seems like the potential for a bad time.


It’s the one time he’ll complete a deep ball, though. Just because.

my name is inigo montoya
my name is inigo montoya

I am not a big conspiracy theory fan, but did they put LSU @ #3 to boost ratings for this weekend? No reason for them not to, since either LSU or Alabama has to lose Saturday…



(calm down)


Yeah, my original response was “What?!” but then I reminded myself that I don’t even think ND is the 3rd best team in the nation. If I was to rank teams based on who would win head to head (neutral site blah blah), I think it would be something like this if I’m being honest:

Who Cares
Not Good Enough
Pac 12 Winner

And frankly I’m not entirely confident that ND should be above OU and tOSU, but I think Mich would beat both so by the transitive rule…

Anyway, first rankings not what I expected, but I’m fine with them. And I have lost no confidence that if ND wins out they’re in.


I think there’s a clear 1 and 1A in Bama and Clemson. After that, I think there’s a big jumble of teams who could all beat each other and be competitive for the last two spots, and ND is firmly in that group. I’d say that group extends down to Oklahoma on your list, with possibly tOSU if they wake up and Purdue was their normal blip rather than a trend.

But beyond that, I think it’s silly to worry about the rankings, for two reasons: first, the only year the projections were remotely close was last year, when 3 of 4 in the first poll made it in–the one that didn’t was #3 ranked ND. Second, as long as we win, we’re in. Bama-LSU will resolve itself this weekend, and there’s little likelihood that any of the teams below us would jump us to keep us out if we win out. As the undefeated, we’re at the top of that jumble of teams all just below Bama and Clemson. Maybe inigo up there is right and LSU is ranked above us to hype the game this weekend, but it will resolve. I think other teams have a lot more reason to hope Northwestern or Syracuse upset us than we have to worry about anybody jumping us. Play the games in front of us, win (and try to at least make it look good) and we’ll be fine.


I just wanna note that Clemson beat Cuse by 4 and Texas A&M by 2. Those are the only 2 good teams they’ve played, unless we’re gonna lump NC State in there. I’m mostly in agreement that Clemson is really good, but if ND had beaten 2 bottom of the Top 25 teams by a combined 6 points, people would be outraged that we were #2 in the country. Hell, people are already discounting our Michigan win.

Edit: Not that this is what you’re doing, but I didn’t have a better place to whine about Clemson’s ranking.


I’ll also point out, though, that Clemson made a QB change much like we did, and has been on fire since. Teams evolve, and if we’re going to expect the committee to overlook our clunkers with Wimbush at QB because now we’re playing much better with Book, the same applies to both Clemson and Michigan (not that Michigan made a change, but they’ve gotten significantly better).


My nightmare scenario (I literally had this nightmare):
We lose to USC, Michigan wins out and gets in over us.

Please vote this down to ease my fears!

More Noise
More Noise

How can I vote you down? We the true fans, with all our due love and respect for ND football, need to nurture all our fears, harbor them like vipers close to our somewhat traumatized but oh so Irish hearts — so that the team can pay NO attention to any of that crap, “focus on the process”, take them one game at a time, maximize their potential (have I forgotten any of BK’s coach speak, with which the players have clearly and happily bought into so far) … and have fun and kick ass!


Also, it’s Halloween +1 that stuff and get those fears ELEVATED