I'm roughly following committee logic, with a little bit of my own subjective evaluations thrown in where I think it makes sense. The FEI strength of schedule ratings here lag a week behind, as they're updated on Tuesdays.
A refresher on what we believe is committee logic based on reverse-engineering the official rankings:
- Number of losses is the heaviest-weighted factor.
- Quality wins is the next (wins over ranked teams, with a non-linear increase in importance as the opponent gets better).
- Margin of victory isn't officially a metric, but it seems like at least quality of play is somehow - which is why FSU was the only undefeated team in the playoff last year but ranked only #3.
- Strength of schedule is significant in that a really bad metric here can ding you significantly See: 2014 Marshall, before their first loss. Or anybody in the Big 12 in 2015.
- If you have one loss, you're better off with it being early against weak competition, which makes it easier to explain as a fluke. Losses against good teams are very difficult to overcome as they appear to be seen almost as elimination games, and late losses are never good. If you have two losses, you're probably not in the conversation anyway so you won't have to worry about it.
- One of the trickier points is that while the committee says a loss is a loss is a loss, it appears they do judge losses a little differently. That's why, for example, Notre Dame was the highest-ranked one-loss team through eight weeks last year despite not having a quality win, and why TCU was ranked ahead of Baylor despite identical records and Baylor's controversial head-to-head win. I'm actually OK with this - it means they're willing to let the eyeball test overrule in extenuating circumstances.
As a tiebreaker, I use a completely subjective "who would win on a neutral field" test. I have no idea how the committee breaks a tie, but the way they vote (it's complicated) probably makes a tie extremely unlikely anyway.
Our Playoff Teams
- Clemson - 11-0 - Beat Wake Forest 33-13 in a game strikingly similar to Notre Dame's 28-7 win over the Deacons the week prior. They'll close out the regular season against South Carolina, who is reeling after losing to the Citadel. Heh. Quality wins: Notre Dame, Florida State. FEI SOS: 82nd.
- Alabama - 10-1 - Scrimmaged against Charleston-Southern and will face Auburn next week to close out their regular season. Hurt by LSU's third consecutive belly flop, but they have looked more consistent than the Irish. Quality wins: Mississippi State. FEI SOS: 36th.
- Notre Dame - 10-1 - Moved the ball with ease against the #5 defense nationally by FEI, but three turnovers and one bad drop inside the Boston College five yard line kept this game much closer than it should've been. The other two turnovers didn't help either. But, survive and advance, with a season-defining matchup against #9 Stanford looming. Quality wins: Navy, Temple. FEI SOS: 4th.
- Iowa - 11-0 - Knocked off Purdue. Yawn. Clinched the Big Ten West in the process. Double yawn. They'll finish their regular season at Nebraska this week. Triple yawn. Sorry, Hawkeyes - it's the yawniest undefeated season ever. Quality wins: Northwestern. FEI SOS: 104th.
Our Near-Future Playoff Teams
Because, let's be honest, we all know this thing is going to eight teams sooner rather than later.
- Oklahoma - 10-1 - Squeaked past a TCU team that was missing its two biggest offensive weapons, perhaps thanks to Gary Patterson's questionable two-point conversion decisions. Irish fans will be big Oklahoma State fans this week for Bedlam. Quality wins: Baylor, TCU. FEI SOS: 46th.
- Michigan State - 10-1 - No Connor Cook, no problem - the Spartans sent Ohio State into full crisis mode with a game-winning field goal as time expired. You know what? As much as I made fun of them in the first half of the season, they deserve credit for having a good year. They face Penn State this week and will clinch the Big Ten East with a win. Quality wins: Ohio State, Michigan, Oregon. FEI SOS: 48th.
- Baylor - Took it to undefeated Oklahoma State for three quarters and then held on when the Pokes had their inevitable rally. They'll head to TCU this week. Quality wins: Oklahoma State. FEI SOS: 60th.
- Stanford - 9-2 - Took care of business in the Big Game, knocking off Cal with relative ease, and in doing so clinched the Pac 12 North. They could play spoiler to Irish playoff hopes this week in one of the biggest match-ups ever between these two teams. Quality wins: Washington State. FEI SOS: 31st.
The Best of The Rest
- Florida - Needed overtime to get past Florida Atlantic, a nominal FBS team that would probably lose to the FCS Jacksonville State team that took Auburn to overtime earlier this year. SEC! SEC! SEC! Two underwhelming performances in three weeks against bad teams hurts them here. They'll take on Florida State this week. Quality wins: Ole Miss. FEI SOS: 64th.
- Florida State - 9-2 - Had a virtual bye against Chattanooga in preparation for the mighty Gators this week. I sort of don't feel like they should be here, but I'm having trouble making a case for anyone else. Quality wins: None. FEI SOS: 25th.
- Oklahoma State - 10-1 - Baylor hammered the "other" OSU thoroughly enough through most of the game that there wasn't time enough for the kind of rally that got them past Iowa State last week. Quality wins: TCU. FEI SOS: 71st.
- Ohio State - 10-1 - Posted without further comment:
The Buckeyes, who appear ready to mail it in based on comments from Zeke Elliott and Cardale Jones, face Michigan this week. Harbaugh may actually be foaming from the mouth by the time this game starts. Quality wins: None. FEI SOS: 78th.
- Michigan - 8-2 - In the first half, Penn State had first and goal three times - they gained two yards on nine plays and kicked three field goals. Impressive... But, like the Irish, the Wolverines did enough to win. They'll get their Quality wins: Northwestern. FEI SOS: 58th.
- Navy - 9-1 - Blew out Tulsa to maintain momentum towards the AAC title game in their first year in the league. In fact, in every game not against Notre Dame, Navy has won by multiple scores. They can clinch the AAC West with a win over Houston. Also, how is a school in Annapolis in the West division of anything? Anyway... Quality wins: None. FEI SOS: 29th.
- North Carolina - 10-1 - Went to overtime against Virginia Tech in Frank Beamer's final home game. They'll head to NC State this week. Quality wins: None. FEI SOS: 114th.
- TCU - 9-2 - DAMN YOU, PATTERSON. Kick the extra points! They'll host Baylor this week. Quality wins: None. FEI SOS: 38th.
- Ole Miss - 8-3 - Hammered LSU to send them to their third straight defeat. Ouch. Quality wins: Alabama. If they beat Mississippi State this week and Alabama loses to Auburn, the Rebs will take the SEC West. There's a rooting tip for you... Quality wins: Alabama. FEI SOS: 1st.
- Northwestern - 8-2 - Knocked off Wisconsin in what looked like it might've been a defensive slugfest, but I wouldn't know because I didn't watch and had no intention of watching. They'll play at Illinois this week. Quality wins: Stanford. FEI SOS: 52nd.
- Washington State - 8-3 - Blew out Colorado and will close out their Pac 12 schedule against Washington this week. Quality wins: Oregon. FEI SOS: 65th.
- Oregon - 8-3 - The Ducks logged a very impressive win against USC; they really look like they've turned it around since the early part of the season. Quality wins: Stanford. FEI SOS: 14th.
- UCLA - 8-3 - Handled Utah. They could clinch the Pac 12 South with a win over USC on Saturday. Quality wins: None. FEI SOS: 24th.
- Mississippi State - 8-3 - Snuck past Arkansas; I hope you played the over on that one. They've played three decent teams and lost to each of them, but somebody has to be down here. Quality wins: None. FEI SOS: 20th.
- Houston - 10-1 - Fell to Bob Diaco's surprising UConn squad. They could still win the AAC West this week with a win over Navy. Quality wins: None. FEI SOS: 103rd.
- Temple - 9-2 - Blew out Memphis to climb back into the rankings. They'll host UConn this week; they'll clinch the AAC East with a win or a South Florida loss at Central Florida. Quality wins: None. FEI SOS: 77th.
- Toledo - 9-1 - The Rockets clawed their way back in too, on the strength of an impressive road win against Bowling Green. They'll close out their regular season slate against Western Michigan this week. Quality wins: None. FEI SOS: 92nd.