Alabama given 39 percent chance of winning College Football Playoff championship
Who’s going to win the inaugural College Football Playoff? Alabama is in the driver’s seat, but drawing underrated Ohio State in the semifinals diminished the Tide’s chances.
On Championship Weekend, all six Playoff contenders looked the part. Alabama pulled away from Missouri in the fourth quarter, Oregon pulled away from Arizona in the second, TCU destroyed Iowa State, Baylor kept Kansas State at arm’s length, Florida State beat Georgia Tech by its patented “as close as possible without losing” margin, and Ohio State obliterated Wisconsin.
The last result had the most impact, as Ohio State crept ahead of Baylor and TCU and stole the No. 4 spot in the national semifinals. Whereas the narrative has centered around the Big 12 being punished for not having a conference title game, that isn’t necessarily how I see it. Instead of the Big 12 teams being punished, the Big Ten title game gave Ohio State one final opportunity to prove itself. And wow, did Ohio State prove itself.
If the Big 12 had a 13th game — say, South champion Baylor knocking off North champion Kansas State on a neutral field — Ohio State still probably would have ended up in the Playoff. The Buckeyes have looked fantastic over the last two-plus months. And after losing Heisman contender J.T. Barrett for the season, the Buckeyes plugged in new starting quarterback Cardale Jones and looked even better.
Regardless of how it happened, the Playoff is set, and it could be outstanding. But how will it turn out? Whom do the odds favor?
Here are the likely winners of each potential semifinal and final matchups (bold = semifinal), with the percentages showing just how likely:
|No. 1 Alabama||No. 2 Oregon||No. 3 Florida State||No. 4 Ohio State|
|No. 1 Alabama||Bama 61.2%||Bama 75.2%||Bama 59.5%|
|No. 2 Oregon||Bama 61.2%||Oregon 70.8%||OSU 57.5%|
|No. 3 Florida State||Bama 75.2%||Oregon 70.8%||OSU 72.2%|
|No. 4 Ohio State||Bama 59.5%||OSU 57.5%||OSU 72.2%|
The things to remember about the F/+ rankings are that a) they hate Florida State, and b) they love Ohio State.
The Seminoles still stand at only eighth overall, which seems low until you look at their results. They beat No. 10 Georgia Tech by two points on a neutral field. They beat No. 16 Louisville by 11 on the road. They beat No. 24 Miami by four on the road. They beat No. 29 BC by three at home. They beat No. 36 Notre Dame by four at home.
Ohio State’s results have been a bit more extreme. The Buckeyes lost to Virginia Tech, 35-21, at home in September, but that’s negated a bit by the fact that the Hokies rank 32nd overall. It’s also negated by that 59-0 neutral-field win over No. 17 Wisconsin.
Their results have been less stable than FSU’s, but they grade out as the No. 2 team in the country. And the top three (Alabama, Ohio State, and Oregon) have pulled away from the pack overall.
Ohio State is the bracket land mine. Whoever got the No. 1 seed was going to see its title odds diminish for having to play the Buckeyes in the semifinals. F/+ gives Alabama a 38.8 percent chance of winning the title, followed by Oregon at 28.5 percent, Ohio State at 25.0 percent, and FSU at 7.6 percent. If Oregon had gotten the No. 1 seed instead of Alabama, the Ducks’ odds would have fallen to 19.9 percent, and Alabama’s would have risen to 45.3 percent.
The odds paint a clear picture: Alabama, Ohio State, and Oregon are nearly even, and FSU lags behind.
The specific matchups, however, are exciting and anything but clear. FSU gets almost a month to heal and prepare for Oregon’s pace. Ohio State gets almost a month to prepare its green quarterback for the Alabama defensive front.
The odds say this is Alabama’s to lose, but the script doesn’t always follow the odds.