Ed Feng's Week 5 College Football Playoff Standings Predictions

Ed Feng@@thepowerrankAnalytics ExpertSeptember 25, 2016

LOUISVILLE, KY - SEPTEMBER 17: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals runs with the ball during the game against the Florida State Seminoles at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)
Bobby Ellis/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 analytics and a proprietary algorithm as a substitute for committee rankings to assign teams probabilities of making the playoff. Each week, we'll highlight the most important talking points from the previous weekend's action and how those results impact our algorithm for playoff probability.

The table shows the results, and you can find more information on the methods at the Power RankThe strength-of-schedule ranking considers only FBS opponents played so far, not a team's entire schedule.

Here's what we learned in Week 4. 

Ed Feng's College Football Playoff Probability
RankTeamPlayoff ProbabilityAP RankingWinsLossesSOS
3Ohio State51.5823045
6Florida State32.7012311
10Texas A&M11.6094015
15San Diego State4.03193072
16Boise State3.14243079
The Power Rank

Louisville Cardinals at Clemson Tigers

As Louisville travels to Clemson for an enormous ACC clash Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET, these two teams seem headed in opposite directions.

Louisville has charged out of the gate with four definitive victories, including a 43-point thumping of the Florida State Seminoles. Stud quarterback Lamar Jackson has dazzled the college football world with 13 passing and 12 rushing touchdowns.

Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
Clemson QB Deshaun WatsonKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In contrast, Clemson's offense has struggled this season. Despite having preseason Heisman favorite Deshaun Watson at quarterback, the Tigers have generated 5.6 yards per play, 80th in the nation. The problem starts with a rushing attack that has averaged 4.2 yards per carry, 87th in the nation.

These early-season results most likely misrepresent the true skill levels of these two offenses. As good as Jackson has been, he has completed 58.7 percent of his passes, worse than the college football average of 60 percent. He'll find it much more difficult to produce big pass plays against Clemson than the Marshall Thundering Herd.

Clemson's offense most likely figures it out. This unit ranked fifth last season in my yards per attempt adjusted for strength of schedule and returned almost all skill-position players. 

My numbers give each team a 50 percent chance to win this marquee matchup. However, a loss doesn't eliminate either team, as the loser will have only one loss with a ton of football left to play. Louisville could put itself squarely in the playoff hunt if it can beat the Houston Cougars on November 17, while Clemson has a key game against Florida State on October 29. 

Pac-12 Contenders

Nothing went right for the Stanford Cardinal at the UCLA Bruins.

Ryan Burns threw a pick that set up a UCLA touchdown, and UCLA's Josh Rosen gashed the secondary for 9.2 yards per attempt. But a late touchdown throw by Burns with 24 seconds remaining in the game gave Stanford a critical Pac-12 victory. Stanford has a 59 percent chance to beat the Washington Huskies on the road Friday night.

Washington had high hopes for its defense, a stellar unit from a year ago that returned many starters this season. However, the Arizona Wildcats and backup QB Brandon Dawkins gained 6.4 yards per play in scoring 28 points against the Huskies. This unit has some questions to answer before Stanford comes to town.

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin
Texas A&M head coach Kevin SumlinButch Dill/Getty Images

Texas A&M Aggies on the Rise, for Now

Texas A&M put on a show in Arlington against the Arkansas Razorbacks. The offense scored 45 points by gaining 591 yards on a stunning 10.0 yards per attempt.

The 21-point win suggests Texas A&M could be the second-best team in the SEC West. However, it still travels to play top team the Alabama Crimson Tide, one reason Texas A&M has only a 12 percent chance to make the playoff.

Michigan Wolverines on the Run 

Michigan's ground game got untracked against the Penn State Nittany Lions as the Wolverines ran for 6.7 yards per carry. However, they faced a Penn State defense without a single regular starter at linebacker.

To show improvement in the run game—a critical part of a balanced offense for Jim Harbaugh—they'll need a similar performance against the Wisconsin Badgers, a team that has allowed 4.2 yards per carry (numbers do not include sacks).

Probability Notes 

How did Ohio State go from 29 percent to 52 percent chance to make the playoff without playing a game this week? This change comes from a quirk in my methods that weighs the current season after four weeks more heavily than before. Michigan gets a similar bump, going from 19 percent to 27 percent

Houston head coach Tom Herman
Houston head coach Tom HermanThomas B. Shea/Getty Images

While Houston keeps destroying opponents, we keep giving it almost no chance to make the playoff (8 percent). The problem is the selection committee. A year ago, it moved 10-0 Houston only as high as 19th, something it would never do to a Power Five team. 

To simulate this, the code puts up barriers for teams outside the Power Five. However, if the committee puts an undefeated Houston in the top five of its first rankings, the code will get adjusted, and Houston's playoff odds will go way up.

It might seem odd to see the Oklahoma Sooners with the eighth-best chance to make the playoff, but one must consider this: Oklahoma has lost to two quality opponents in Ohio State and Houston. My team rankings consider this strength of schedule, and the inclusion of data from this year favors Oklahoma just like Ohio State and Michigan. 

The Sooners have no room for error, though, and they must beat a good TCU Horned Frogs team on the road this week, their toughest test for the remainder of the season by my numbers. 

Ed Feng is Bleacher Report's playoff probability guru and runs the sports analytics site the Power Rank. Stats provided by the Power Rank unless otherwise noted. You can find him on Twitter @thepowerrank.


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