College Football Playoff (10/21/15)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
PredictionMachine.com'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

We have reached the midpoint of the season. The Football Four playoff projection includes Utah, Baylor, Ohio State and LSU – all undefeated. Each team has a clear path to the postseason, win out and you're in. What is the chance that these teams stay perfect?

Note: these projections are through the regular season and do not include a conference championship game as the opponent is unknown.

Utah

It was fun while it lasted. The Utes undefeated season likely ends with a trip to the Coliseum Saturday. USC is a field goal favorite over Utah. The boys from Salt Lake City have a 31.1 percent chance to upset the Trojans and just a 6.7 percent chance of running the table.

Baylor

The Bears' schedule is back-loaded with a brutal three game stretch against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU. Despite the third toughest remaining strength of schedule, Baylor is 47.2 percent likely to win all of its remaining regular season games.

Ohio State

Remember when it was a lock that the Buckeyes would go undefeated? There was greater than a 50 percent chance Ohio State would win out after dropping 42 points and 572 yards of offense on Virginia Tech in the season opener. Six games later the defending champion's record is unblemished, but the chance of going undefeated has dropped to 26.5 percent.

LSU

The Tigers' schedule is no picnic. Trips to Tuscaloosa and Oxford are sandwiched around home games against Arkansas and Texas A&M. LSU has a 20.6 percent chance of running the table.

Semifinals

Each week Ohio State, hands down, has the best defense of any playoff participant and each week the Buckeyes get smoked by a top-flight offense. Baylor is greater than 80 percent likely to knock Ohio State out of the playoff in the first semifinal and by two touchdowns on average.

Leonard Fournette is a bad man.



LSU is No. 1 in offensive rushing efficiency and Utah is outside the top 25 in defensive rushing efficiency. The Utes have no answer for Fournette and the Tigers advance to the title game 78.0% of the time by an average score of 34-25.

National Championship

Styles make fights and no team in the country can match Baylor offensively. LSU is great at rushing the ball but the Bears aren't too shabby either (averaging an FBS best 7.1 yards per carry). Plus, Baylor is top 15 vs. the run, it wouldn't be easy going for Fournette on the ground.

After 50,000 simulations, the most likely National Champion is the Baylor Bears. Baylor wins 63.1% of all the simulated tournaments. In the most likely National Championship game, Baylor defeats LSU 68.0% of the time by an average score of 46-39.

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

Semifinals
#1 Utah vs. #4 LSU
LSU wins 78.0% of the time by an average score of 34-25.

#2 Baylor vs. #3 Ohio State
Baylor wins 83.3% of the time by an average score of 45-31.

National Championship
#2 Baylor vs. #4 LSU
Baylor wins 68.0% of the time by an average score of 46-39.