DALLAS — For the second week in a row turmoil atop college football has sent playoff contenders reeling. As a result, the Fan Plan Championship Index was once again reshuffled, leaving a familiar team back at the top of the standings in the race to determine which teams will be playing for the national championship this season.
A week after two of the FPCI’s Top 5 teams were beaten, this past weekend saw four of the Top 10 FPCI teams go down, including the top two teams on a wild Friday night of action. Thanks to Clemson’s loss at Syracuse and Washington State’s loss at Cal, the Alabama Crimson Tide have vaulted all the way back to the No. 1 overall spot from last week’s No. 8 position. The Crimson Tide now have a 46.08% chance to make the national championship game, a jump of more than 38 percentage points and the largest jump of any team. Alabama is followed by SEC rival Georgia, which moved up from No. 4 to No. 2. Georgia’s 44.15% chance to make the national championship game is up more than 23 percentage points from a week ago.
No. 3 Penn State (33.00%) and No. 4 Miami (24.22%) round out the Top 4 in the projected playoff field. Ohio State (19.59%), which is chasing Penn State for Big Ten supremacy, comes in just outside of the Top 4 at No. 5 overall.
This week’s Top 10 is rounded out by No. 6 Notre Dame (19.14%). No. 7 North Carolina State (4.64%), No. 8 Michigan State (3.80%), No. 9 Clemson (1.73%), and No. 10 USC (1.13%).
|WK 8 RANK||TEAM||OVERALL RECORD||% TO MAKE CHAMPIONSHIP||% TO WIN CONFERENCE||FAN PLAN PRICE|
|7||North Carolina State||6-1||4.64%||19.03%||$58.00|
Compiled weekly during the season, the FPCI is a proprietary analytical look at the current state of the chase for college football’s national championship. As opposed to traditional polls and rankings which purport to rank the best teams at a particular point in the season, the FPCI aims to rate college football teams by their real-time percent chance to make the national championship game — a dynamic metric that no other poll or ranking system measures.
The FPCI also includes the cost of a Fan Plan for each team. A Fan Plan is a one-of-a-kind indemnity product fans can purchase for their favorite team. If that team goes to the national championship game, Fan Plan pays for the fan’s game tickets and travel costs, up to the total coverage value of the Fan Plan. Each Fan Plan has a $1,000 coverage value and fans can buy additional coverage in $1,000 increments, up to $10,000 in total coverage. Fan Plan costs are dynamic and change based on each team’s real-time odds of making the championship game. The FPCI and Fan Plan pricing are based on season simulations that take into account a team’s wins and losses, opponents results, suspensions, weather, SOS, and other data points and projections.
FAN PLAN CHAMPIONSHIP INDEX NEWS & NOTES
WELCOME BACK TO THE TOP, BUT WHEN WILL THE TIDE BE TESTED?: After sitting atop the Fan Plan Championship Index for three weeks and then giving way to other contenders for a month, the Alabama Crimson Tide have returned to the No. 1 spot atop the FPCI ratings. This week’s FPCI has Alabama with a 46.08% chance to play in the national championship game, a huge jump of more than 38 percentage points from a week ago when the Tide were at No. 8 in the FPCI rankings.
There’s no doubt that Alabama has been the most steady of the dominant teams in the country this season. The average score of an Alabama game this season has been 43-10. Alabama’s closest game was a 27-19 contest against Texas A&M a couple weeks ago, but the Tide were up 24-3 early in the third quarter in College Station. Was that final result more a matter of Alabama losing focus, or was it a chink in the armor? That’s still to be determined, but last weekend the Crimson Tide shut down any thoughts of an upset when Damian Williams took the first play of the game for a 75-yard touchdown en route to a 41-9 win over Arkansas.
