DALLAS – It was another wild weekend in college football with so many highly-ranked teams facing stiff competition. Week 9 delivered one of the most anticipated matchups of the season and it did not disappoint, as the Ohio State Buckeyes won a thriller in Columbus to take the driver’s seat in the Big Ten and move up to the No. 1 spot in the Fan Plan Championship Index.
The Buckeyes now have a 79.09% chance to make it to the national championship game, according to the FPCI. Ohio State moved up from its No. 5 spot a week ago after its come-from-behind win over previously No. 2 Penn State. The Nittany Lions dropped to No. 7 in this week’s ratings with a 2.68% chance to make the championship game.
Georgia, despite its dominant win over rival Florida in Jacksonville, FL, moved down one spot to make room for the Buckeyes. The No. 2 Bulldogs sport a 42.22% chance to play in the national championship game, followed by fellow SEC member Alabama, which comes in at No. 3 with a 34.78% chance to play in the national championship game.
The remainder of this week’s FPCI Top 10 includes No. 4 Clemson (13.52), No. 5 Oklahoma (13.33%) No. 6 Wisconsin (10.94%). No. 7 Penn State (2.68%), No. 8 Notre Dame (0.97%), No. 9 Miami (0.88%), and No. 10 Virginia Tech (0.73%).
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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
ONE DOMINO FALLS: The first big domino in the chase for the playoffs fell last weekend when Ohio State took control of the Big Ten with a 39-35 win over Penn State. Despite Penn State’s No. 2 ranking entering the game, the FPCI proved correct as it predicted a close Ohio State win by the score of 31-26. Ohio State is now clearly in the driver’s seat in the conference, especially in the Big Ten’s East Division. The Buckeyes avoided a potentially-hairy night game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, as the schedule makers chose for a 3:30 pm kickoff instead of a primetime affair. Ohio State then closes out the regular season with home games against Michigan State, a loser to Northwester a week ago, and Illinois before the season finale at Michigan. According to the FPCI, the Buckeyes should breeze through those final four games, as their lowest projected win percentage is 85% against both Iowa and Michigan. The FPCI gives OSU a greater than 90% chance to win the other home games.
Should Ohio State run the table the rest of the way, there is no way Penn State can catch them. Ohio State’s lone loss came in a non-conference game against Oklahoma. Ohio State’s remaining schedule makes it difficult to see where the Buckeyes might slip up, so Penn State’s best chances to get into the playoffs likely come with a Wisconsin win over Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. That would force the committee to decide whether to take an undefeated Wisconsin squad that won the conference championship or a one-loss Penn State team that dominated the regular season save for the final two minutes in Columbus. Last year the committee opted not to take the winner of the championship game, which happened to be Penn State. Would they do the same this season under a similar scenario and take the Nittany Lions?
That’s a discussion for another day, because the odds-on favorite now to win the Big Ten is Ohio State. The FPCI projects a 32-19 win for the Buckeyes over Wisconsin in a potential match-up in the conference championship game, leaving a one-loss Ohio State team as a conference champion to add to the mix for the selection committee.
OTHER DOMINOS TO FALL THIS WEEKEND: When looking at the schedule, there are a number of enticing matchups that will have playoff implications, with two conferences in particular – the ACC and the Big 12 — that will begin to sort things out in ultimately determining who will make the case to represent those conferences in the playoff field.
In the ACC, two contenders will see their national championship dreams fade away as the top two teams in the Atlantic Division go against each other and the top two teams in the Coastal Division also face off. These games will essentially serve as divisional championship games, with the winners very likely battling in the ACC Championship Game in December.
The first matchup of the day occurs in Raleigh where the No. 4 Clemson Tigers travel to face the North Carolina State Wolfpack in a matchup for control of the Atlantic Division. The Wolfpack were a FPCI Top 10 team last week before falling at Notre Dame. However, they still have conference championship aspirations, but will have to take down the Tigers in order for those hopes to continue on. The FPCI gives the Tigers a 73% chance to win. Then later Saturday night the Coastal Division is up for grabs when No. 10 Virginia Tech heads to Coral Gables to face No. 9 Miami. Miami remains undefeated on the season, one of just five such teams, but Virginia Tech has been solid throughout, losing only to Clemson. The FPCI believes in the Hokies, despite being on the road, and gives them a 63% chance to win the game, with a projected final score of 25-19.
In the Big 12, the league’s attention turns to Stillwater as Oklahoma travels to Oklahoma State. The No. 5 Sooners got a huge boost with the Ohio State win over Penn State, moving up from No. 9 a week ago. Oklahoma currently has a 13.33% chance to make the national championship game according to the FPCI. If both Oklahoma and Ohio State can run the table and finish the season as one-loss conference champions, it will be difficult not to take the Sooners over the Buckeyes after Oklahoma’s dominant 31-16 win in Columbus earlier in the season. But don’t count the Cowboys out. Oklahoma’s defense has been porous at times, and even though the Cowboys have also had their offensive struggles at certain points in games this year, they just hung 50 at West Virginia. And don’t look now, but the FPCI is actually calling for the Oklahoma State win, giving the Cowboys a 56% chance to win the game and projecting a final score of 42-39. Following TCU’s loss last weekend to fall from the ranks of the undefeated, an Oklahoma loss this weekend would further water down the conference’s quest for a playoff birth.
UNBEATEN NO MORE: The pool of undefeated teams was nearly cut in half last weekend, severely damaging the playoff hopes of a couple of those now one-loss teams and officially eliminating another that never really stood a chance. Let’s get to that one first, as USF suffered a late loss against Houston. That officially put an end to their quest for an undefeated season and officially eliminated them as a playoff contender, though the Bulls were never really on the radar. There is now only one undefeated non-Power 5 team still standing, and that is UCF.
