Bleacher Report's Week 14 College Football Playoff Predictions

Ed Feng@@thepowerrankAnalytics ExpertDecember 2, 2015

STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 28: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 linebacker Eric Striker #19 and head coach Bob Stoops of the Oklahoma Sooners pose with the Big XII Championship trophy after defeating the Oklahoma State Cowboys on November 28, 2015 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, 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 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.

With no game this week, Oklahoma has all but locked down a playoff spot with its Big 12 title. The simulation assigns the Sooners a 99.9 percent chance at the tournament, acknowledging the uncertainty in predicting human behavior.

Let's look at the stories around the other three berths.

The conundrum of the defending champs

Ohio State scored a big 42-13 win over rival Michigan on Saturday, a result that keeps it ahead of Stanford at sixth in this week's committee rankings. This could make life hell for the committee late Saturday night. Let's look at the possibilities.

With Oklahoma and the winner of Michigan State-Iowa accounting for two spots, Ohio State needs either Clemson or Alabama to lose. Based on my numbers, there's a 46 percent chance that either of these teams (or both) loses Saturday.

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If Alabama falls to Florida in the SEC title game, it presumably drops out of the Top Four, as it would have its second loss. However, a Clemson loss doesn't bring the same certainty. Clemson has a 71 percent chance to make the playoff compared with its 69 percent probability to beat North Carolina, which implies a small chance the Tigers make it with a loss.

If Clemson loses, the committee will have to choose between a one-loss Tigers team (loss to North Carolina) and a one-loss Ohio State team (loss to Michigan State). Or it could select the ACC champion Tar Heels, who would also have one loss. It's not an obvious choice.

Then there's the Stanford question. The Cardinal have a 58 percent chance to beat USC for the Pac-12 title. The conference championship could lift Stanford over Ohio State, but there's no certainty, especially if the committee looks at how Stanford's defense has played recently.

The simulation does consider that Ohio State does not have a conference championship. In some, but not all, of the simulations, the Buckeyes drop below a Pac-12-champion Stanford. In the end, it all works out to a 32 percent chance for Ohio State to make the playoff.

Who wins the Big Ten quarterfinal?

IOWA CITY, IOWA - OCTOBER 5:  Quarterback Connor Cook #18 of the Michigan State Spartans looks to throw down field during the third quarter against the Iowa Hawkeyes on October 5, 2013 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. Michigan State won 26-14. (Phot
Matthew Holst/Getty Images

So you want an eight-team playoff? You'll have to settle for five this season, as Michigan State plays Iowa Saturday in a Big Ten championship that serves as a play-in game to the final field of four.

On offense, Michigan State won't be able to run the ball. The Spartans have gained 4.3 yards per carry, a terrible 109th in the nation, while Iowa allows 4.2 yards per carry, 20th best in the nation (doesn't include sacks).

The Spartans will rely on the arm of quarterback Connor Cook, who came back from a shoulder injury to have a strong game against Penn State last week. This is the better matchup for Michigan State, as Iowa doesn't defend the pass as well as the run.

The Michigan State defense is boom-or-bust. Some weeks, the unit shuts down a potent Ohio State offense. Other weeks, it can allow Paul James of Rutgers to break a run of 72 yards. We'll see how Iowa's three-headed monster of Jordan Canzeri (5.5 yards per carry this season), LeShun Daniels (4.7 YPC) and Akrum Wadley (6.5 YPC) does against this unit.

Turnovers are another interesting aspect to this game. Each team has 14 more takeaways than giveaways this season, and only one squad can win the turnover battle in this game. As always, a critical turnover could tip this contest.

North Carolina's too little, too late charge

RALEIGH, NC - NOVEMBER 28:  Elijah Hood #34 of the North Carolina Tar Heels runs against the North Carolina State Wolfpack during their game at Carter-Finley Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina. North Carolina won 45-34.  (Photo by Gra
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The committee has sent North Carolina a strong statement about strength of schedule. The Tar Heels played two FCS opponents (North Carolina A&T, Delaware), and an out-of-conference win over Power Five Illinois doesn't seem to make up for these cupcakes.

Because of this schedule, the committee has relegated a one-loss North Carolina to No. 10 behind three teams with two losses. One of these squads, amazingly enough, is ACC foe Florida State, which just had a convincing win over Florida but has no shot at a conference title.

North Carolina has a big chance to impress the committee against Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. The Tar Heels should run the ball, as they have gained 6.4 yards per carry (fourth in the nation, not including sack yardage) behind running back Elijah Hood and quarterback Marquise Williams. Clemson's defense is not as good against the run as it is against the pass.

North Carolina's defense has improved drastically this year. Under new coordinator Gene Chizik, the Tar Heels have allowed 5.2 yards per play, 40th in the nation. However, they face a stiff test against quarterback Deshaun Watson, who has completed over 70 percent of his passes this season.

My numbers give North Carolina a 31 percent chance to upset Clemson. However, even with a win, the Tar Heels have almost no chance to jump from No. 10 to the Top Four, as the simulations give them a 1.5 percent chance to make the playoff.

Stanford's outside chance at the playoff

Tony Avelar/Associated Press

As predicted, Stanford stayed below Ohio State at No. 7 in the committee rankings this week. The Cardinal have one more chance to impress the committee against USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Stanford already beat USC once this year, as quarterback Kevin Hogan threw for 12.1 yards per attempt in a 41-31 win at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Hogan and all-purpose superstar Christian McCaffrey need to have another strong game to beat USC again, as Stanford's defense has struggled this year.

If two-loss Stanford wins and North Carolina defeats Clemson, we'll see exactly what the committee thinks is the true value of a conference championship. Will the Tar Heels jump Clemson and Ohio State, which would not win the Big Ten and ACC, respectively?

Stay tuned for what could be a highly debated Selection Sunday. 

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.