College football seasons go by quickly. As we march into week 6, we are already getting a sense of both how the College Football Playoff situation is shaping up and what teams in the PAC look like they have a clear path into the post season.
I spent a little time with records and schedules this week in order project where various conference teams might end up.
The big “a-ha” in this is that the path for Washington into the CFP looks very muddy, even if UW is able to get through the entire conference schedule undefeated. ESPN’s playoff predictor has UW with a 14% chance of making the playoffs. These odds fall behind two SEC teams, two Big Ten teams, an ACC team, a Big 12 team, and an independent.
The good news is that the Huskies get a preview of the Rose Bowl experience in this weekend’s visit with UCLA. Maybe they’ll enjoy that SoCal sunshine and develop a hankering to return on New Year’s Day. Who knows?
Forecasting the College Football Playoff
Orange Bowl: (1) Alabama vs (4) Oklahoma
The consequence of Notre Dame defeating Stanford last weekend is that they may well have eliminated the PAC 12 from the College Football Playoff. Notre Dame is undefeated and has just one currently ranked team left on their schedule (this weekend at home versus Virginia Tech). That the schedule opens up so nicely for the Irish leads me to believe that they are the one team not named Alabama that has the best chance of doing what almost never gets done in CFB: running the table.
Even if UW were to run the table, I think that they they are third or fourth in line among likely one-loss teams (behind Oklahoma, Clemson, and possibly Georgia) in the Playoff pecking order. Oklahoma gets the nod here mostly because I can’t see the committee taking two SEC teams in a year that Notre Dame goes and because Clemson looks more likely than Oklahoma to have a “bad loss” somewhere along the way.
Cotton Bowl: (2) Notre Dame vs (3) Ohio State
Notre Dame’s prognosis is above.
Ohio State will certainly lose a game from here on out. But they are still in a great position to win their division and cruise to a Big Ten Championship thanks to their head-to-head win over Penn State. They are about as much of a lock as any team can be at this point.
Gekko’s PAC 12 Bowl Projections (as of 10/3/18)
Rose Bowl: Penn State vs Washington
Get ready for the rematch. The Rose Bowl gets to pick the “highest-ranking” non-Playoff B1G team to pair against the PAC 12 champion. That certainly seems like it will be James Franklin’s Penn State team. That said, I’m not as 100% sold on this as others. Penn State has a brutal schedule of vs Michigan State (this weekend), vs Iowa, at Michigan, and vs Wisconsin ahead of them. Lose one of those and the door opens for either Wisconsin or Michigan to pass them in the rankings.
I do think that UW has a better than average chance to run the PAC 12 table. Even if they don’t, the biggest risk on the schedule, statistically speaking, is at Oregon next week. Should UW lose that, they still (mostly) control their own destiny assuming the Ducks can’t run their own table. That’s a big advantage for the Huskies.
Alamo Bowl: Stanford vs Texas
Stanford will probably end up with the same conference record as Oregon, but get the nod for this slot based on the head-to-head win over Oregon and the appeal to the sponsors of having Bryce Love in their game.
Holiday Bowl: Oregon vs Wisconsin
I’m projecting Oregon at 6-3 to close the season with losses to UW and at Utah.
Foster Farms Bowl: Colorado vs Michigan State
At this point, I have Colorado winning the South, though I’m not totally convinced that USC won’t still get there. Right now, I have to give the edge to the Buffs in the head-to-head next week.
Sun Bowl: Washington State vs Boston College
The Cougs have a clear line of sight to a 5-4 conference finish with more than a decent chance at 6-3.
Las Vegas Bowl: USC vs Boise State
I think the Trojans are looking at a 5-4 finish in conference but with a loss to Notre Dame. That is worth a trip to Vegas.
Cheez-It (formerly Cactus) Bowl: Arizona State vs Oklahoma State
The Devils are have the meat of their schedule ahead starting with their road trip to Boulder this weekend. They do have UCLA and Arizona ahead. I have them winning those two plus their home game against Utah in a few weeks.
Other bowl-eligible teams: Cal
Cal and Utah are both in precarious positions. Cal has three more wins to go to get to bowl eligibility. They most likely have to get three wins in their next three games (@Arizona, UCLA, @OSU). I think they can.
Some of you may be wondering where the Utes are on my list. Utah has to get four more wins. I’m giving them locks @Arizona and @UCLA, which may be generous. Outside of that, they face a bunch of tossups at home including USC, Oregon and BYU. That’s a tough road; I only have them winning one of those (at home vs Oregon).
Who do you got? Leave your feedback and predictions in the comments thread.