Aside from USF, the other losses, however, really hurt. Penn State was a lock for the playoffs if it could run the table, and for the first 58 minutes of its game at Ohio State, those playoff aspirations seemed to be right on track. But a failure to stop JT Barrett in the fourth quarter, and the Nittany Lions’ own inability to move the football late in the game, dashed any thoughts of an undefeated season. Now they will likely have to count on getting a bid without being a conference champion or even a divisional champion. The way this season is playing out, that is appearing less and less of an option.
And finally in Ames, Kenny Hill made some crucial turnovers and never could get the TCU offense going as the Horned Frogs became the final Big 12 team to lose a game this season. That’s huge, because it markedly lowers the Big 12’s chance of a playoff spot. Oklahoma now seems like the conference’s only chance, as it sports a huge win at Ohio State. Had TCU run the table and won the conference as an undefeated team, there’s no doubt it would have been in the playoffs. However, with so many one-loss teams across the country and the fact that the Big 12 is currently ranked No. 6 among conferences by the FPCI, it’s difficult to imagine a Big 12 team not named Oklahoma getting into the field this season, and the Sooners still have games against Oklahoma State and TCU, then a conference championship game that will likely be a rematch against one of those two foes or Iowa State. That’s a tough task for a conference that knows how it feels to be left out in December.
CAN THE UNBEATENS REMAIN THAT WAY?: This week we enter the schedule of games with five undefeated teams left. As we did above, we can get rid of one of them from the conversation, as the UCF Golden Knights, no matter what they do, will not have enough clout, or an impressive enough resume, to warrant playoff consideration with so many quality one-loss teams that should be in the mix. So that brings us to four teams – Georgia and Alabama from the SEC, Miami, and Wisconsin. Undoubtedly Wisconsin has the easiest trek through the regular season. The Badgers are significant favorites against all remaining regular season foes – Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota. Even if Wisconsin were to lose one of those games, the Badgers would still play in the Big Ten Championship Game. Their true test will come there, where a win to become an undefeated conference champion will certainly get them into the playoff field.
As previously stated, Miami is on alert for their first loss of the season this weekend. The FPCI has Virginia Tech traveling to south Florida and coming away with a win. If that happens, Miami can forget about any potential playoff chances. The Hurricanes also still have a regular-season game against Notre Dame, a game in which the FPCI also projects the Hurricanes to lose. And, if somehow they got past Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, the FPCI still projects the Hurricanes to lose potential ACC Championship Game matchups against either Clemson (by two touchdowns) or North Carolina State (by one point).
The other two undefeated teams reside in the SEC. Both Alabama and Georgia, ranked Nos. 2 and 3 respectively in this week’s FPCI rantings, appear to be on a collision course for the SEC Championship Game. The key is whether both will arrive in Atlanta undefeated. Alabama has a bit tougher road, starting with LSU at home this weekend, then followed by games at Mississippi State, vs Mercer, and at Auburn to end the regular season. The Crimson Tide is favored in every game, with the closest FPCI projection a 26-17 win over Auburn. Georgia also plays at Auburn, where the Bulldogs are projected to win 22-18 in a close contest. Their other remaining regular opponents are against South Carolina and Kentucky and at Georgia Tech to close the regular season, so if they can get past the border rival against Auburn, Georgia’s path to perfection seems pretty clear.
TWO FOR THE SHOW: Should both Alabama and Georgia both advance to the SEC Championship Game undefeated and each have a good showing there (i.e. neither gets blown out), it will be difficult to leave either out of the playoff field. If Alabama wins the SEC Championship Game, Georgia will have had a quality out-of-conference win on the road at Notre Dame, plus wins over Auburn, Mississippi State, and the rest of its SEC foes, and will likely be one of only three Power 5 teams to go undefeated in the regular season (assuming Miami loses along the way and Wisconsin wins out). This year, with the remaining field to choose from, that probably gets it done, unless the Selection Committee simply insists that all participants be conference champions no matter what.
Similar to Georgia, Alabama would likely be in the playoff field if it can run the table in the regular season. Barring a huge loss in the SEC Championship Game, many of the arguments for the Bulldogs can also be made for the Crimson Tide. Alabama beat Florida State when the Seminoles had all of their starters in place, and that game was never really in doubt even when Deondre Francois was healthy and running the FSU offense. The Crimson Tide will also have been at or near the top of every poll and power ranking formula there is throughout the entirety of the regular season.
Under this scenario, the undefeated SEC champion definitely gets in as the No. 1 overall seed. The question then becomes does the losing team that finished with an undefeated regular season record also get into the playoff field? If that loser is Alabama, it’s probably pretty automatic, given the Crimson Tide’s dominance throughout the season and its recent history. If it’s Georgia, you would have to put the Bulldogs in over an 11-1 Notre Dame team, given they gave Notre Dame that one loss. Georgia would go in ahead of the Pac-12 champion, which may well have two losses. Now you’re left with the Big Ten and Big 12 champs. We will assume Ohio State will be the Big Ten champion with just one loss. If the Big 12 champion is a one-loss Oklahoma team, the Bulldogs may well be left out, as arguments could be made that Oklahoma must go in ahead of Ohio State because of the head-to-head win and the overall power of the Big Ten deserves to get its conference champion into the playoff field. However, if the champion of the Big 12 is any team other than a one-loss Oklahoma squad, it will very likely happen that the SEC becomes the first conference to get two teams into the playoff field should both Alabama and Georgia win out and arrive at the SEC Championship Game undefeated.