Projecting the Playoff Conversation (Week 11)
Our latest end-of-season projections (focusing on our “In The Conversation” metric). The aim is to project the teams we’ll be discussing as we head into the conference championships.
Predictive analysts are like the grizzled old scouts in cowboy movies. Spend days on their own, working through signs, keeping track of threats too far away for the main body to see. There’s usually a scene when they break the bad news to the leader. You know how it goes: “They’ve been tracking us for two days, Boss. We’re not making it back to the fort without a fight.”
We like that role. A lot actually, and are decent at it. We called Ohio State in 2014 from mid-October, and Oklahoma early in 2015. Those are fun years. And fun movies.
This year is different. There aren’t any Indians out there. We’re the scouts and we’re here to tell you: We are getting back to the fort without a fight. We know the group the playoff teams will come from and we’ve all been traveling with them for awhile now. As we’ve said for weeks, the most surprising thing about how this season plays out is how unsurprising it will be.
There will be upsets, of course. But it’s clear who’s in the group that will supply the playoff teams. We’re down to just 7 who have >10% of being in the conversation at the end of the regular season.
- Alabama, Clemson, Michigan and Washington all have clear paths – they control their own destinies and will be favorites (in almost all cases, big favorites) in their remaining games. Most can even drop a game and still make it through. That’s one of the reasons for our confidence – these are not fragile positions.
- Ohio State obviously can’t lose any more games, but if they win out they will definitely be in the conversation (and the Big 10 title game).
- Of the Big 6, Louisville needs the most help. But they will almost certainly be the #5 team waiting for one of the top 4 seeds to drop their conference championship. Which, odds are, one of them will. Presumably a 1-loss Michigan, if they stumble in Columbus, will be right there with them.
- West Virginia can still at least get in the conversation if they win out. That’s a tall order given they still have Texas and Oklahoma, as well as pesky Iowa State and cratering Baylor. But if they can get on another run they would have a place there in the wings hoping for some conference championship carnage.
We are skeptical a 2-loss team has a chance, given our projections for the top 6. Sorry OU, Wazzou, Wisconsin, VaTech. We can spin a story for OU, but they have to win out (42%) and hope that say, 3, of the Top 6 get knocked out. In some cases that would take multiple losses. Very unlikely, if not impossible. If you like your movies with a surprise ending, that’s probably the ambush to pull for.
A bit more detail on our ITC Top 25: