Comparing resumes and statistics for remaining playoff contenders

There are five conference championship games this week and four of them have teams in the top four playing in them. The Pac-12 will have USC and Stanford playing in it, but there is almost no way that either team wins and makes their way into the playoff.

The SEC, ACC, Big 12 and Big Ten all have teams within the top 4 taking on another team within the top 10. If chalk holds, the four playoff representatives are almost certainly guaranteed to be: Clemson, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Auburn.

But what if it does come down to an argument about a potential fourth team due to an upset along the way?

The All-American is a great website that I highly recommend you subscribe to. It’s got some of the top college football writers putting together some great content. These numbers came from that site. Click here to view the original story with all of the teams in it.

I’m going to only break down a few teams, mostly for the sake of Alabama, who is the lone team sitting at home this weekend with a chance to still potentially make the playoffs.

First, let’s look at the three SEC teams fighting for a potential spot. These records are all as of right now and not after any potential wins of losses this weekend. These are stats that the playoff committee has shown that they care about in the past. I have made bold the teams with the better stats for each category.

Stat Alabama Auburn Georgia
Record 11-1 10-2 11-1
Record vs .500 or better 5-1 6-2 7-1
Record vs CFP Top 25 2-1 3-2 3-1
All Opponents Record 74-63 80-47 74-59
Points per possession differential 2.52 1.98 2.05
Plays per point (Offense) 1.72 1.99 1.81
Plays per point (Defense) 5.55 4.18 4.41
Strength of Schedule 35 13 28

A couple of those may be weird stats to include. The “Points per possession differntial” is the result of a team’s points scored per drive on offense minus a team’s points allowed per drive on defense. The committee evaluates it separately on each side of the ball, but this is combined.

So in these categories, Alabama wins the statistical categories, Georgia wins the record category, even though part of that is against Auburn who won head-to-head, and Auburn has the hardest strength of schedule, mostly because of playing Alabama, Georgia and Clemson this year (of which they went 2-1).

We know that the winner of the SEC championship is almost assuredly in. So now let’s look at these numbers, but compare them with different teams:

Stat Alabama Ohio State Wisconsin
Record 11-1 10-2 12-0
Record vs .500 or better 5-1 4-2 6-0
Record vs CFP Top 25 2-1 2-1 1-0
All Opponents Record 74-63 77-66 69-76
Points per possession differential 2.52 2.37 1.65
Plays per point (Offense) 1.72 1.73 1.92
Plays per point (Defense) 5.55 3.34 4.58
Strength of Schedule 35 21 53

Looking at these numbers, Alabama should easily be the next team in. However, there is one difference – Alabama won’t have a conference title and one of these two will. Assuming Ohio State wins, they jump ahead in: Record vs. CFP Top 25 (with a win over a top 4 team), All Opponents Record (because of beating a team that will be 12-1), and their strength of schedule will still be ahead of Alabama’s.

Still, the losses matter for Ohio State and one of them was a bad loss (losing to Iowa by 31 points). To compare the good losses for Alabama and Ohio State: Alabama lost on the road by 12 to a top 4 team, Ohio State lost at home by 15 to a top 4 team.

So what does all of this mean? Who knows. They are just numbers to look at for right now. The answer for both Alabama and Ohio State is for TCU to beat Oklahoma, which would then make Ohio State’s loss look slightly worse and almost guarantee Alabama in.

One point that many people like to make is that Ohio State made it in last year with only one loss over the 2-loss champion of their conference, who they lost to head-to-head, in Penn State. The difference is this:

Stat 2016 Ohio State 2017 Alabama
Strength of Record 2 6
Strength of Schedule 29 35
Record vs. Top 10 3-1 0-1

Plus, Ohio State’s loss to Penn State was in the middle of the season, not in the very last game.

We’ll see what happens on Saturday…