The path to getting into the playoff with one loss

Submitted by turd ferguson on October 9th, 2016 at 5:41 PM

Ideally we'll win all of our games and this post will prove irrelevant. But it's worth a look at our probability and path to getting into the playoff with one loss.

I'm going to make an assumption that could prove wrong. Let's say that only two types of teams could get into the playoff ahead of a one-loss Michigan team*:

  • Undefeated or one-loss teams from power conferences
  • Undefeated teams from non-power conferences

I'll assume that everyone else is out. I don't think that's a guarantee, since a two-loss conference champion could sneak ahead of us if we lose to OSU and miss the BTCG. But in general that's probably pretty reasonable.

This leaves 21 teams as of today. Some of them (like WMU) wouldn't beat us out no matter what. Others are here because of soft schedules but should disappear soon, which is clear when you look at their remaining schedules (on the right). Games between the teams on this list appear in bold. Conference championship games exist but aren't represented.

*Worth noting that all losses aren't created equal. We'd be in much better shape with a loss and then a Big Ten title than a 40-point loss to OSU that ends our season.

6-0  Clemson ACC (Atlantic) NCST, @FSU, SYR, PITT, WAKE, SC
4-1  NC State ACC (Atlantic) @CLEM, @LOU, BC, FSU, @SYR, MIAMI, UNC
5-1  Wake Forest ACC (Atlantic) @FSU, ARMY, UVA, @LOU, CLEM, BC
4-1  Louisville ACC (Atlantic) DUKE, NCST, @UVA, @BC, WAKE, @HOU, UK
4-1  Virginia Tech ACC (Coastal) @SYR, MIAMI, @PITT, @DUKE, GT, @ND, UVA
4-1  Miami ACC (Coastal) UNC, @VT, @ND, PITT, @UVA, @NCST, DUKE
5-0  Baylor Big 12 KU, @TEX, TCU, @OKLA, KSU, TTU, @WVU
4-0  West Virginia Big 12 @TTU, TCU, @OKST, KU, @TEX, OKLA, @ISU, BAY
5-0  Ohio State Big Ten (East) @WIS, @PSU, NW, NEB, @MD, @MSU, MICH
4-1  Maryland Big Ten (East) MINN, MSU, @IND, @MICH, OSU, @NEB, RUTG
5-0  Nebraska Big Ten (West) @IND, PUR, @WIS, @OSU, MINN, MD, @IOWA
4-1  Wisconsin Big Ten (West) OSU, @IOWA, NEB, @NW, ILL, @PUR, MINN
6-0  Western Michigan MAC (West) @AKR, EMU, @BALL, @KENT, BUFF, TOL
5-0  Boise State Mountain West (West) CSU, BYU, @WYO, SJSU, @HAW, UNLV, @AFA
6-0  Washington Pac-12 (North) [bye] ORST, @UTAH, @CAL, USC, ASU, @WSU
5-1  Arizona State Pac-12 (South) @COLO, WSU, @ORE, UTAH, @WASH, @ARIZ
5-1  Utah Pac-12 (South) @ORST, @UCLA, WASH, @ASU, ORE, @COLO
5-1  Tennessee SEC (East) ALA, @SC, TNTC, UK, MIZ, @VAN
4-1  Florida SEC (East) MIZ, UGA, @ARK, SC, PRE, @FSU, LSU(?)
6-0  Texas A&M SEC (West) [bye] @ALA, NMSU, @MSST, MISS, UTSA, LSU
6-0  Alabama SEC (West) @TENN, TA&M, @LSU, MSST, CHAT, AUB

If you're looking for a list of teams to root against, this might be a good place to start. 

Comments

TrueBlue2003

October 9th, 2016 at 5:59 PM ^

conference championship or bust.  We are not getting in if we don't win the conference.  That's it.  Period.  We don't have a difficult enough schedule thanks to MSU and Iowa being bad. We can lose a game prior to OSU but have to win that and win the conf title. Nothing that anyone else does matters beyond that.

turd ferguson

October 9th, 2016 at 6:10 PM ^

That's not it.  Period.  You're oversimplifying things.  

In most seasons there are maybe 4-6 power conference teams that end up undefeated or with one loss.  In some seasons there are fewer than that.  With a four-team playoff, it's totally possible that there aren't many undefeated or one-loss teams to pick from.  Even if our schedule doesn't doesn't look so hot, a one-loss Michigan team easily could find itself in contention, especially since the loss probably would happen on the road against the #1 or #2 team.

