College Football Playoff (12/07/14)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
College Football Playoff - odds for each team to win the title.

Who's in? The question has been answered and the four-team playoff is set.

Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State (just like we predicted in August) will participate in the first ever College Football Playoff.

Which team is the most likely champion and what are the odds each team wins the title?

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 and win the championship of the College Football Playoffs.

The Most Likely Champion Is…

Alabama is No. 1 in our Power Rankings for the eighth straight weeks. The Crimson Tide is the only team in the country ranked in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

The SEC Champions are the No. 1 seed for a reason and would be favored on a neutral field over Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State and every other team in the country by at least a field goal.

After 50,000 simulations, the most likely National Champion is the Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama wins 44.8% of all the simulated tournaments. In the most likely National Championship game, Alabama defeats Oregon 58.4% of the time by an average score of 34-30.

The biggest impact of the selection committee's ranking is not the fact that TCU was left out of the playoffs, but rather that Florida State moved from the fourth to the third seed.

The Seminoles have won three straight ACC titles, have a winning streak of 29 straight games and are the defending National Champions. However, Florida State ranks just 14th overall in our Power Rankings. There are 13 teams in the country that would be favored over Florida State on a neutral field.

Like in March Madness, seed and path to the championship are critical to each team's projected playoff probabilities. Had Florida State remained the fourth seed, Alabama's odds to win the title improve.

Alabama, in a bracket in which it played Florida State in the semifinal instead of Ohio State, would become more than 50% likely to win its fourth title in six years. Oregon, in this hypothetical scenario, would see its championship odds drop to less than 30% with a tougher opening round matchup against Ohio State.

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

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State
Alabama wins 69.9% of the time and by an average score of 30-21.

No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State
Oregon wins 72.6% of the time and by an average score of 41-28.

National Championship
No 1. Alabama vs. No. 2 Oregon
Alabama wins 58.4% of the time and by an average score of 34-30.

The likelihoods for each team to win the championship are 44.8% for Alabama, 33.9% for Oregon, 14.7% for Ohio State and 6.6% for Florida State.