College Football Playoff (10/07/15)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
Simulating USA Today's playoff projection.'s
Director of Research and Analytics, John Ewing, takes a look at what the College Football Playoffs could look like through 50,000 simulations of
FootballFour's most likely four-team playoff. Follow John on Twitter @JohnEwing for more notes from his analysis and to let him know what else you may like to see with these projections.

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

Four teams in the AP Top 25 went down last week shaking up the selection committee's playoff projection once again. As it stands Utah, TCU, Ohio State and Baylor are in but a case can be made for why they should be left out.


Why they're in: an early win over Michigan looks better with each passing week. The Wolverines are undefeated after dropping the season opener to the Utes, and a 42 point win over Oregon is impressive regardless of how you spin it.

Why they're out: when you view Utah through the lens of strength-of-schedule-adjusted statistics not only are they not a top four team but the Utes barely crack the top 25.


Why they're in: The Horned Frogs have scored 50 or more points in four straight games and followed up a thrilling win over Texas Tech by crushing the Longhorns.

Why they're out: the defense nearly shutout Texas but the jury is still out with seven starters missing.

Ohio State

Why they're in: undefeated defending champions.

Why they're out: the Buckeyes look weak (three straight unimpressive wins) and are starting to resemble last year's Florida State team (defending champs that rode a weak schedule back to the playoffs).


Why they're in: they average 63.8 points per game (best in the nation) and 9.4 yards per play. The gap between Baylor and the rest of the offenses in the country is similar to that of Walter White and Gale.

Why they're out: apologies to Texas Tech but the Bears haven't played anyone.

The playoff chase is wide open but which team has the early edge to win it all?

The first semifinal looks like a mismatch. Baylor is No. 1 in our Power Rankings and few teams have an offense that can keep pace with the Bears up-tempo attack. Art Briles squad defeats Utah 96.7 percent of the time by an average score of 49-26.

The second semifinal is more interesting. Ohio State has a great defense and TCU can make it rain but in the end defense wins championships (or at least this game). The Buckeyes win 61.6 percent of the time by an average score of 36-32.

Baylor cruised to the championship game with an advantageous matchup against Utah and if the Buckeyes aren't careful they could get routed in the title game.

Ohio State has the defense to stop TCU but Baylor is a completely different animal. In this hypothetical championship game, the Bears win by double digits and Ohio State gives up the second most points in the Urban Meyer era (somehow Indiana scored 49 points on the Buckeyes back in 2012).

After 50,000 simulations, the most likely National Champion is the Baylor Bears. Baylor wins 82.6% of all the simulated tournaments. In the most likely National Championship game, Baylor defeats Ohio State 81.8% of the time by an average score of 44-31.

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

#1 Utah vs. #4 Baylor
Baylor wins 96.7% of the time by an average score of 49-26.

#2 Ohio State vs. #3 TCU
Ohio State wins 61.6% of the time by an average score of 36-32.

National Championship
#2 Ohio State vs. #4 Baylor
Baylor wins 81.8% of the time by an average score of 44-31.

Odds for each team to advance to and win the championship.

Team Semifinals Championship
Utah 3.3% 0.5%
Baylor 96.7% 82.6%
Ohio State 61.6% 11.5%
TCU 38.4% 5.4%