Accompanying the release of the Spring football version of Preseason FPI, ESPN released projections for every game in the upcoming season. Which teams have the best chance to reach the College Football Playoff?
Oklahoma has the best chance to win its conference among Power 5 teams, with a 77 percent chance to earn the Big 12 title. The Big 12 championship game returns this season, featuring the top two teams in the conference since there are no divisions. There’s a 92 percent chance the Sooners reach the title game, according to FPI, while no other team has more than a 35 percent chance (TCU).
According to FPI, the Big Ten divisional races are runaways. Ohio State has an 83 percent chance to win the East, while Wisconsin has an 82 percent chance in the West. There’s a 68 percent chance that the Buckeyes and Badgers meet in the championship game, nearly twice as high as the chances for any other championship game matchup in the other Power 5 conferences. The Buckeyes have a 69 percent chance to win the Big Ten.
Once again, it looks like the ACC Atlantic Division will come down to Florida State’s game against Clemson, which is Nov. 11 in Death Valley. The Seminoles have a 56 percent chance to win the game, and there’s an 84 percent chance that the winner will finish the regular season with one or no loss. The Seminoles are the conference favorite, with a 49 percent chance to win, according to FPI.
The SEC East is projected to be the most competitive division among Power 5 conferences. It is the only Power 5 division in which three teams have at least a 15 percent chance to win – Georgia (37 percent), Florida (31 percent) and Tennessee (16 percent). Projected West champion Alabama is the conference favorite, with a 47 percent chance to win, according to FPI.
The closest Power 5 race is expected to be in the Pac-12. USC leads the way with a 34 percent chance to win the conference. The Trojans are ranked third among Pac-12 teams in FPI, but are the narrow favorites due to scheduling and the division set up. There are four Pac-12 North teams in the top 25 of FPI, but only two in the South (USC, UCLA). Washington is the favorite in the North, with a 30 percent chance to win the conference.
Playoff implications in September
You don’t need to wait until the College Football Playoff to see matchups between the top teams. There are two matchups of current FPI top-four teams in early September.
On Sept. 2, No. 2 Alabama and No. 4 Florida State meet in Atlanta. According to FPI, the Crimson Tide have a 55 percent chance to win that game. The winner of the game has a 16 percent chance to enter bowl season without a loss.
Then No. 3 Oklahoma travels to No. 1 Ohio State in Week 2. The Buckeyes have a 73 percent chance to win the game, according to FPI, the only game during the regular season in which they are projected to have less than an 80 percent chance to win.
The Buckeyes have a 33 percent chance to enter bowl season without a loss, according to FPI. They are the only team with more than a 10 percent chance to do so.
The four participants in the College Football Playoff are likely to come from Power 5 conference champions with one or no loss. At 80 percent, the Big Ten has the best chance to reach that criteria, according to FPI. No other conference has more than a 50 percent chance for its champion to have one or no loss.