According to the FPCI, Alabama is heavily favored to win its remaining regular season games, most of which the Tide have a greater than 90% chance to win. The lowest remaining percentage is at Auburn in the regular season finale, but even then Alabama currently has an 81% chance to win that game. If the season unfolds the way it’s currently going, this could be a historically easy path to the SEC championship, a conference that has prided itself with having huge slates of top teams through the recent decades. Currently Alabama has only played one game against an FPCI-ranked team at the time of the game – that was Week 1 against then- No. 4 Florida State. Alabama’s FPCI average opponent rank is 67.3 and Alabama’s opponents’ combined record is 24-20. Looking forward it doesn’t get much better, as the only remaining team on the Tide’s schedule ranked in the FPCI is Auburn at No. 16. Alabama, which is ranked No. 2 in this week’s FPCI power rankings, would also be favored in a potential SEC Championship Game match-up against No. 2 Georgia, with the FPCI simulations projecting a 25-14 Alabama win in that matchup. But all of that is on paper, and as the past two weekends in college football have proven, you really don’t know what to expect until a team finds itself in the fire. But for Alabama, it seems like that may not come before December, at the earliest.
CHAOS ABOUNDS, PART 2: Two weekends ago it was two FPCI Top 5 teams that went down and caused a huge shake-up in the FPCI ratings. But that was nothing compared to this past weekend when four FPCI Top 10 teams lost, including the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the land. When all of the dust cleared during what was supposed to be a ho-hum weekend on the schedule, the ruins that were left made it clear that we’re no closer to defining the playoff field than we were when we started the season.
WHAT WE THINK THE WEEKEND TAUGHT US:
Clemson Tigers: Friday night’s falterings by No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Washington State sent shockwaves through college football. Clemson had finally made its way to the No. 1 overall spot in the FPCI with a projected 50.24% chance to make the national championship game. It also had the best resume of any of the contenders with wins over three teams that were highly ranked when they faced the Tigers in Auburn, Louisville, and Virginia Tech, all three of which the Tigers summarily dismissed. But Friday night Clemson fell to a gutsy, if only average, Syracuse team and in the process lost its quarterback to a concussion. That marked the second consecutive questionable final score, as the week before some concern centered around the Clemson offense in a pedestrian 28-14 win over Wake Forest. This isn’t the same Clemson team as last season and the Tigers’ ability to lose focus – both by the players and the play callers (see Dabo Swinney’s refusal to just pound the ball down Syracuse’s throat) – is a little concerning. However, Clemson still appears to be the class of the conference and it might take more than one loss to keep them away from the playoff field.
Washington State: Yes, the Mike Leach offense is fun to watch when it’s clicking on all cylinders. And yes, it appears Washington State has a defense that’s better than anything Pullman has seen in the Mike Leach era. But yes, it’s still the same Mike Leach system that’s too prone to lay too many eggs at crucial times to trust that the Cougars are ready to run the table and claim the Pac-12 title with just one loss. The FPCI has Washington State at No. 11 overall with a 0.89% chance to play in the national championship game, and that’s probably much more realistic than last week’s No. 2 overall ranking following its huge victory over USC. The FPCI is projecting two more losses this regular season, one against Stanford and one at Washington. It’s also possible that the wheels could come off entirely, as Washington State only has a 54% chance to beat Arizona in Tucson and a 55% chance to win at Utah, both of which could be considered tossups at the moment.
Washington: What an implosion in the Pacific Northwest this weekend. Following Washington State’s Friday night loss, the Washington Huskies had its chance to take control of the Pac-12 North. But as bad as Washington State looked on Friday, Washington wasn’t any better on Saturday in its 13-7 loss at Arizona State. Washington, last season’s playoff representative from the Pac-12, is still winless in Tempe since 2001. Arizona State previously allowed 30 or more points in 11 straight games and Washington entered the game averaging 43 points per game, but failed to find the endzone until the fourth quarter, going nearly 50 minutes without scoring. It still may be Washington or bust as far as the Pac-12’s playoff chances go, especially if USC falls to Notre Dame this week. The FPCI, which has Washington at No. 18 this week and a 0.05% chance to play in the national championship game, has Washington favored to win all of its remaining regular season games, which includes a road trip to Stanford. In that game the Huskies have a 55% chance to win with a projected score of 25-23. That would likely lead to a Pac-12 Championship Game rematch against USC, which the FPCI currently has as a 26-19 Washington win.
