College Football Playoffs (09/19/14)

By John Ewing, Director of Research and Analytics, @johnewing
A look at what the College Football Playoffs could look like through 50,000 simulations of FootballFour's most recent four-team Playoff Projection.

How this works
The Predictalator uses current rosters and strength-of-schedule and efficiency-adjusted team and player stats (weighted slightly more toward recent games), to play every game 50,000 times before it's actually played. For this analysis, we are tracking how likely a team is to make it to any level of the College Football Playoffs.

Football Four Playoff Summary

The top four teams in the country are pretty clear, at least to USA TODAY Sports College Football Playoff selection committee. In the second Football Four Playoff Projection Oregon, Florida State, Alabama and Oklahoma garnered 81% of the total votes available.

The question last week: Who would win Oregon-Florida State? The Ducks and Seminoles were both over 30% likely to win the championship but Florida State prevailed in what equates to a coin flip game for the national title.

How will seeding and the addition of a Big 12 team impact the playoffs?

The first semifinal, No. 1 Oregon vs. No. 4 Oklahoma, provides a matchup that we have not seen since 2006. The Sooners are 6-1 all-time against the Ducks, but Oregon won the last meeting 34-33.

Oregon is No. 2 in our Power Rankings. The Ducks are No. 1 in offensive passing efficiency (10.9 yards per attempt) and No. 3 in offensive rushing efficiency (6.3 yards per attempt). The fans in Eugene expect scoring, Oregon averages 52 points per game, and the Oregon faithful would not be disappointed when the Ducks squared off against the perennial Big 12 power.

Oklahoma is not even the best team in its own conference. The Sooners rank No. 7 in our Power Rankings behind Big 12 member Baylor, Auburn and Texas A&M. “Boomer Sooner” is only 55% likely to win on the road in West Virginia Saturday. Oklahoma is a solid team but Oregon is a bad matchup. Marcus Mariota leads Oregon to a 44-30 victory.

The second semifinal is the matchup we all wanted for the BCS Championship Game last year, No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Alabama. Neither team has looked crisp to start the season as both programs have struggled against Power 5 schools (Florida State vs. Oklahoma State and Alabama vs. West Virginia).

This game is decided through the air. The Noles are No. 4 in offensive passing efficiency (9.1 yards per attempt and 327 yards per game). Bama is No. 57 in defensive passing efficiency. Alabama's secondary has allowed 6.5 yards per attempt and 220 yards per game.

Florida State wins a nail-biter 32-30 to advance to the College Football Playoff Championship Game.

After 50,000 simulations, the most likely National Champion is the Oregon Ducks. Oregon wins 40.3% of all the simulated tournaments. However, in the most likely National Championship game, Florida State defeats Oregon 51.2% of the time by an average score of 38-37.

The record scratches.

Wait, what? How can Oregon be the most likely National Champion when Florida State wins on a neutral field?

As is the case in March Madness, seed and path to the championship game is critical. As the No. 1 seed, Oregon draws an easier matchup in the semifinals. The Ducks are two touchdown favorites while Florida State is evenly matched with Alabama.

Oregon is more likely to advance to the National Championship game and thus is the most likely champion even if the Seminoles would be a slight favorite on a neutral field.

Based on the analysis, here is the projected College Football Playoff bracket.

No. 1 Oregon vs. No. 4 Oklahoma
Oregon wins 67.0% of the time by an average score of 44-30.

No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Alabama
Florida State wins 52.5% of the time by an average score of 32-30.

National Championship
No. 1 Oregon vs. No. 2 Florida State
Florida State wins 51.2% of the time by an average score of 38-37.

The likelihoods for each team to win the championship are 40.3% for Oregon, 24.1% for Florida State, 22.4% for Alabama and 13.3% for Oklahoma.