Making educated guesses throughout the college football season in an attempt to anticipate which four teams will make the playoff is an exhausting, weeks-long process.
But this year, ESPN — which has the broadcasting rights for the College Football Playoff for the next eight seasons — developed a formula called the Playoff Predictor, which utilizes various statistics and factors to break down the top teams’ chances of being among the final four contenders.
After Week 1, ESPN Sports Analytics has a new group of four teams with the best chances to make the playoffs, advance to the championship game and win it all.
Going into the season, the four teams, respectively, were Clemson, Alabama, Georgia and Notre Dame. Here are the latest top four after the first week of action.
Playoff: 65 percent
Championship game: 41 percent
Win championship: 25 percent
Playoff: 57 percent
Championship game: 32 percent
Win championship: 17 percent
3. Notre Dame
Playoff: 57 percent
Championship game: 28 percent
Win championship: 13 percent
Playoff: 45 percent
Championship game: 22 percent
Win championship: 11 percent
Alabama is up from 47 percent in the preseason, Notre Dame jumped from 42 percent and Oklahoma skyrocketed from 24 percent. Clemson dropped from 67 percent.
The Playoff Predictor algorithm is based on a number of factors, including strength of record, number of losses, conference championships, independent status (Notre Dame) and the Football Power Index (FPI) — how well a team is playing based on expectations. The selection committee’s past behavior is also taken into consideration, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on who you cheer for.
In their respective season openers, Alabama easily topped Louisville, 51-14, with last year’s championship game star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa leading the way, completing 12-of-16 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. He also finished with five carries for 26 yards and another touchdown.
In the only real competitive game from these top four teams, Notre Dame stifled a late charge by Michigan to win, 24-17, while Clemson crushed Furman, 48-7, and Oklahoma did the same to Florida Atlantic, 63-13.
Georgia — last season’s championship runner-up that originally had the third-best chances of making the playoff — dropped to No. 6 on ESPN’s Playoff Predictor list with a 27 percent chance of making it and a 13 percent chance of returning to the title game. The Bulldogs are behind Ohio State, which has a 43 percent chance of sliding into the playoff.
Auburn, Washington, Wisconsin and Stanford round out the top 10 after Week 1.
You can see the full top-25 list at ESPN.com.
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