College Football Playoff (10/28/15)

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 likely four-team playoff.

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 interloper is gone. Utah, as we predicted, lost to USC last Saturday and has been bounced from the postseason projection. Let the Utes be a reminder to the rest of four-team playoff, lose and you are out!

Ohio State is back on top in the Football Four playoff projection. Baylor, LSU and Clemson (taking Utah's spot) complete the foursome. Can these teams win out and secure a place in the College Football Playoff?

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

Ohio State

The quarterback situation seems settled. With J.T. Barrett as the starter, Ohio State is looking like the dominant team we expected before the season started. The Buckeyes have a 42 percent chance to run the table.


Losing Seth Russell for the season is unfortunate. Baylor is down but not out. The difference between Russell and new starter Jarrett Stidham is 2.97 points per game against an average FBS opponent. The Bears are still our pick to win the Big 12 (69 percent chance) and are 21 percent likely to win the rest of its regular season games.


The Tigers control their own destiny as the SEC's only undefeated team. However, a large Bama-sized roadblock stands in the way of a perfect season (14 percent chance). Les Miles' group (34 percent) are slight underdogs to the Tide (37 percent) to win the SEC.


Don't mess with Clemson. The Tigers will destroy you, see Miami: 58-0 and the firing of Al Golden. Dabo Swinney has Clemson rolling. The Tigers are 41 percent likely to win out and 68 percent likely to win the ACC.


Is this the week that Ohio State finally advances past the semifinal? Not gonna be able to do it. In past weeks, superior offenses got the best of the Buckeyes. Against Clemson, it's the Tigers defense that makes the difference. Clemson is fourth in total defense, top 25 vs. the pass and third in defensive rushing efficiency. Ohio State falls 65.5 percent of the time by an average score of 26-22.

In the second semifinal, the loss of Seth Russell changes this game completely. Baylor is forced to turn control of an offense that average 61.1 points and 686.1 yards per game over to a true freshman. LSU is projected to win 51.4 percent of the time by an average score of 43-42. No disrespect to the Tigers. Leonard Fournette is fantastic, he has a school record nine straight games with at least 100 yards rushing and in the last three weeks the offense has looked dynamic with sophomore quarterback Brandon Harris throwing for 716 yards and seven touchdowns. But if Russell is starting for Baylor, the Bears are projected to win 54.5 percent of the time with a score of 45-43.

If “ifs” and “buts” were candy and nuts, we'd all have a merry Christmas. Injuries are part of football; LSU advances to the title game to face Clemson.

National Championship

Leonard Fournette is averaging 193 rushing yards per game this season. The most rushing yards per game in a single season in SEC history is 172 by Herschel Walker. The LSU back is the first since Kevin Smith to top 150 rushing yards in seven straight games. Until someone stops him, the title belongs to LSU.

After 50,000 simulations, the most likely National Champion is the LSU Tigers. LSU wins 39.0% of all the simulated tournaments. In the most likely National Championship game, LSU defeats Clemson 71.3% of the time by an average score of 33-26.

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

#1 Ohio State vs. #4 Clemson
Clemson wins 65.5% of the time by an average score of 26-22.

#2 Baylor vs. #3 LSU
LSU wins 51.4% of the time by an average score of 43-42.

National Championship
#3 LSU vs. #4 Clemson
LSU wins 71.3% of the time by an average score of 33-26.

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

Team Semifinals Championship
LSU 51.4% 39.0%
Baylor 48.6% 34.0%
Clemson 65.5% 20.8%
Ohio State 34.5% 6.2%