Ed Feng's Week 8 College Football Playoff Standings Predictions

Ed Feng@@thepowerrankAnalytics ExpertOctober 18, 2015

Michigan State safety Grayson Miller (44) celebrates as teammates jump on defensive back Jalen Watts-Jackson after Watts-Jackson recovered a fumbled snap on a punt in the closing seconds of the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, in Ann Arbor, Mich. Watts-Jackson lumbered 38 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the game, giving No. 7 Michigan State a shocking 27-23 win over No. 12 Michigan. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

How would the College Football Playoff committee rank teams this week? Which four schools would make the playoff?

We use analytics to make an educated guess on the committee rankings. The Associated Press poll provides a baseline for the Top 25 teams before the committee releases its first poll. My algorithm then adjusts teams based on the most recent opponent and margin of victory.

Teams that win keep their place unless they need overtime to beat Jacksonville State. Teams that lose drop, but not as much if they lose to a Top-10 team. You get the idea.

Let's look at the three most interesting movers from a wild Week 7.

Ed Feng's Top 25 College Football Standings
1Ohio StateWon vs. Penn State, 38-10
2BaylorWon vs. West Virginia, 62-38
3TCUWon at Iowa State, 45-21
4LSUWon vs. Florida, 35-28
5Michigan StateWon at Michigan, 27-23
6AlabamaWon at Texas A&M, 41-23
7UtahWon vs. Arizona State, 34-18
8ClemsonWon vs. Boston College, 34-17
9Florida StateWon vs. Louisville, 41-21
10StanfordWon vs. UCLA, 56-35
11Notre DameWon vs. USC, 41-31
12FloridaLost vs. LSU, 35-28
13IowaWon at Northwestern, 40-10
14Oklahoma StateBYE
15MichiganLost vs. Michigan State, 27-23
16Texas A&MLost vs. Alabama, 41-23
17OklahomaWon at Kansas State, 55-0
18ToledoWon vs. Eastern Michigan, 63-20
20Ole MissLost at Memphis, 37-24
21HoustonWon at Tulane, 42-7
22MemphisWon vs. Ole Miss, 37-24
24TempleWon vs. UCF, 30-16
25Mississippi StateWon vs. Louisiana Tech, 45-20
Ed Feng, ESPN

Michigan State moving on up after stunning rivalry win

Michigan State stunned Michigan by returning a fumbled snap for a touchdown in the final seconds of the game.  You might never again see one play change a team's win probability from almost one to zero.

Despite the late-game good fortune, Michigan State actually deserved to win the game as they gained 386 yards to Michigan's 230.  QB Connor Cook made enough plays downfield to keep the Spartans in the game, and the defensive line held Michigan to 3.0 yards per carry (excluding the sacks in typical rushing statistics).

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Was there any way to see Michigan State's performance coming?  The Spartans struggled to wins against Purdue and Rutgers and traveled to Ann Arbor as a 7.5-point underdog.

We could have learned something from preseason polls, which are remarkable predictors of team strength. The higher-ranked team in the preseason coaches' poll has won 60 percent of bowl games since 2005, not much worse than the markets.   A crowd of coaches is good at evaluating talent in the preseason.

Michigan State started the season seventh in the coaches' poll, while Michigan didn't make the Top 25 despite the arrival of new coach Jim Harbaugh.  Michigan State has a talented team, and perhaps we all made too much out of their poor performance in a small sample size of six games.

With the win over Michigan, Michigan State moves back up to fifth in the committee rankings.

LSU shows it's more than just Leonard Fournette

Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

LSU passed its first big test of the season with a 35-28 win over previously unbeaten Florida.  The Tigers are now 6-0 and move up to fourth in the committee rankings.

Leonard Fournette pounded the Florida defense for 180 yards on 5.8 yards per carry.  His physicality makes you wonder how anyone tackled him in high school.

However, LSU had other bright spots besides Fournette.  QB Brandon Harris completed 13 of 19 passes for 202 yards, although he did get sacked five times.  The LSU offense gets much better with a solid Harris since defenses can't focus on Fournette.

In addition, LSU has their typical Top-10 defense under Les Miles.  By my numbers that take yards per play and adjust for strength of schedule, LSU ranks ninth.  This unit held Florida to 5.2 yards per play and came up big in the final minute to seal the victory.

In three weeks, LSU faces Alabama in a pivotal SEC West showdown.  The winner looks like the favorite for both the SEC Championship Game and College Football Playoff.

Iowa shoots up rankings with destruction of Northwestern

Matt Marton/Associated Press

Iowa dominated Northwestern 40-10 in a key Big Ten West matchup and moves up to 13th in the committee rankings.  Akrum Wadley ran for 204 yards on 7.8 yards per carry after coming into the game with a total of 35 yards for the season.

With a 3-0 record in conference, Iowa looks like the front-runner to win the Big Ten West.  They already have a win over Wisconsin, which gives the Hawkeyes a tiebreaker should the two teams end the season with the same record.

However, Iowa's playoff chances most likely end in the Big Ten Championship Game.  My numbers make the Hawkeyes an underdog to Ohio State, Michigan or Michigan State. 

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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