The college playoff got quite a shakeup last weekend with three big Top 10 matchups, and the winner in each getting a huge boost. Expect Miami to move into the Top 4 tonight, Oklahoma to solidify its position, and for Auburn to surge forward and be the highest rated 2-loss team.
Which teams should be considered as still in the running for a Top 4 spot? To look at that, and assess resumés, because you will hear that a lot in coming weeks, I went back through recent history. I took every Top 10 team in the final Playoff/BCS Standings from the last 6 years, and looked at who they played and where. I used the school ratings in the simple rating system at sports-reference.com/cfb to assign strength of schedule, but did not include margin. I then calculated an expected win percentage for each game based on historic results of other Top 10 teams against similar opponents, home and away/neutral.
Here are the results for the 2017 teams, using every Power 5 school with 2 losses or fewer:
Miami is at the top, as what this means is that a typical Top 10 team would have lost on average one game with the same schedule. Alabama and Wisconsin have had relatively easy schedules for top contenders, but about half of comparables would have lost a game. They are performing above average by being undefeated.
Oklahoma, Georgia, and Clemson all compare similarly with one loss. All have faced schedules where a typical top team would have had a loss by now.
Meanwhile, among the two-loss teams, it is Notre Dame who still rates highest, just ahead of Auburn. It would be a bigger accomplishment for a team with Notre Dame’s schedule to be 9-1 than for Alabama and Wisconsin to be 10-0.
Ohio State, on the other hand, has underperformed by almost a full win what a typical top 10 team would have against their schedule. The reasons: all the toughest games so far have been at home, and they’ve only played one remotely difficult road game for a contender (and got beat by Iowa).
Keep an eye on Penn State. The Nittany Lions need help, in the form of a Michigan win over Ohio State, but they would get the East nod in that case based on tiebreakers.
Finally, this analysis shows that the non-Oklahoma and USC teams in the Big 12 and Pac-12 who could still win the conference would not fare favorably.
The “If Win Out” column on the far right shows what the Wins Above Expectation would be if the team wins all remaining games, including conference title games for everyone but Michigan and Notre Dame.
From that, it lines up with conventional wisdom. The ACC and SEC champs are in if that team wins out, whether it’s Miami or Clemson, or Alabama/Auburn/Georgia. Oklahoma is also in by winning out. That’s three spots.
Despite all the noise last week, Wisconsin is also clearly in if they go undefeated. The debate will get interesting if it becomes a 2-loss Big Ten East team versus a non-champ from the SEC, versus Notre Dame, versus the ACC runner-up. From this analysis, Miami should have a clear cut case if they are undefeated entering the ACC Title game but lose a close one to Clemson. It’s far more muddled after that.