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Bleacher Report's Week 7 College Football Playoff Predictions

Ed Feng@@thepowerrankAnalytics ExpertOctober 13, 2015

TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin (2) during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015. TCU defeated Kansas State 52-45. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

Will your team make the College Football Playoff?

Unlike most media sites, Bleacher Report doesn't give you a yes or no answer. Instead, we use analytics and the AP Top 25 poll as a substitute for committee rankings (which come out Nov. 3) to assign your team a probability to make the playoff.

This week's numbers includes some changes to the core algorithm. The playoff committee rewards conference champions, and the simulation now makes appropriate adjustments for those who have a better chance to win their conference. A team that doesn't win its conference can still make the playoff, but its likelihood decreases with more losses.

In addition, the simulation acknowledges the small chance that a team outside a Power Five conference makes the playoff. (This doesn't apply to Notre Dame.) These teams can still make the playoff, but it's unlikely unless they go undefeated.

The sortable table shows the results of the calculations. Let's take a deeper look at the results.

Michigan enters the playoff conversation

Tony Ding/Associated Press

With another suffocating performance by the defense, Michigan beat Northwestern, 38-0, and now has a 29 percent chance to make the playoff, fifth-best in the nation.

With its sudden rise, Michigan is difficult to evaluate. It struggled to a 5-7 record last season, which ended the Brady Hoke era and brought in Jim Harbaugh as head coach. Even without the coaching change, Michigan projected to improve this season since it was unlikely to have a minus-16 turnover margin again.

However, Michigan's rapid rise has blown away any preseason expectation. Its play doesn't seem to be a fluke either, as it is winning by large margins against respectable teams like BYU and Northwestern.

This doesn't ensure Michigan is the fifth-best team in the nation. The defense may have just played its three best games of the season, with a regression looming.

But at this point, my best numbers like this Michigan team, and it has better than a 50 percent chance to win each of its remaining games, even against Ohio State.

The poor odds for the "Group of Five"

Greg Ward Jr.
Greg Ward Jr.Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press

Last week, we posted a 18.5 percent chance for Boise State to make the playoff. This seemed high for a Group of Five team that has already lost, which prompted improvements in the model for this week.

The changes to the algorithm drop Boise State's odds to 1.5 percent this week. Two Group of Five teams now have better odds since they are currently undefeated.

Toledo started its season with a stunning 16-12 win at Arkansas. The 5-0 MAC team has a 4.8 percent chance to make the playoff.

Houston is off to a 5-0 start and has a 2.5 percent chance to make the playoff. New coach Tom Hermann, the former offensive coordinator at Ohio State, has quarterback Greg Ward Jr. completing 72.5 percent of his passes this season.

Conference championship criteria hurts Alabama

Nick Saban has Alabama in the middle of the playoff conversation, as the Crimson Tide have a 26.1 percent chance to make the playoff. However, they would have a higher chance (32.4 percent) if the code didn't account for conference championships.

In converse, Florida's chances improved from 19.4 percent to 23.4 percent with the inclusion of a conference championship factor. What's going on here?

Alabama has a tougher road to the SEC championship in the West division. It already has a conference loss to Ole Miss and has games against Texas A&M and LSU.

In contrast, Florida has a 4-0 conference record. Despite a tough road game at LSU, it has an easier path through the East, which makes a conference championship more likely. However, with the suspension of starting quarterback Will Grier, the Gators' road to the playoff just got a lot more difficult.

Don't underestimate Ohio State

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

After a decisive win over Virginia Tech in its opener, Ohio State hasn't looked like a Top Five team. It had near losses against Northern Illinois and Indiana, and it was tied with Maryland in the second half this past weekend.

However, Ohio State scored the next 28 points to beat Maryland. My numbers give the Buckeyes a 43.5 percent chance to make the playoff, second behind only Baylor.

In addition, Ohio State is still ranked higher than rival Michigan in the rankings that drive this calculation. The Buckeyes only have less than even odds (46 percent) against the Wolverines because of home-field advantage.

TCU still a strong contender for the playoff

TCU hasn't looked spectacular this season. It needed a miracle tipped pass to beat Texas Tech and survived a tough Kansas State team this weekend.

However, the numbers still like the Horned Frogs. They have a 39.3 percent chance to make the playoff, third behind Baylor and Ohio State.

In its last game of this season, TCU plays Baylor on Thanksgiving weekend in a game that will likely decide the Big 12. However, the schedule might work against TCU. Baylor plays Texas the next weekend, a game that gives the Bears a last chance to impress the committee that TCU doesn't have. 

Ed Feng has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Stanford and runs the sports analytics site The Power Rank. You can find him on Twitter @thepowerrank.

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