DALLAS, TX — Another week, another No. 1 team sits atop the Fan Plan Championship Index. This week it’s the Georgia Bulldogs that have become the favorites to play in the national championship game in Atlanta. Georgia, ranked No. 15 a week ago with just a 2.00% chance to play in the championship game, saw its chance improve dramatically with its dominating win over the previously No. 5 Mississippi State Bulldogs. Georgia now sits with a 31.31% chance to play in the national championship game.
The Bulldogs move to the top came at the expense of Oklahoma, who held the No.1 spot for just a week. The Sooners (26.22%) fell to No. 4 this week after struggling mightily on the road at lowly Baylor. Clemson and Michigan held strong at Nos. 2 and 3, with the Tigers upping their championship game percentage to 30.04%, while the Wolverines improved their chances to 26.27%.
Mississippi State plummeted to No. 20 with its loss, while Oklahoma State, the only other Top 10 team to lose last week, dropped to No. 17. The Cowboys suffered a home loss to TCU. The Horned Frogs entered the Top 10 this week for the first time, coming in at No. 9 overall with a 7.78% chance to make the championship game.
Following the Sooners at No. 4 this week and on the outside of the playoffs is No. 5 Alabama (13.36%). Nos. 6-10 include USC (13.16%), Penn State (9.64%), Ohio State (8.07%), TCU, and Wisconsin (7.73%).
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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
A NEW SET OF BULLDOGS: Last week it was the Mississippi State Bulldogs that crashed the FPCI Top 5 after a huge win over the LSU Tigers, seemingly announcing MSU’s arrival as the top challenger to Alabama within the SEC. But the tables were quickly turned this week, vaulting another set of SEC Bulldogs to the forefront. Georgia’s decisive 31-3 win over Mississippi State sent UGA all the way to No. 1 in the FPCI ratings with a 31.31% chance to make the national championship game.
Does the FPCI think the Bulldogs are the best team in the country right now? Not necessarily, as Georgia only comes in at No. 11 in the FPCI power rankings. But what makes the FPCI “next-level” analytics is its ability to look past the current moment and project how a team will finish the season. In this case, it sees a weak SEC East, giving the Bulldogs a great chance to end up in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, likely against Alabama. Then the Bulldogs would just have to win that game in order to advance to the playoffs.
The FPCI actually gives Alabama a slightly better chance to win the SEC – Alabama has a 23.25% chance to win the league as compared to Georgia’s 21.28% chance. However, because there are three SEC West foes (Auburn, Mississippi State, LSU) more highly rated in the FPCI than the next-best SEC East team (South Carolina), the FPCI is giving the Crimson Tide a higher chance of slipping up in the regular season and potentially missing out on the SEC Championship Game. If it were to come down to it, the FPCI currently projects a 27-15 Alabama win should the teams were to meet in the SEC Championship Game. However, of the thousands of simulations run this week as part of the FPCI ratings process, there were more situations where Georgia finished as the SEC championship game winner than did Alabama, thus placing the Bulldogs into the College Football Playoff.
SIGH OF RELIEF OR SEPERATION?: Ready to rush the field, the Iowa faithful Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium knew all-too-well what was about to happen. Iowa had won its last three meetings against Top 5 teams at home and was undefeated in the four games it hosted at night over the past two seasons. But on this night, unlike on previous occasions, Penn State had the final answer.
The fourth-down touchdown pass with no time left on the clock allowed the Nittany Lions to exhale a huge sigh of relief, knowing they just cleared one of the biggest hurdles along the way to the conference championship. But in addition to that, Penn State also notched the biggest win of the season thus far among the Big 3 from the Big Ten East. Whether that counts as separation or not, it should give the Nittany Lions a boost of confidence as the season progresses, especially as they try to repeat as Big Ten champions and do so in convincing enough fashion so that they are not again left out of the playoffs.
This week the Nittany Lions rank No. 7 overall in the FPCI with a 9.64% chance to play in the national championship game. That’s the second-highest percentage for a Big Ten team, behind only the Michigan Wolverines at No. 3 and a 26.27% chance and ahead of No. 8 Ohio state at 8.07%. But the argument can be made that Penn State has been the most impressive Big Ten team on the field this season. Penn State’s defining games against Michigan and Ohio State will come in back-to-back weeks at the end of October. Prior to that are winnable games against Indiana and Northwestern and then a bye week, but if the way they responded at the end of the Iowa game is any indication, Penn State is on a mission that could well end up in Atlanta in January.
WHAT TO MAKE OF WASHINGTON?: The Pac-12 is on the outside looking in this week in the FPCI rankings, as USC, the highest-rated team in the league, comes in at No. 6 with a 13.16% chance of making the national championship game. Washington follows at No. 11 overall with a 7.34% chance to make the championship game, but one stat that makes the Huskies an interesting team to keep an eye on is the Huskies’ No. 3 overall power ranking, meaning that as of this week the FPCI sees Washington as the third-best team in the land. So why the discrepancy in the Huskies’ overall FPCI rank? One reason is likely Washington’s early-season schedule and the fact that we haven’t yet seen Washington battle what the FPCI sees as a formidable opponent. Of the top 10 teams in this week’s FPCI, all but Ohio State and Wisconsin have beaten better opponents than Washington’s slate of Rutgers, Montana, Fresno State, and Colorado. If strength of schedule is what’s holding back Washington in the FPCI, it will likely continue to be an issue throughout the remainder of the season. The Huskies’ current FPCI strength of schedule is 101 of 130 teams. The FPCI projects Washington’s final SOS to be only 51, which is much lower than typical national championship contenders. However, while the Huskies do not play USC in the regular season, should both teams advance to the Pac-12 Championship Game, strength of schedule will go out the window and head-to-head outcome will go a long way in determining which, if any, of the Pac-12 powers will be playoff bound.
