Post-Week 12 College Football Playoff Projections from Analytics Guru Ed Feng

Ed Feng@@thepowerrankAnalytics ExpertNovember 19, 2014

Lynne Sladky/AP Images

After ESPN aired the release of the inaugural College Football Playoff poll, the question on everybody's mind was: What will the rankings look like when they matter on Dec. 7?

My algorithm projects just that in the sortable table above. Now, allow me to explain my rankings...

Florida State Is Through the Fire

The Seminoles survived.

After three weeks lingering just outside my top four, the odds are finally in Florida State's favor. My numbers saw trap games at Louisville (51.8 percent win chance) and at Miami (35.8 percent win chance), but Jameis Winston's second-half heroics saved the 'Noles in both matchups. 

After the win over Miami, Florida State's probability to make the playoff jumped from 36.0 percent to 56.3 percent, third best in the nation. 

Florida State has won the Atlantic Division and will play either Duke or Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game.

My numbers suggest Florida State would have a more difficult time with Georgia Tech (70.3 percent win probability), largely due to the fact that this matchup would force the Seminoles defense to face a different style offense in Georgia Tech's triple-option, chop-blocking attack.

Lucky for the Seminoles, Duke has a better chance (61.2 percent) than Georgia Tech (38.8 percent) to win the Coastal Division. Florida State would have a 79.0 percent win probability over Duke in the neutral-site championship game.

Ohio State's Incredible Rise

Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

Two weeks ago, Ohio State was facing a tough road game against Michigan State and had a 4.5 percent chance to make the playoff. Now, after two straight wins over Top 25 teams, Ohio State has a 39.0 percent playoff probability—more than an eightfold increase.

The offense has driven the Buckeyes' late-season surge. In my rankings, which take yards per play and adjust for strength of schedule, Ohio State has the fourth-best offense in the nation. Even the most optimistic Ohio State fan would not have believed that when Braxton Miller's injury forced J.T. Barrett to take over at quarterback.

Ohio State will almost surely win the Big Ten East, and its most likely opponent in the conference championship game is Wisconsin, which has an 84.2 percent chance to win the West. The game will come down to whether Ohio State's 25th-ranked defense can slow down the best rushing attack in the nation. Ohio State has a 53.4 percent chance to emerge as the winner.

The Buckeyes need some help, but they are very much alive. 

Why Did Mississippi State's Odds Go Up?

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 15: J.T. Barrett #16 of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks to pass the football against the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the second quarter of the game on November 15, 2014 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Mississippi State (9-1) could not overcome three Dak Prescott interceptions against Alabama and lost its first game of the season. However, its playoff odds increased from 40.1 percent to 43.9 percent. There are two reasons why.

First, the committee dropped Mississippi State only three spots to fourth in its rankings. My model assumes that a team drops seven spots on average after a loss. However, this likely doesn't apply to a team that suffers its first loss so late in the season. The 40.1 percent playoff odds for Mississippi State last week were probably low.

Second, the loss now means Mississippi State has just a 9.9 percent chance to win the SEC West and play in the conference championship game. This small likelihood is a good thing, as it means Mississippi State avoids another tough game.

The Bulldogs will have a good chance to make the playoff if they blow out Vanderbilt and win against Ole Miss. However, the latter is far from certain. My numbers show Mississippi State as underdogs (41.6 percent win chance) in the Egg Bowl Nov. 29.

2-Loss Teams Still Alive

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 15:  Dak Prescott #15 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs walks off the field after their 25-20 loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 15, 2014 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Ima
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After 12 weeks of college football, the top seven contenders for the college football playoff have one loss or fewer. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that the remaining teams have no chance to crack the top four.

Of the 10,000 simulations I ran to produce these playoff probabilities, 27.5 percent had a two-loss team in the playoff. This includes scenarios in which a one-loss team, say Alabama, loses again and makes the playoff.

Right now, Ole Miss is the top-ranked two-loss team at No. 8 in the committee rankings. The Rebels could climb back into the top four with a win over Mississippi State (58.4 percent win probability) and help from other teams. My numbers imply a 15.3 percent chance of this happening.

Another two-loss SEC team, Georgia, is right behind Ole Miss in ninth. It can only win the East Division if Missouri loses one of its two remaining conference games. My numbers give a 70.0 percent chance for this to occur. Then, if Georgia wins the SEC championship, the committee will have to move it into the fourth spot.

Alabama Finally Ranked Where It Belongs

OXFORD, MS - NOVEMBER 01:  Quarterback Bo Wallace #14 of the Mississippi Rebels looks on from the bench against the Auburn Tigers at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on November 1, 2014 in Oxford, Mississippi. Auburn defeated Mississippi 35-31.  (Photo by Doug Pe
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Alabama has always had one of the best playoff probabilities. According to my numbers, the Tide's playoff probability has never dipped below 43.9 percent.

Finally, the committee caught up to our numbers and put the Tide in the Top Four where they belong. 

The Crimson Tide have a whopping 74.8 percent chance to make the playoff.

Ed Feng founded The Power Rank and has also written for Grantland and Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter @thepowerrank.


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