Auburn: The fourth FPCI Top 10 team to fall was Auburn, which was stunned by LSU after going on top 20-0 and seemingly headed to another route of an SEC West foe. In its three previous games, Auburn had beaten Missouri 51-14, Mississippi State 49-10, and Ole Miss 44-23, so the 20-0 start appeared to be just more of the same. But the home-standing Tigers turned the defensive tables on Auburn, which finished with just 65 total yards in the second half. They may have also provided the blueprint for stopping Gus Malzahn’s offense, a feat only Clemson had been able to approach this season. With both Georgia and Alabama left on the schedule, along with a tricky game at Texas A&M, this playoff dark horse a week ago now can seemingly only be a spoiler. But don’t be surprised if Auburn does take down one of the two SEC giants. The Alabama game is in Auburn this season, just a few years removed from the Kick Six in Jordan-Hare. This season of chaos is going a little too smoothly atop the SEC – so smooth that it now appears the SEC could get two teams into the playoffs if the right dominos fall –which is why an Auburn upset of Georgia or Alabama seems like a heck of a pick as the regular season winds to a close.
BEST CHANCE FOR A TWO-LOSS TEAM: While it’s still a longshot that a two-loss team will advance into a four-team playoff field, the odds of that happening continue to get shorter the more the top teams continue to lose. So does a two-loss team really have a shot at making the playoffs? Possibly, and if so, Stanford seems like the odds on favor. First and foremost, the Cardinal would have to win the Pac-12 Conference. As much of a stretch as it seems when discussing a two-loss team in the playoffs, it’s pretty much a lock that any two-loss team would have to be a conference champion to even be considered, and at this time Stanford seems like the two-loss team that’s in the best position to accomplish that feat.
The Cardinal began the 2017 campaign on a sour note. After beating Rice in the season opener, Stanford fell to USC 42-24 and to San Diego State 20-17 before righting the ship. One early-season loss can be overcome, especially when it’s to a team the caliber of USC. But that slip-up against the Aztecs was a dagger for a Stanford team that knows a lot about early season losses. In 2015, Stanford lost out of the gates to Northwestern, only to reel off eight straight wins to climb up to No. 7 in the rankings. But a 38-36 home loss to Oregon ended any hopes of the Cardinal advancing to the playoffs. Instead, Stanford trounced No. 5 Iowa in the Rose Bowl, 45-16. Stanford also dropped two early-season games in 2012 against Washington and Notre Dame before rallying to finish in the Top 10. In both seasons early season setbacks seemed too much to overcome, despite those Stanford teams finishing the year as good as anyone in the country.
That could happen again this year as the Cardinal are now surging after the two early-season losses. Stanford is 5-2 and winners of four in a row. The FPCI gives Stanford a 0.64% chance to make the playoff field. Stanford’s schedule down the stretch is tough, including games against No. 11 Washington State, No. 18 Washington, and No. 6 Notre Dame. The FPCI projects Stanford to still lose two of its remaining games, but by a combined three points. Essentially the game against Washington and the game against Notre Dame, both home games, are both toss-ups. If Stanford can traverse that regular season slate successfully and then win the Pac-12 Championship Game, it would mean 10 straight wins for the Cardinal to close out the season and a conference championship. With the Pac-12 currently listed as the second strongest conference in America, it’s conceivable to believe that a 10-2 Stanford team that has won 10 straight games could get in ahead of an 11-1 team from the Big 12, especially if that team is TCU and it were to go into the Big 12 Championship Game undefeated but lose to a 2-loss or 3-loss team.
WHAT ABOUT THE AMERICAN ATHLETIC?: Not only do all of the losses by supposed playoff contenders make for exciting weekends of action, but they also help keep alive the hopes of the undefeated non-Power 5 teams still lurking. Specifically, for UCF and USF of the American Athletic Conference, with every loss by a Power 5 heavyweight comes a bigger smile and more hope.
But the FPCI doesn’t exactly see it that way. The UCF Golden Knights and USF Bulls are both ranked No. 21 in the most recent Fan Plan Championship Index and both teams even have a small shot at making the playoff field, according to the FPCI. UCF enters Week 8 with a 25.67% chance to win the conference and a 3.95% chance to make the playoff field. USF has a 21.62% chance to make win the conference and a 0.44% chance to make the playoff field. But when it comes to the national championship game, that’s when both teams fall out of the race. In the thousands of simulations run by the FPCI to determine the Week 8 ratings and projections, neither UCF or USF won any of the semifinal games when they were actually projected to reach the playoff field, giving both a 0% chance to make the national championship game in Atlanta.