Bleacher Report's College Football Playoff Predictions Before Selection Sunday

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Bleacher Report's College Football Playoff Predictions Before Selection Sunday
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Which four teams will make the College Football Playoff? Will the committee have any surprises for us at noon Eastern on Sunday when it announces the four teams?

Championship week didn't bring any of the chaos that a team such as Michigan needed. Alabama, Clemson and Washington, the three of the Top Four teams that played, all won their games.

The table below shows my prediction for the final committee rankings, which also give the semifinal playoff matchups. Let's look at the top talking points:

Ed Feng's College Football Playoff Standings Predictions
Rank Team Result
1 Alabama Win vs. Florida, 54-16
2 Clemson Win vs. Virginia Tech, 42-35
3 Ohio State DNP
4 Washington Win vs. Colorado, 41-10
5 Michigan DNP
6 Penn State Win vs. Wisconsin, 38-31
7 Oklahoma Win vs. Oklahoma State, 38-20
8 Wisconsin Loss vs. Penn State, 38-31
10 Colorado Loss vs. Washington, 41-10
11 Oklahoma State Loss vs. Oklahoma, 38-20
12 Florida State DNP
13 Louisville DNP
14 Auburn DNP
15 West Virginia Win vs. Baylor, 24-21
16 Western Michigan Win vs. Ohio, 29-23
17 Stanford DNP
18 Florida Loss vs. Alabama, 54-16
19 Utah DNP
21 Tennessee DNP
22 Virginia Tech Loss vs. Clemson, 42-35
23 Houston DNP
24 Pittsburgh DNP
25 Navy Lost vs. Temple, 34-10

The Power Rank

—Washington holds onto the fourth spot after a convincing 41-10 win over Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Committee chair Kirby Hocutt had previously discussed the "small separation" Washington had over fifth-ranked Michigan, but the extra win gives the Huskies an added advantage over the idle Wolverines.

—Clemson got all it could handle from Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game but held on for a 42-35 win. The committee often moves a team that wins a championship game ahead of an idle one. For example, Michigan State jumped ahead of Oklahoma after winning the Big Ten championship in 2015. The ACC title puts Clemson ahead of Ohio State at second in the final rankings.

—As mentioned, Ohio State didn't play this week and dropped behind Clemson in the final predicted rankings. However, the Buckeyes do not drop behind Washington. Hocutt discussed the significant distance between Ohio State and seventh-ranked Penn State, but he also remarked about the closeness between Michigan, Washington and Penn State. This suggests Ohio State will not drop below Washington.

—Is there any doubt Alabama deserves the top seed? The Crimson Tide dominated Florida in the SEC Championship Game, 54-16. They scored touchdowns in all three phases of the game (offense, defense and special teams).

—Poor Penn State. It won the Big Ten championship with a 38-31 win over Wisconsin, its ninth win in a row. However, the Nittany Lions couldn't overcome an out-of-conference loss to Pittsburgh and a 39-point loss at Michigan. They remain on the outside of the playoff bubble.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Penn State QB Trace McSorley after the team's win over Wisconsin.

—Oklahoma went undefeated in conference play to take the Big 12 with a 38-20 win over rival Oklahoma State. However, the committee relegated the Sooners to ninth in last week's rankings due to a 1-2 start to the season. Even nine wins in a row will only move Oklahoma up to seventh in the final rankings.

—Colorado looked competitive in the first half against Washington, as the Buffaloes trailed 14-7 at the half. Then a banged-up Sefo Liufau began the second half with two interceptions, and Colorado never recovered. It drops behind USC in my final rankings, implying that USC represents the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl.

—Michigan will end the season fifth in the committee rankings, as its failure to win the Big Ten East didn't give it a final chance to impress the committee. The Wolverines will regret the one-point loss at Iowa and their second conference loss versus Ohio State last weekend that resulted in Penn State as Big Ten East champion.


Predictions for each possible College Football Playoff game

So, who holds the edge if this playoff Top Four plays out accordingly? Here are the predictions for all possible playoff matchups based on my algorithm. These predictions do not include data from the championship games:

Ed Feng's Playoff Game Predictions
Matchup Point Differential Win Probability
Alabama vs. Washington Alabama by 9.5 points 77 percent
Clemson vs. Ohio State Ohio State by 2.3 points 57.3 percent
Alabama vs. Clemson Alabama by 9.2 points 76.3 percent
Alabama vs. Ohio State Alabama by 6.9 points 70.6 percent
Clemson vs. Washington Clemson by 0.4 points 51.3 percent
Ohio State vs. Washington Ohio State by 2.7 points 58.5 percent

The Power Rank

Alabama is favored over each of the other three teams in its matchups. If the numbers hold true to form, Nick Saban will earn his sixth national championship, tying him with Bear Bryant for the most all time. 


Ed Feng is Bleacher Report's playoff probability guru and runs the sports analytics site The Power Rank. Stats provided by The Power Rank unless otherwise noted. You can find Ed on Twitter: @thepowerrank.

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