SPEAKING OF POWER RANKINGS: Comparing the FPCI’s power rankings with the overall rankings again tells the story of how different the FPCI is than the human polls or any other computer-based ratings that currently exist. The FPCI power rankings, which rate each team’s overall strength and performance from top to bottom through this point in the season and can be compared to the human polls, still has the Alabama Crimson Tide as the No. 1 overall team. The list below shows the top ten teams in the FPCI power rankings, along with those teams’ overall FPCI rating in parenthesis:
- Alabama (5)
- Clemson (2)
- Washington (11)
- Ohio State (8)
- Oklahoma (4)
- USC (6)
- Wisconsin (10)
- Oklahoma State (17)
- Michigan (3)
- Penn State (7)
A NEW BIG 12 CONTENDER MAKES ITS PRESENCE KNOWN: As one of the few Big 12 schools who still wants to rely on its defense to slow down opponents, the TCU Horned Frogs may have dropped from our collective thoughts during the first month of the season, but Saturday’s huge win at Oklahoma State announced to the college football world that TCU will be a force to be reckoned with in the Big 12. In combining a secondary that can actually cover opposing receivers and an offense that can maintain the ball long enough to keep opposing offenses off of the field, TCU may have found the perfect formula to defeat pass-happy Big 12 offenses. If that’s the case, that will bode well for the Horned Frogs going forward, starting with this weekend’s match-up against West Virginia. TCU rose to No. 9 in the FPCI this week with a 7.78% chance to play for the national championship. They also increased their percentage to win the Big 12 to 23.82%, the second-highest percentage of any Big 12 team (Oklahoma has a 27.78% chance to win the Big 12). TCU still has to play at Oklahoma later this season, but the Horned Frogs may not see that as the hurdle that most will – of the four teams ranked in the top six that the Horned Frogs have faced on the road since 2010, TCU is 3-1, with its only loss coming by three points against Baylor in 2014.
NEXT: That’s the mantra that FPCI No. 2 Clemson (30.04% chance to play in the national championship game) will take into its contest against Virginia Tech this week. The Tigers have faced one of the toughest schedules through the first quarter of the season and have impressive wins over Auburn and Louisville already under their belts. The Tigers have faced all challengers and dismissed every one of them in defending their national championship, and this week represents another challenge to the throne. Clemson heads to Blacksburg for a Saturday night showdown with the FPCI No. 15 Virginia Tech Hokies (1.9% chance to make the championship game). The game against the Hokies represents the second time this season that Clemson will take on the perceived second-best team in the ACC on the road. Two weeks ago, Clemson went into Louisville and summarily dismissed the Cardinals, 47-21. If they can accomplish the same feat in Blacksburg, it will make it extremely challenging to figure out how Clemson will be kept out of the ACC Championship Game.
POSITIONING THEMSELVES TO PLAY THE SPOILER: From 4-8 to College Football Playoff contender? That’s the jump the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are attempting to make, and on the surface, it appears that the Irish should be in the conversation at this point in the season. Notre Dame, ranked No. 12 in this week’s FPCI with a 4.11% chance to make the national championship game, is 3-1 through the first quarter of the schedule, with that one loss coming by one point to the current FPCI No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs. The defense has certainly improved from that of a year ago and Brian Kelly may have found the right guy to run his offense in QB Brandon Wimbush. After rushing for 207 yards and four touchdowns against Boston College a week ago, Wimbush showed his passing skills in a 14-for-20, 173 yard effort en route to a 38-18 win on the road at Michigan State. The Irish will have to be special the rest of the way in order to move ahead of a conference champion when the playoff ballots are presented, but there are enough quality opponents left on the schedule for Notre Dame to make a strong impression. The Fighting Irish should move to 5-1 with wins against Miami (OH) and North Carolina before a home showdown against rival USC. Should Notre Dame come out on the right side of that matchup, there are difficult but winnable games remaining on the slate, including NC State, Miami (FL), Navy, and Stanford. With an 11-1 record against that slate of opponents, Irish eyes could be smiling once again.
CRASHING THE PARTY, AND ONE THAT COULD HAVE BEEN: It would be one thing for Notre Dame to force its way into the CFP, but a non-Power Five team? It’s highly unlikely, but Week 5 brings the first FPCI Top 25 ranking of one of those non-Power Five teams. The USF Bulls, under the direction of first-year head coach Charlie Strong, comes in at No. 25 overall this week. Though they still have just a 0.20% chance to play in the national championship game, the Bulls have positioned themselves as the best of the rest so far this season. It’s unprecedented for a non-Power Five team to even be in the conversation for the playoffs and much will depend on how strong the eventual conference champions are (i.e. are there any 2-loss or even 3-loss conference champions), but all USF can do for its part is keep winning games, which it has been able to do this far this season. USF’s toughest remaining opponent could be UCF in the last regular season game for both teams, a UCF team that by the end of the year may also be in a similar position as USF currently finds itself.
The Golden Knights are 2-0 thus far with two games cancelled and one rescheduled due to hurricanes. Those two cancelled games were against Georgia Tech and Maine, and a win over Georgia Tech would have been huge for UCF’s resume if the Golden Knights could have found a way to beat the Yellow Jackets. UCF will be able to make up its postponed game against Memphis this weekend, keeping a quality opponent with a win over a Pac-12 school on its schedule. On Saturday, the Golden Knights defeated Maryland 38-10, the same Maryland that picked up a surprise victory over Texas to open the season. Despite not getting to play Georgia Tech, an 11-0 UCF would likely make a better case than a 12-0 USF would be able to make, based on its schedule, but would just 11 wins by a non-Power Five team be enough to displace a conference champion? It sure would be entertaining if we get to see that argument play out.