Sports analytics from Laura Albert's team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering

NCAA football playoff forecasts, week 12

Several big upsets in this weekend’s games are reflected in our rankings and playoff forecasts. Most teams have about two games left plus maybe a conference championship game, so nearly all teams have been mathematically eliminated from the playoff. However, some teams have an easier path to the playoff than others. For example, after Wisconsin’s big win over Nebraska this weekend (Go Badgers!), Wisconsin is leading the B1G West and has a larger chance to make the playoff than higher ranked Michigan State who has to go through Ohio State in the B1G East.

First, we note that there are only two undefeated teams (Florida State and Marshall) and six teams with one loss from a major conference. We see that aside from Marshall, the AP poll ranks undefeated Florida State first followed by the six teams with one loss, followed by teams with two losses. This is consistent with our post last week, where we argued that the most deserving teams (not the best teams) are more likely to be ranked highest.

We make an adjustment in our ratings for teams like Marshall who are not from a major conference. The football season is short, and it is hard for a mathematical model to “learn” that these teams do not have a strong schedule given so little data. Marshall as 10th with a 10% chance of making the playoff may be too optimistic given its schedule.

We will only report the ensemble results this week to keep things short and sweet. Our forecasts are similar to the AP rankings except that we have Ohio State ranked higher whereas the AP rankings have Oregon ranked higher. We would definitely prefer to see Wisconsin cruise through the rest of the season and the B1G championship game.

Week 12 forecasts.

Ensemble model results

The top teams to make the playoff with the fraction of simulations in the playoff (out of 10,000).

  1. Florida State: 0.839
  2. Alabama: 0.683
  3. Ohio State: 0.501
  4. Texas Christian: 0.431
  5. Mississippi State: 0.339
  6. Mississippi: 0.282
  7. Oregon: 0.254
  8. Baylor: 0.219
  9. Georgia: 0.161
  10. Marshall: 0.101
  11. U.C.L.A.: 0.0807
  12. Wisconsin: 0.0373
  13. Kansas State: 0.0305
  14. Georgia Tech: 0.0296

The top teams to just miss the playoff with the fraction of simulations ranked fifth.

  1. Georgia: 0.148
  2. Alabama: 0.106
  3. Ohio State: 0.102
  4. Mississippi State: 0.0802
  5. Marshall: 0.0793
  6. U.C.L.A.: 0.0727
  7. Baylor: 0.0715
  8. Oregon: 0.0603
  9. Georgia Tech: 0.0568
  10. Texas Christian: 0.0527

The fraction of playoffs with at least one team from each major conference:

  • ACC: 0.848
  • Big12: 0.561
  • B1G: 0.527
  • PAC12: 0.328
  • SEC: 0.940

The fraction of playoffs with two teams from each major conference. The SEC is the notable outlier here.

  • ACC: 0.021
  • Big12: 0.120
  • B1G: 0.013
  • PAC12: 0.012
  • SEC: 0.486