College Football Playoff

We’re almost at the home stretch of the 2017 college football season, which means it’s time to bring out the Bubble Watch. This week, we identified that there are 15 remaining contenders for the College Football Playoff. USC is not one of those teams, even though the committee has the Trojans ahead of several other two-loss teams that I still have alive. I don’t think the Trojans can make the Playoff ahead of a two-loss Big Ten champion (or even a two-loss Big 12 champion), which is why they aren’t still on this list.

I also usually present the resumes of the potential Group of 5 champions, but I’m going to hold off on that for another week. The AAC has such a large lead in the resume department, and I’ll start showing that next week. The only teams with any claims are the AAC champion or Toledo, and if the AAC Championship Game is 11-0 UCF vs 11-1 Memphis, there are no questions. Once that potential game is out of the way, I’ll start bringing out the resume for Toledo. But until that is no longer the likely AAC Championship Game, there is no reason to discuss the Group of 5.

How this works

Let’s give a quick review of how this works.

I include the rankings in yards per play of each team. On the one hand, the resume is which teams you have beaten, so I want stick to only identifying the quality of wins and losses and show you each contender’s remaining games. On the other hand, the committee “watches teams play,” which is really not a quantifiable statistic, but something that we can at least try to get a bearing on. Still, it’s hard to find an offensive or defensive metric that accurately represents all teams and styles of play.

Some metrics will over-value “air raid” type offenses while some will prefer more consistent, but less explosive, gameplans. The rank in offensive and defensive yards per play gives a basic metric of how efficient and/or consistent a team is on both sides of the ball.

For the purposes of determining quality wins, things like Top 10 and Top 25 are arbitrary numbers that do more harm than good. There is no reason the gap between No. 25 and No. 26 is considered significantly larger than the gap between 24 and 25. Therefore, to counteract this, I am being very lenient as to who is considered Top 10 or Top 25. Any team in the Top 25 of one of the major polls (AP or Coaches’), or in a significant number of the accepted computer rankings, will be considered in the Top 25 for resume purposes. This leads to the awkwardness of having more than 25 “Top 25″ teams, but it presents a more accurate picture of the overall resume.

The SOS range is taken from numerous computer rankings. Ranges can be quite large, but they do give a decent picture of the possibilities of how strong the schedule actually is.

Bubble Watch

I have several sections, ranging from the teams that control their own destiny to those that are full-fledged #TeamChaos members. The true bubble is quite large this year, as the potential for chaos is very high. We only have one one-loss team left in the Pac-12, and we will only have one such team remaining in the Big 12 after this week. Our #TeamChaos members are just one upset of the Oklahoma/TCU winner away from having it.

Please remember that the “Top 25 to play” column does not include conference championship game opponents, as none of those matchups are finalized yet.

Controls their own destiny

Team vs 1-10 vs 11-25 vs 26-40 vs 41-80 vs 81+ SOS Range T25 To Play Off YPP

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Georgia 1-0 1-0 1-0 4-0 2-0 25-50 1 6.6 (12) 4.1 (4)

Georgia is the top team in the country, and for good reason. The SOS numbers here are strong, the metrics show dominance, and the win over Notre Dame is the best in the country. Georgia doesn’t only control its own destiny–the Bulldogs are a virtual lock even if they drop a game. Things might get rough if that game is the SEC Championship Game, but Georgia should be a lock if it starts 12-0.

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Alabama 0-0 1-0 0-0 7-0 1-0 45-55 2 6.7 (11) 3.8 (2)

The Crimson Tide don’t have much of a resume yet, which explains why the committee has Georgia at No. 1. Alabama has great stats and passes the eye test well. The sole ranked win was this past week against LSU. If not for that, Alabama would not have much of a resume at all. Upcoming games against Mississippi State, Auburn, and (potentially) Georgia will change that, though.

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Miami 0-0 2-0 0-0 4-0 2-0 25-70 1 6.4 (19) 4.4 (10)

The Hurricanes honestly have a better resume than Alabama, at least in terms of quality wins. They certainly will if they beat Notre Dame this week. The SOS numbers will skyrocket, and being undefeated still matters. That early-season win over Toledo suddenly seems useful, too.

Virtual locks if they win out

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Notre Dame 0-1 3-0 1-0 1-0 3-0 5-15 1 6.6 (13) 4.9 (23)

The only reason I’m not putting Notre Dame in the top category is the nightmare scenario of Alabama ending up 13-0, Georgia 12-1, and all of Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Clemson winning out. Even so, the Irish would get in (Oklahoma and Clemson would probably be left out), but I’m not calling it a lock yet. Those SOS numbers are amazing and will only get better, as every team remaining on the schedule should be a bowl team.

Four ranked wins would be tough for anyone to match, but there are still a lot of moving parts on this resume. N.C. State isn’t guaranteed to stay ranked, and Stanford and Navy don’t look like the quality opponents they once were.

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Wisconsin 0-0 1-0 0-0 5-0 3-0 55-80 1 6.3 (21) 4.2 (5)

Yes, I’m putting Wisconsin in this category. The Badgers will have three ranked wins if they win out, and Michigan will be a decent win as well. The SOS numbers will get better as the Badgers close with Iowa, Michigan, and the East champion (Minnesota won’t help or hurt). The metrics show a strong team as well.

Kirby Hocutt said that Wisconsin was the worst Top 25 team by every SOS metric the committee looked at, but that just cannot be true (see Washington’s SOS numbers below). Those numbers will get better, and a 13-0 Power 5 champion won’t get left out, even in the nightmare scenario mentioned above.

