We’re back with the one and only College Football Playoff Bubble Watch here in 2015. The committee will be bringing out their first rankings soon so let’s get to this right off the bat.
Now, if you saw our most recent CFP Implications, you will notice that we are still counting 27 teams still alive for the College Football Playoff. Now, some of those are much longer shots than others. Also, 27 teams is far too many to write bubble profiles for. But we will give you as many profiles as we can. Some will be of the main contenders and we will also show a few teams that don’t have much of a chance just to compare.
Every undefeated Power 5 team controls their own destiny. There are still eight undefeated P5 teams, including three from the Big Ten and three from the Big XII. That is a large number of undefeated teams for this point in the season, but things will whittle down as contenders face off.
Week 9 CFP Bubble Watch
Let’s just give a quick refresher as to how our Bubble Watch works. We will divide teams into three sections. The first will be those who control their own destiny, the second will be those “on the bubble”, and the third section will be those teams technically still alive but whose Playoff hopes are very slim.
For the purposes of determining quality wins, things like Top 10 and Top 25 are arbitrary numbers that do more harm than good. There is no reason that the gap between #25 and #26 is considered significantly larger than the gap between #24 and #25. Therefore, to counteract this, I am being very lenient as to who is considered Top 10 or Top 25. Any team in the Top 25 of one of the major polls (AP, Coaches’, and CFP rankings) or in a significant number of the accepted computer rankings will be considered in the Top 25 for resume purposes. This leads to the awkwardness of there being more than 25 Top 25 teams, but it presents a more accurate picture of the overall resume. The SOS range is taken from numerous computer rankings. Ranges can be quite large but they do give a decent picture of the possibilities of how strong the schedule actually is.
Controls Their Own Destiny
Clemson controls their destiny out of the ACC by being undefeated. The SOS numbers are solid so far and their leg up on the competition is that big win over Notre Dame. That sets this resume apart from just about every other one we’ll see this week.
LSU is probably the strongest resume that we’ll see this week. Their best win isn’t quite as good as Clemson’s, but everything else takes off from there. It’s a good SOS number and the remaining games against ranked opponents is high. Don’t be at all surprised if LSU is #1 when the committee’s rankings debut.
The Buckeyes don’t really have any meat on this resume so far, but they have their two (three if they reach the Big Ten Championship Game) hardest games on the season left. If they end the season as an undefeated power conference champion, they will be in the Playoff. Still, with the toughest yet to come and only one Top 40 game so far (Penn State), don’t be surprised if the Buckeyes are outside the committee’s Top 4 this week.
The Spartans, like the Buckeyes, don’t have much in terms of true quality teams on their resume, with only two Top 40 opponents on their resume. They also have only faced two true cupcakes this year, with a whole bunch of mediocrity in between. Still, with games remaining against Ohio State and a potential Big Ten Championship Game, this resume will be enough to get into the Playoff.
Iowa has a deceptive resume. There are three cupcakes on there, a number that will rise after facing Purdue later in the year. The two ranked opponents are Northwestern and Wisconsin, who the computers both have in the Top 25 right now. That won’t last after they play each other, though. Still, undefeated in a power conference and a win in the Big Ten Championship Game will be enough to put Iowa in the Playoff.
Oklahoma State, TCU, and Baylor do not have much of a resume at all right now. They have not played a single Top 40 team between the three of them. But with games remaining against each other, each has three more opportunities to pick up ranked wins. None of them might start inside the committee’s Top 10 (which will come as a surprise to some but shouldn’t once they see these resumes), but any one of them will be in the Top 4 at the end of they win out.
On the Bubble
Alabama has one of the strongest 1-loss profiles imaginable. They’re still not quite in “Controls their Own Destiny” category because they will meet a stiff test from the Notre Dame/Stanford winner. Once we get a few weeks of games shaping out, though, Alabama will control their own destiny if they’re still winning.
The Pac 12 has a lot of teams in the middle of college football, though not as many ranked teams as some expected earlier in the year. USC is rising, though, and that win is gaining value. Some of the computer power rankings even have the Trojans in the Top 10. Add a win over Notre Dame and a Pac 12 Championship Game and Stanford is looking solid for a Playoff spot.
Notre Dame’s SOS number is very good and those three Top 25 wins are strong. Navy (who the computers put in the Top 25) probably won’t last there, but this is still a strong resume. Add in wins over Pitt and Stanford and it will be hard to keep Notre Dame out if they run the table.
Florida’s SOS number is strong and the resume is very solid overall. Unfortunately, most of the Gators’ toughest games are behind them. Still, if they win out this will be a resume that is hard for anyone else to beat.
Oklahoma has a better resume than their Big XII counterparts by dint of a nonconference win over Tennessee. Still, it’s pretty empty so far. If they win out, it will be a very competitive resume, but right now it’s weak.
Florida State’s resume is, so far, not good–and that’s an understatement. Their Playoff hopes are pretty slim and, without question, they cannot afford another loss. Wins over Florida and Clemson, with an ACC Championship Game added in, will make this resume interesting. Still, Florida State is not getting off the bubble the rest of this season, even if they win out.
Utah is flying under the radar, but they have a competitive resume to go with it. If they win a few more games, the way the country shakes out could let Utah move back up.
This is a fascinating resume for a lot of reasons. Mississippi has played five games against Top 40 teams but has also faced four teams in the bottom third of college football. Of course, if Ole Miss wins out that will probably mean two more ranked wins, including an SEC Championship Game. The number of Top 25 teams will probably go down, though, as it is unlikely that Texas A&M and Mississippi State end up ranked, but they are there for now.
Memphis has a much stronger resume than Houston (see below), including that win over Ole Miss. The three ranked games remaining is misleading, though, as Navy probably will not end the season ranked. The Tigers are also getting some traction from that Bowling Green win. Can this resume earn a Playoff bid? Probably not. Can it be a very close debate if they win out? Absolutely.
When people point to the fact that the AAC is still lagging behind power conferences in terms of providing a Playoff contender is right here. Houston is a very good football team, but their opponents at the bottom of the conference are just dragging this resume down.
This resume is a little thin and looked better a few weeks ago, but if wins over Ohio State and potentially an undefeated Iowa are added, it could still be in contention. Michigan will probably be eliminated before we even get to the Ohio State game (if there aren’t enough losses by other contenders), but for now the resume is still alive.
Others Still Alive:
Toledo, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Penn State, Wisconsin, UCLA, Northwestern, North Carolina