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College Football Playoff (12/6/12)

By Paul Bessire

Thursday, December 6 at 6:00 PM ET 

Today’s blog focuses on a college football playoff and evaluates some important NFL numbers to consider the rest of the way.

College Football Playoffs: To me, the most logical approach to a college football FBS playoff, assuming there will continue to be 11 conferences recognized at college football’s highest level, includes 16 teams. This ensures that the 11 conference champions each make the playoffs (like in college basketball). It also allows for four weeks of playoff football - which happens to be the exact duration of the bowls. Neutral field sites of actual bowls are assumed throughout the duration of the simulated playoff. One way in which recent events leading to the current (and future) conference alignments have swayed my thinking on this approach is that it would be virtually impossible to get commissioners/presidents or whomever would make the final decisions to put a limit on the amount teams from one conference that can make this tournament format (though there is a fixed limit of six with only five at large teams making it). This year, with Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M on the outside looking in, a great example of pitfalls of the BCS’ limitations on the number of teams from one conference that can play in a top bowl. We used the BCS standings to seed teams (and computer polls when the BCS standings were not available beyond the top 25).

To achieve these results, the entire bracket was simulated 50,000 times. The average score from the most likely outcomes is provided. I advanced teams based on the most likely to reach that level. In every matchup – even Alabama vs. Arkansas State - both teams won at least 2.5% of the games (which means that in at least 1,250 virtual worlds, Arkansas State is in college football’s Elite Eight – and I love that possibility). That being said, Tulsa and Arkansas State never once won the national championship in 50,000 simulations of this bracket (every other team won at least three times). Even as a dominant favorite, Alabama only wins 33.2% of all championships.  With four teams from the conference and the likely champion, the SEC wins 50.7% of all simulated titles.

More than half of the games fall within one score. Not one rematch from a regular season game occurs in the most likely result and only one game that we will actually see in the bowls shows up. Oregon, which we believe to be the second best in the country, gets a chance to prove that. Boise State, and Utah State play close enough games to shine a light on just how good those teams have been this season. And, we get 15 games that just about every fan would watch because they all mean something. Just look at the matchups at every level... Isn't this significantly more intriguing and enjoyable than both the current system and a four team playoff? For what it’s worth, if we still have 11 recognized FBS conferences in ten years, I think this will be the format. Regardless of the number of conference, an eight team playoff seems almost inevitable at this point.

Here is what happened in the college football playoffs (most likely matchups and results from 50,000 simulations of this bracket):

First Round Results:
1) Notre Dame (at-large) 33 
16) Tulsa (C-USA Champion) 16

8) LSU (at-large) 19
9) Florida State (ACC Champion) 20

4) Oregon (at-large) 35
13) Wisconsin (Big Ten Champion) 27

5) Kansas State (Big 12 Champion) 35
12) Louisville (Big East Champion) 21

6) Stanford (Pac-12 Champion) 28
11) Utah State (WAC Champion) 21

3) Florida (at-large) 23
14) Boise State (Mountain West Champion) 17

7) Georgia (at-large) 43
10) Northern Illinois (MAC Champion) 21

2) Alabama (SEC Champion) 41
15) Arkansas State (Sun Belt Champion) 13

Round 2 Results:
1) Notre Dame 21
9) Florida State 23

5) Kansas State 31
4) Oregon 37

6) Stanford 17
3) Florida 20

7) Georgia 24
2) Alabama 34

Semifinal Results:
9) Florida State 27
4) Oregon 33

3) Florida 13
2) Alabama 26

College Football Championship Results
1) Alabama Crimson Tide 34
4) Oregon Ducks 27

NFL Projections Updated:
Late in the season, as we did last year, we update weekly projections on notable NFL topics. To see more team projections, check out our updated NFL Playoff Probabilities.

  • Most Likely Division Winners (AFC): New England (100%), Denver (100%), Houston (99.6%), Baltimore (80%)
  • Projected Playoff Seeds (AFC): 1. Houston 2. Denver 3. New England 4. Baltimore 5. Indianapolis 6. Pittsburgh
  • Teams with greater than 25% to make playoffs: 7 The Cincinnati Bengals are the seventh team and make the postseason 48.3% of the time. No other AFC team is more than 4.6%
  • Most Likely Division Winners (NFC): Atlanta (100%), San Francisco (90%), New York (69%), Chicago (58%)
  • Projected Playoff Seeds (NFC): 1. Atlanta 2. San Francisco 3. Chicago 4. New York 5. Green Bay 6. Seattle
  • Teams with greater than 25% to make playoffs: 8 (Washington at 33% and Dallas at 25% are other teams with a realistic shot at postseason)
  • Super Bowl Chances: Denver (26%), San Francisco (18%), Houston (17%), New England (10%), Atlanta (9%), Green Bay/Chicago (4%), New York Giants/Seattle (3%), Washington/Baltimore/Pittsburgh/Cincinnati (roughly 1% each)
  • Pass Yards (rest of season): Drew Brees, 1245.1 passing yards, 12 TDs, 4 INTs
  • Rush Yards (rest of season): Adrian Peterson, 477 rushing yards, 3 TDs
  • Receiving Yards (rest of season): Calvin Johnson, 424 receiving yards, 2 TDs
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