If I had to guess, I'd probably guess that a loss knocks us out, and especially if it keeps us from the BTCG.  But it's not certain at all, and it's not as simple as just looking at our schedule and declaring it weak.

ShadowStorm33

October 9th, 2016 at 6:45 PM ^

It wouldn't be the loss, but rather the lack of the conference championship, that would keep us out; the unfortunate thing with how things are shaping up is that if we were to drop a game, it's far and away most likely to be against OSU, and if that were to happen, the chances of still getting into the conference championship game are minuscule (OSU would have to lose two other games).

The way I see it, the SEC is almost guaranteed a spot. It seems unlikely that Bama would lost more than one game, and given recent history and perception, I wouldn't be surprised to see the committee take a two-loss SEC champion for the fourth spot, especially if it came down to that or a one-loss team that didn't win its conference. The B1G also looks likely to have a spot, since the winner of The Game seems to have an inside track. That's half the playoff right there. It's hard to see the ACC missing out, as well. A one-loss Clemson (assuming they win the ACC) is in, and if they somehow drop two games, a one-loss Louisville takes their spot. I'm assuming the Big XII is out; I'm not sold on either Baylor or WVU, and I'd be shocked if they ended the season with fewer than two losses, especially with the meat of their schedules to come. That leaves the Pac-12. Washington is the only plausible team left, and with how they've been playing, it's tough to see them losing two games.

In order for a second B1G team to make it in, two conferences would have to be left out. The Big XII is probably out anyway, and the second would most likely have to be the Pac-12. Even in that scenario though (assuming Clemson takes the third spot), Louisville might have to drop another game, since I'm not sure they'd take a one-loss Michigan over a one-loss Louisville if neither won their respective conference.

Perhaps the more interesting question, which hasn't played out yet, is what would happen in the case of an undefeated team losing to a 2+ loss team in the conference championship game. That would create a really tough choice for the committee, and I'm not sure how they'd be inclined to fill the last spot.

NittanyFan

October 9th, 2016 at 7:14 PM ^

(1) Clemson wins the ACC at 13-0 or 12-1.  They're in.

(2) The OSU/U-M winner wins the B1G at 13-0 or 12-1.  They're in.

(3) The Alabama/Texas A&M winner wins the SEC at 13-0 or 12-1.  They're in.

(4) The Pac-12 and Big XII Champions have 2+ losses.

(5) Louisville, the OSU/U-M loser, and the Alabama/Texas A&M loser are all 11-1.  None played in a conference title game, all had their 1 loss to a playoff team.  If U-M and Texas A&M are the respective losers, all would have had their 1 loss on the road to a playoff team.

Differentiation amongst those 11-1 teams seems very very difficult in this scenario.

Obviously U-M fans have a "Plan A" of "beat OSU".  But in the case of "plan B", U-M fans should probably root for an A&M win over Alabama.  There would then be a differentiating factor between Alabama and U-M (road loss vs. a home loss).

TrueBlue2003

October 13th, 2016 at 3:07 PM ^

between a one-loss Michigan and one-loss Alabama would be SOS and Alabama's is going to be so far superior that there's no way we'd get in over them if both are one-loss non-champs.

It really does all go back to our weak SOS when assessing our chances of getting in as a non-champ.  Unless all other contenders lose 2-3+ games or Iowa AND Colorado AND MSU basically win out in their games not against us, our schedule is just not going to stack up.  Beat Ohio.

TrueBlue2003

October 13th, 2016 at 6:23 PM ^

sure if pandemonium occurs and all these things happen there is a chance:

1) the PAC12 champ has 2+ losses (probably would require the south champ wins the title game, certainly possible).

2) the Big 12 champ has 2+ loses if NOT OU and 3+ if OU (2-loss OU gets in over a one-loss non-champ Michigan if they run the table against the Big 12).

3) Louisville loses again (certainly possible)

4) Texas A&M loses to someone in addition to Alabama (or vice versa)

6) Florida loses again

5) We would have to lose a close-ish game to OSU

6) OSU has to win conf title

7) Houston probably also needs to lose again

Our weak schedule and what would likely amount to a win over only one top 25 team (Wisconsin) means that we wouldn't get in over a 2 loss Big 12 or Pac 12 Champ (but possible if it's Baylor or Washington who would have poor schedules but still have a conf championship) and we likely wouldn't get in over one-loss Louisville, A&M or Florida non-champs or a one-loss Houston AAC champ with wins over OU and Louisville.