Team vs 1-10 vs 11-25 vs 26-40 vs 41-80 vs 81+ SOS Range T25 To Play Off YPP

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Auburn 0-1 1-1 0-0 4-0 2-0 35-65 2 6.2 (26) 4.3 (7)

The Tigers picked up one of their losses against Clemson, which shouldn’t hurt at all. The metrics are good, and the SOS numbers will be amazing by the end of the year. Auburn is generally considered a lock if it wins out, but there are enough scenarios that could make it difficult. For example, what if Notre Dame ends at 11-1, Wisconsin is 13-0, Clemson is 12-1, and Oklahoma is 12-1? The answer should be yes, but that scenario gets Auburn put in the same boat as Notre Dame for now.

Should be in if they win out

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Clemson 1-0 2-0 1-0 3-1 1-0 2-25 0 5.8 (40) 4.3 (6)

The SOS numbers are amazing, the quality wins are there, and there are two more decent-to-good opponents coming up on the schedule (South Carolina and Miami). The defense is stingy, and the offense is solid. Clemson has the worst loss of any contender, but it has better wins than most. This team might have to sweat it out at 12-1, but unless the nightmare scenario described above happens, a 12-1 Clemson gets in.

Team vs 1-10 vs 11-25 vs 26-40 vs 41-80 vs 81+ SOS Range T25 To Play Off YPP

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Oklahoma 0-0 2-1 0-0 3-0 3-0 15-80 2 8.3 (1) 5.7 (84)

That defensive rank is ugly, but the Sooners have the best offense in the country, led by the current Heisman front-runner. There are already two high-quality wins (Ohio State getting embarrassed this past week didn’t help, though), plus games against TCU, West Virginia, and a potential Big 12 Championship Game coming up.

Those SOS numbers look weird, because the computers can’t seem to agree on the Big 12. The Colley Matrix, the best pure wins-and-losses-only SOS rating, really doesn’t like Oklahoma. That should change after the next few weeks, though. Like Clemson, unless doomsday happens, Oklahoma is safe at 12-1.

Team vs 1-10 vs 11-25 vs 26-40 vs 41-80 vs 81+ SOS Range T25 To Play Off YPP

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TCU 0-0 2-1 1-0 3-0 2-0 40-75 1 5.7 (47) 4.5 (13)

Those are some weird stats coming from a Big 12 school, aren’t they? TCU is in a similar position to Oklahoma, but the Horned Frogs lack the nonconference win over Ohio State. Still, TCU should be pretty safe if they win out. In our nightmare scenario mentioned above, if TCU is 12-1 instead of Oklahoma, the Horned Frogs are certainly the team left out.

On the bubble

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Washington 0-0 0-0 0-1 6-0 2-0 65-95 1 6.1 (29) 3.7 (1)

The Huskies have the best defense in the country and the best punt returner in the country (though the Huskies are actually not great on special teams at all). But they’re on the bubble instead of in the above section because of how bare this resume. There is only one Top 40 opponent, and Washington lost that game.

The upcoming opponents aren’t great either. Stanford suddenly looks like a five-loss team (the best five-loss team in the country, but still), and Utah isn’t great this year. The Pac-12 South champion is already guaranteed at least two losses, too. The narrative so far this season has focused on Wisconsin’s weak resume, but compare it to Washington’s and the narrative suddenly makes no sense.

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Ohio State 0-1 1-1 0-0 5-0 1-0 15-25 2 7.0 (4) 4.6 (14)

The Buckeyes have the best metrics of any team on this page, except for Alabama and Georgia. Advanced metrics like S&P still have Ohio State at No. 2 (interestingly, S&P also has Washington at No. 3). As long as Iowa can finish 8-4 and ranked, the Buckeyes will have both their losses be to ranked teams.

If Michigan beats Wisconsin, then a 9-3 Michigan team probably ends ranked also. Ohio State could end up with great SOS numbers, great metrics, and a 4-2 record against ranked teams. They’ll need some chaos in front of them, but if that happens then the Buckeyes will have as good a resume as anyone else in the country.

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Michigan State 0-1 3-1 0-0 3-0 1-0 5-10 1 5.3 (83) 4.5 (11)

The Spartans have three quality wins, thanks to a cross-divisional win over Iowa. The Northwestern loss doesn’t look so bad either now, and the defensive numbers are solid. Add wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin to this resume, and you have a resume that will be competitive with any other two-loss resume. They need a little chaos, but the Spartans are not in awful position at all.

Waiting to be eliminated

The final three teams here need some serious chaos to get in. Michigan and Oklahoma State will be eliminated once they can no longer clinch their respective division/spot in a conference title game, and UCF was never really given a fair chance.

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Michigan 0-0 0-2 0-0 5-0 2-0 25-50 2 5.4 (71) 3.9 (3)

The defense is amazing, but the offense has cost this team any real opportunity. It would take some chaos for Michigan to win the division, but add two wins over Wisconsin and one over Ohio State to the resume and it doesn’t look bad. The Wolverines will be eliminated soon, but if their chaos does come it’s not impossible.

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Oklahoma State 0-2 1-0 0-0 3-0 3-0 15-70 1 7.4 (3) 5.3 (42)

This resume is pretty weak, but a win over Oklahoma or TCU to close the season would help. Still, getting into the Big 12 Championship Game would require a miracle. The Cowboys will be eliminated soon.

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UCF 0-0 1-0 2-0 2-0 3-0 45-90 1 7.9 (2) 5.1 (36)

I’m not going to go too much into UCF’s resume, but I just want everyone to compare this to Washington’s. How is undefeated UCF at No. 18 while one-loss Washington is No. 9? The only explanation is anti-Group of 5 from the committee, and it’s painfully obvious here. UCF’s current ranking is a travesty that the committee needs to rectify.

About Yesh Ginsburg

Yesh has been a fan and student of college football since before he can remember. He spent years mastering the intricacies of the BCS and now keeps an eye on the national picture as teams jockey for College Football Playoff positioning.