It’s a fool’s simulation day.
Every morning, FPI 20,000 imagine a college football world that could unfold over the weeks from now until College Football Playoff picks through its simulations. Many of them look like the college football landscapes we imagine will happen, with Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia all reaching the playoff.
But sometimes, brutal and absurd things happen, and before you know it, Syracuse Orange is at College Football Playoff. Don’t tell me it can’t happen: Allstate Playoff Predictor He predicted it, exactly 10 times in 20,000 simulations conducted on Thursday.
Uncertainty lies at the core of the Football Strength Index, and thus the Allstate Playoff Predictor. And so we harness the unpredictable nature of college football to find some of the wildest simulations our model has produced — which means that they were at least possible, even if highly improbable. Let’s dive in, starting with the aforementioned orange.
Syracuse Orange: Welcome to CFP!
Simulation number: 3789 CFP
Teams: Syracuse, Alabama, All Miss, University of Southern California
On the one hand, this is brutal. Syracuse in the playoff? Ole Miss would have been a nice underdog story until Orange came along and blew the Rebels out of the water, from a narrative perspective.
On the other hand… they just have to win? Syracuse 5-0. And while a win is highly improbable – the FPI gives him only a 0.2% chance of doing so – that’s exactly what’s going on here in sim #3789. 13-0 Power 5 champion? He will not be denied from the playoff.
In fact, USC and Alabama also go 13-0 in this sim, so there is only one contested spot to grab. Minnesota and Texas won their conferences with three (!) losses each, so both are out of the picture.
The only other contender is Georgia 12-1, who lost to Crimson Tide in the SEC title match. Do I think Georgia usually gets more than an 11-1 Ole Miss at this place? I do. But she doesn’t! The Predictor doesn’t give us any further details, so I’m free to edit and say the Bulldogs are losing by three touchdowns to Alabama, while the Ole Miss lost by just four in their game against Nick Saban and Co. The rebels take the last place!
Big Ten Mania!
Simulation number: 281 CFP
Teams: Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Alabama
Tired: Two teams from the same conference in the play-off. Wired: Three teams from the same conference in the playoff.
Do you think people are excited about an extended face now? Just wait until you see non-Big Ten fans next.
How do we get here?
Penn State lost to Minnesota but beat Michigan and Ohio State on their way to the division and then the conference title. Michigan finished 11-1, losing only to Penn State. Ohio State finished 10-2, losing to only the other two.
So how do the Buckeyes make it here?
Since Texas ended up as the champ with four losses in the Big 12, it’s not a threat. Oregon is the Pac-12 champion with three losses, and there is also no threat. So it’s up to Ohio State, the two-loss unbeaten Georgia team and the ACC champion’s Clemson team.
Well, their loss came against other teams in the playoffs, while Georgia lost to Kentucky and Clemson lost twice to Boston College and Miami. Because of that, the commission turned toward Ohio.
Buck 12 double!
Simulation number: 2803 CFP
Teams: Utah, USC, Alabama, Michigan
There are 23 simulations to be exact where both Utah and USC gain a berth in the playoff, an absolute coup for the conference. Incredibly, this happens despite Utah losing to Oregon before beating the otherwise undefeated USC in the Pac-12 game.
So how does a Conference Champion who has lost two Utah and one loss other than the United States Champion get to the playoff? chaos elsewhere. Texas is the three-time Big 12 champion, Georgia is the two-loss champion and Clemson is the two-loss ACC champion.
Will Clemson, the two-loss champion, beat Utah, the two-loss champion? It may be! But in the 2803 simulation, the panel was influenced by Utes.
Chip number: 12400
CFP Teams: Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio
Turns out the SEC can also put three teams into the playoff…and honestly with a lot of possible combinations.
Here’s how we come up with this very scenario: Kentucky – which is currently experiencing one loss – wins the Securities and Exchange Commission. Tennessee wins except for its game against Kentucky, which puts it 11-1 as an out-of-division champion. This means that both teams beat Georgia, where their defeat came.
The committee looked favorably at those without the SEC title on the likes of the two-loss Champion Clemson, the four-loss Texan Champion (why does each scenario seem to have four losses in the Big 12 Champion Texas?!) and the two-loss Utah Champion. Hey, bulldogs defend champions – that might happen.
Chip number: 833
CFP teams: Oklahoma State, Penn State, Alabama, Clemson
So far, this exercise has been too hard for the Big 12. But no longer!
Oklahoma State loses to Kansas—which hasn’t these days—but is otherwise on a very stellar path to finish with 12-1 of the 12 Big Champions. Is it enough for CFP?
Clemson goes undefeated and loses to Alabama twice but wins the SEC title – both in. Georgia has lost twice, including to Mississippi State and is not a champion. Then USC is the one-time Pac-12 champion with a loss to Notre Dame.
So why not trojans? Well, Oklahoma State’s record strength was significantly better: The top 25 teams had a 12% chance of going 12-1 against the Cowboys table, while the same team had a 25% chance of going 12-1 against USC. The commission sided with the Cowboys and put Oklahoma in it.
Lauren Boe contributed to this article.