There's a tiny chance all these things happen, so fine, you're telling me there's a chance.  But effectively, it's conference championship or bust.

NittanyFan

October 9th, 2016 at 6:51 PM ^

they WILL need help.  But it's certainly not impossible.

I think the key to a 1-loss non-champion B1G team getting in is to have the Pac-12 Champion have 2 or more losses.  

Right now, only 3 Pac-12 teams have 1 or less losses.  Those teams are Arizona State, Utah, and Washington.  ASU and Utah still play each other, and each have plenty of other loseable games beyond that on their slates (both, for instance, still play Washington).  

I think it's doubtful that the Pac-12 title game would feature 2 teams that each have 1 or less losses (the only way that is possible is as Washington vs. ASU/Utah).

So, this possibility is absolutely on the table --- and WILL be on the table all the way until the season's final week.

TrueBlue2003

October 13th, 2016 at 3:23 PM ^

yes, but it would still require the committee to take a one-loss non-champ over a two loss champ, which could only be possible if the one-loss team has such a strong SOS that the committee can say unequivocally they're a top 4 team.  That's possible for us if MSU and CU and Iowa get it together but it's a massive longshot.  Unless those teams essentially win out in games not against us, our SOS would put us behind a one loss Louisville and/or A&M or even Florida if any of those teams manage to win out.

Sure, it's not impossible, but highly, highly unlikely.

Blue Indy

October 11th, 2016 at 12:05 PM ^

While it may not be probable, it's possible that if we lose close in Columbus, and Wisconsin runs the table, beating Ohio St this weekend and again in the B1G championship, that we would be the 4th team selected. The Big 12 and Pac12 are beating each other up and may have a 2 loss champion, leaving the SEC, B1G, and ACC champs to be selected with Michigan, given that we would be 11-1 with a win over 12-1 B1G champ, Wisconsin.

TrueBlue2003

October 13th, 2016 at 1:40 PM ^

would 100% make the playoff over us if they win out and we lose in C-bus.  They'll have lost one game on the road by a touchdown to a good team and will have a better record, a conference title and TWO wins over OSU (plus a much more difficult schedule overall).  There is NO WAY we'd get in over them based solely on our head-to-head home win.

M-Dog

October 9th, 2016 at 8:00 PM ^

Here is who is a threat to a one-loss Michigan team for the 4th and final CFP spot:
 
If Michigan is a one-loss Big Ten Champion:
 
- Any undefeated P5 Conference champion.  We are not getting in over an undefeated P5 Conference champion.  Period.  Forget about it.  "Undefeated P5 Conference champion" still has a magic connotation, and the committee will not overlook it.
 
- A one-loss SEC champion.  Because SEC bias is still a real thing.
 
- A one-loss ACC champion.  The ACC is this year's darling conference.  The one-loss team would most likely be Clemson or Louisville.  Both of their QBs will be Heisman candidates and both teams will be hyped by the media because of it no matter what.  However, if it is a surprise team like NC State, Wake, VT, or even Miami, we're in over them.
 
- We are in over a one-loss Big 12 champion.
 
- We are (very likely) in over a one-loss Pac 12 champion.
 
- We are (likely) in over an undefeated Boise State.  Any one-loss G5 team is a non-starter. 
 
If Michigan is a one-loss non-Big Ten Champion:
 
We need a lot of help here, but it is not impossible.  It will depend on who it is.  Everybody gives lip-service to the party line that the 4 best teams will be chosen.  But that theory will go out the window in reality.  A one-loss P5 Conference champion that gets left out for a one-loss non-conference champion Michigan will cause much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  It can only happen in very specific circumstances:
 
- Our loss needs to be to Big Ten champion Ohio State and nobody else.  It has to be a 2006 or 2013 type of loss . . . very close that could have easily gone the other way.  OT would definitely help.
 
- We will not get in over a one-loss SEC champion, no matter who it is.
 
- We will not get in over a one-loss ACC champion if it is Clemson, Louisville, or Miami.  We could get in over a (big) surprise NC State, Wake, and perhaps VT.
 
