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The Road to the CFB Playoffs: Part 3

Cards have Good Shot at Playoffs.

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015/16 season could be one of the more exciting college football seasons in several years. In Part 2 of this series, the conference favorites were displayed upon their chances of winning their respective divisions. In the pre-season, power rankings and polls give a good indication of the best teams; however, teams have very different conference schedules from year-to-year. To get a better idea of conference champions, the head to head match-ups of all FBS games were simulated using the prediction models. Team’s initial rankings are their post-spring ratings, margin of victory was calculated from each game and a new rating given for each week.

The output shows the ACC Divisional projected champions with their respective conference records and overall records; the "disruptor" (the team that has improved enough to beat most anyone, but has not shown the consistency to realistically compete for the title.). Details will be provided for the ACC as the readers of this site have more interest in those teams. The conference picks for the other conference are also provided.



FSU and Clemson are the odds on favorites to win the Atlantic division of the ACC. They both play Georgia Tech and have relatively tougher conference schedules than any other contenders in the Atlantic. Louisville will be relatively unknown, due to the retooling of their defense and a nearly new wide receiving corps.

Disruptor: NC State. The Wolfpack have both Louisville and Clemson at home where they can be very dangerous. FSU has to play at Clemson and the Cardinals have to play at FSU.

What the Odds Say: FSU (2/1), Clemson (5/2), Louisville (3/1), NC State (21/1).

What the Data Says: Louisville, 7-1 ACC, 10-2 Overall; Clemson 7-1 ACC, 11-1 Overall; FSU 6-2 ACC, 10-2 Overall.

Analysis: The simulations produced head to head result of Louisville beating Clemson, Clemson beating FSU, and FSU beating Louisville. By virtue of head to head Louisville wins the Atlantic.


Georgia Tech surprised many last season by winning the Coastal. This season they are favored along with contenders Duke and Virginia Tech.

Disruptor: Pittsburgh. The Panthers return 15 starters, including the conference leading rusher. They can and will likely make some noise in conference. Hosting Louisville could be a deciding game for the outcome of the Atlantic. Playing Duke, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech on the road could end their hopes for a championship as well.

What the Odds Say: Georgia Tech (5/4), Duke (2/1), Virginia Tech (8/1)

What the Data Says: Georgia Tech, 7-1 ACC, 11-1 Overall; Duke, 7-1 ACC, 10-2 Overall; Virginia Tech, 6-2 ACC, 9-3 Overall

Analysis: Georgia Tech should win the Coastal by virtue of a head-to-head wins over Duke and Virginia Tech.

ACC Champion: Head-to-Head probability favors Georgia Tech (52%). However, if Louisville defeats Auburn in the opener, the Cards have a good chance of winning the ACC title. Another significant possibility is the ACC Champion having 2 losses, overall, and being left out of the playoffs. A one-loss ACC Champion will make the playoffs.

BIG 10

This is a 3 team race for the conference title. Ohio State and Michigan State will likely only lose to the other in conference. As stated in the Preseason conference rankings, the BIG 10 is the weakest of the power 5 conferences.


East: Ohio State

West: Wisconsin

BIG 10 Champion: Ohio State

Disruptor: Nebraska and Penn State (and possibly Michigan).

The Buckeyes have the best chance of any P5 team to go undefeated at 16/1. But, what if Wisconsin loses to Alabama, Michigan State loses to Oregon, and Ohio State loses to Virginia Tech again? This could be an interesting BIG 10 season as the Champion can have no more than one loss to be considered for the playoffs.

Big 12

TCU, Baylor, and Oklahoma are the writers’ favorites to win the Big 12. Most preseason polls have TCU ranked 2nd behind Ohio State nationally; Baylor and Oklahoma are mentioned in the top 10. This is difficult to conceive as TCU and Baylor had such a weak non-conference schedule last season to be left out of the playoffs, and this year is not much different. Oklahoma travels to Tennessee and TCU goes to Minnesota; Baylor plays no one of circumstance to impact their overall ranking. Oklahoma has, in recent years, imploded in conference games.

Pick: TCU

Disruptor: Kansas State (possibly Texas)

Oklahoma and TCU could possibly have one loss, win the Big 12, and make it to the playoffs. It is more likely, that the Big 12 winner will have to be undefeated.

PAC 12

Oregon has been the dominant team as of late and while they will be the favorite again, many other teams from the South Division will, at least, make them earn the conference crown. Stanford is looking to improve over last season’s disappointments. The Cardinal host the Ducks in one of the key conference games (one that will likely decide the North). In the South, USC is getting the most hype based on last year’s improvement from the Lane Kiffin experiment and strong recruiting. The Trojans do look strong but the data is suggesting a different story at this point.

Disruptor: Arizona, Washington, USC


North: Oregon

South: UCLA

Conference Champion: Oregon

It will take Oregon winning the PAC 12 and beating Michigan State in East Lansing to secure their position in the playoffs.


The SEC has always been over-hyped. While it is undoubtedly the strongest overall conference; it is not even conceivable for this conference to put in more than one team on a given year. Unless, by chance, the two teams playing for the SEC title are both undefeated going in. However, this season that is not likely; Alabama and Georgia (2 of the favorites) play each other in a cross-divisional match-up. The SEC-West appears to be the strongest conference division of any. But think, if Wisconsin beats Alabama, Alabama beats Georgia, Georgia Tech beats Georgia, and Georgia beats Alabama in the SEC Championship? Can a 2-loss SEC team make it to the playoffs? That is arguable at best.

Auburn is, by most publications, being considered a top 5 team. While their talent is outstanding, it is difficult to see a Will Muschamp defense (in his first year) as improving that much. That is a separate article for the preseason. The data suggests the team that wins the SEC West is not even being mentioned.

Disruptor: Tennessee, (South Carolina with Everett Golsen at QB), Auburn.


East: Georgia

West: Mississippi State

SEC Champion: Georgia

The playoff committee, going into year two, are possibly tasked with making a decision to leave out a two-loss SEC Champion. More ironic, if all P5 conference champions are undefeated, does the defending National Champion get left out? Not likely, as Ohio State will start as the consensus number one team, but if strength of schedule is a major criteria, then it is possible.

The scenarios mentioned are based solely on statistical analysis. A logistical regression model is used to predict games on several factors. For more stats and articles go to

The next several articles in the series will breakdown each conference more intricately.