Bleacher Report's Week 13 College Football Playoff Predictions

Ed Feng@@thepowerrankAnalytics ExpertNovember 25, 2015

NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 21: Running back Samaje Perine #32 of the Oklahoma Sooners runs for a second half touchdown past cornerback Nick Orr #18 and linebacker Travin Howard #32 of the TCU Horned Frogs on November 21, 2015 at the Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. (Photo by Jackson Laizure/Getty Images)
Jackson Laizure/Getty Images

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 the playoff committee rankings and analytics to assign your team a probability of making the playoff.

The sortable table shows the results, while you can find more information on the simulation methods here.

Let's look at the biggest stories after Week 12.

Oklahoma now in the driver's seat for playoff berth

Oklahoma almost lost this weekend. TCU, playing without star quarterback Trevone Boykin, mounted a late comeback and had a two-point opportunity in the final moments to win the game. Instead, the Oklahoma defense denied the attempt, giving the Sooners a 30-29 win in a game in which they were favored by 19, per Odds Shark.

Usually, a team that wins holds its spot in the committee rankings. Instead, Oklahoma jumped Week 12 winners Iowa and Notre Dame to the third spot in this week's rankings. Maybe the committee is starting to buy into some of the Sooners' signature wins this season, which include beating a good Tennessee team on the road in September.

Oklahoma travels to Oklahoma State for its Bedlam rivalry game Saturday. By my numbers, Oklahoma is the better team on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Baker Mayfield didn't play in the second half against TCU, but he has passed concussion tests and will most likely play.

If Oklahoma turns its 62 percent win probability into a Bedlam win, it'll make the playoff.

Ohio State not dead just yet

Nov 21, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) pitches the ball as Michigan State Spartans defensive end Shilique Calhoun (89) defends in the fourth quarter at Ohio Stadium. The Spartans won 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Geo
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

How does Ohio State, which dropped to eighth in the rankings after losing to Michigan State, still have a 33 percent chance to make the playoff? My numbers give the Buckeyes only an 11 percent chance to win the Big Ten, a key criterion for the committee.

However, Ohio State could still make the playoff without a conference championship. Allow me to explain.

Suppose Ohio State beats Michigan on Saturday (67 percent win probability), which gives it a win over a Top 10 team. And suppose Michigan State wins the Big Ten (51 percent probability) and secures a playoff spot.

Ohio State would be sitting at 11-1 with its only loss against Michigan State. Additionally, the Buckeyes would most likely not drop after championship week because they don't play. Their resume would look comparable to other teams vying for the last playoff spot.

For example, consider a one-loss Notre Dame team. The Fighting Irish would have a loss to Clemson but a win over Stanford. Ohio State and Notre Dame would have similar-looking resumes.

And while it's remote, there's a chance any of the Top Three teams (Clemson, Alabama and Oklahoma) could lose a remaining game. This would only help Ohio State's chance to grab the fourth spot in the playoff.

In each simulation, there are adjustments for the last week of the season that penalize a team without a conference championship, which is most likely Ohio State's situation. Even with this adjustment factored in this week, Ohio State makes the playoff in 33 percent of the simulations.

Iowa faces critical game against Nebraska

Justin Hayworth/Associated Press

Undefeated Iowa finally made the Top Four of the committee rankings this week. However, the Hawkeyes can't rest, as they face an underrated Nebraska team Friday.

At first look, 5-6 Nebraska doesn't seem like stiff competition for an undefeated playoff contender. But if you look closer, the Cornhuskers have lost five of their games by a total of 13 points. This includes a loss to BYU on a last-second Hail Mary touchdown pass in the first week of the season.

Despite its lofty ranking, Iowa isn't as good as its 11-0 record suggests. The Hawkeyes are 27th in my rankings that drive these Bleacher Report playoff odds. In addition, other trusted computer rankings such as Sagarin (17th), Massey-Peabody (32nd) and S&P+ (29th) don't have Iowa anywhere near the top 10.

By my numbers, Iowa is a slightly better team than Nebraska. However, Nebraska has a 53 percent chance to pull the upset due to home-field advantage. The bookmakers disagree with these numbers, as they have Iowa as a small favorite. However, both methods predict a tight game.

This game has critical importance to the playoff picture. The scenario in which Iowa loses to Nebraska but beats Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game would most likely eliminate both teams, opening up the path for the Notre Dame-Stanford winner and possibly Ohio State. 

Notre Dame pays dearly for close win over Boston College

Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Notre Dame had a 19-3 lead in the fourth quarter against Boston College on Saturday. That lead could have been much larger if not for three Irish turnovers deep in BC territory.

Boston College then scored two late touchdowns to close the gap, and the Fighting Irish survived with a 19-16 win. The playoff committee apparently thought this three-point win reflected poorly on Notre Dame and dropped it to sixth in this week's rankings.

Notre Dame travels to Stanford for a critical game that should feature a lot of points. Despite a rash of season-ending injuries, Notre Dame's offense has been explosive all season. Quarterback DeShone Kizer will move the ball against a suspect Stanford defense that has allowed an average of 465.5 yards to Oregon and Cal in consecutive weeks.

Stanford can score points as well. Christian McCaffrey has averaged 5.9 yards per carry in addition to his duties as a receiver and kick returner. He will face an underachieving Notre Dame defense that lost starting cornerback KeiVarae Russell to injury last week.

The winner of Notre Dame and Stanford will theoretically stay alive in the playoff hunt. However, each team's small playoff odds (27 percent for Notre Dame, 20 percent for Stanford) confirm that the winner needs help to end the season in the Top Four.

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


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