- We will not get in over a one-loss "brand name" Pac 12 champion.  We could get in over a surprise Utah or Arizona State.
 
- Our best shot is a one-loss Big 12 champion, since that team will be a surprise like Baylor or WVU and will have a poor strength of schedule.
 
- We are in over any one-loss G5 team.  G5 teams need to be undefeated to be considered at all.  That's the way it is.
 

mbrummer

October 9th, 2016 at 7:24 PM ^

Barring crazy scenarios,  the CFPC  will have a relatively easy choice.

ACC-  Clemson-  Clemson would have to lose twice* before their title game.  At Florida State is only real chance

SEC-  Alabama, Texas A&M -- Play each  other, cmon it's Alabama.  Alabama would have to lose twice*.

Big Ten  - OSU by your assumption

Pac 12-  Washington-- Again would have to lose twice*

Big 12-  Baylor-- They are going to lose and be out.  Are they even eligible?

I think if Alabama, Clemson or Washington lose a game and still win their conference title game,  they get in over us.

With the exception of Alabama, any of these teams  have two losses and still win a  title we get in.  One of those losses would be a bad loss to a unranked or almost unranked team.

Now the interesting case, is if Alabama, Clemson or Washington run the regular season and lose their title game.  Alabama it would be Florida or Tennessee.  Volunteer team would have a loss to Alabama already.

Clemson would be a Virginia Tech, Miami, North Carolina loss.

Washington would be to USC, Colorado, or Utah.  They would have wins over 2 of them all would have 2 plus losses.

The committee would have to choose between a 1 loss Michigan team who lost their last game and a 1 loss conference runner up who also lost their last game but played an extra game.

Good luck parsing schedules.  My opinion: 1 loss Bama and Clemson gets in over us.  We get in over Washington.

Of course depending on our showing at Ohio State, and Wisconsin losing only to OSU the rest of the season.

Rooting interests:  Go Colorado, Wisconsin, Penn State

Anyone playing Clemson, Washington or Baylor.

loosekanen

October 10th, 2016 at 5:10 AM ^

A&M is a good barometer for us as well. Other than Bama their remaining schedule looks fairly easy. 1-loss (no conference champ) A&M against 1-loss (no conference champ) Michigan is where this problem seemingly starts.

reddogrjw

October 10th, 2016 at 9:00 AM ^

a 3-loss conference champ

tbh, I don't see Washington, Clemson or Alabama losing 3 times

 

11-2 Washington gets in over 11-1 Michigan if Wash wins the Pac-12 (as an example)

win the conference is the only way we are getting into the playoff

Lan Jiao

October 10th, 2016 at 11:25 PM ^

...none of us are privvy to exactly what is said and considered by the CFPC. I think the scenario you brought up with Washington and Clemson are interesting and I tend to disagree based on who those teams' losses would come against. Here's a best case scenario for each of those two teams to have 2 losses...

 

Michigan (11-1): Loss @ #2 Ohio State.

 

Washington (11-2): Losses @ #21 Utah and unranked team (@WSU? Home vs. USC or UCLA?).

 

Clemson (11-2): Losses @ #14 FSU and home loss to unranked team.

 

Granted, those two teams would have better wins than Michigan, but I think the clout and reputation of the B1G helps M if they only lose a close one in the Horseshoe. Again, I don't know that any of us know how that would play out within the CFPC.

 

But, in the name of Harbaugh, let's just book our CFP ticket on Thanksgiving weekend (oops, B1G Champ game, too).

Lan Jiao

October 10th, 2016 at 11:25 PM ^

...none of us are privvy to exactly what is said and considered by the CFPC. I think the scenario you brought up with Washington and Clemson are interesting and I tend to disagree based on who those teams' losses would come against. Here's a best case scenario for each of those two teams to have 2 losses...

 

Michigan (11-1): Loss @ #2 Ohio State.

 

Washington (11-2): Losses @ #21 Utah and unranked team (@WSU? Home vs. USC or UCLA?).

 

Clemson (11-2): Losses @ #14 FSU and home loss to unranked team.

 

Granted, those two teams would have better wins than Michigan, but I think the clout and reputation of the B1G helps M if they only lose a close one in the Horseshoe. Again, I don't know that any of us know how that would play out within the CFPC.

 

But, in the name of Harbaugh, let's just book our CFP ticket on Thanksgiving weekend (oops, B1G Champ game, too).