With two weeks to go in the regular season (sorry, Army/Navy), Iowa has gone from knocking at the door of the party to full-on kicking the door in. After a 20-point victory over Purdue, and aided by an Ohio State loss and a 3-point Notre Dame win over Boston College, Iowa has moved from #5 to #4 after week 12. Nothing's set in stone yet, but Iowa has made their presence felt on the national landscape. There are still two games to be played, but I'll be damned if it doesn't feel pretty great to get the national pundits worked up.
Please continue to give 'em hell, Hawks.
1. Clemson #16, 130 THOR+
|Clemson||Venue||Opponent||THOR+ Rank||Projected Win%|
The Tigers continue to inhabit the #1 spot in the playoff rankings, and that likely won't change through this weekend. The Fightin' Dabos head on the road to face their bitter South Carolinian rival, but the Gamecocks are pretty horrible this season and are coming off a loss to The Citadel. (Seriously.) And since North Carolina clinched the ACC Coastal division this past Saturday, that makes the Tar Heels the only real team standing in Clemson's way of a perfect season. THOR+ still likes North Carolina better, so that should be an important game to keep an eye on for final playoff seedings.
2. Alabama #5, 139 THOR+
|Alabama||Venue||Opponent||THOR+ Rank||Projected Win%|
Alabama continues to be about as close to a near lock for the playoff that any team can be with multiple games left. Weird things can happen in the Iron Bowl this week, of course, but Auburn is not nearly as good they have been in recent years. That leaves the SEC Championship game, against a Florida team that needed overtime to beat Florida Atlantic, as a final potential roadblock to keeping Nick Saban out of the playoff. I don't have much hope of either Auburn or Florida pulling off the upset, but college football has been known to be a crazy and cruel mistress.
3. Oklahoma #1, 144 THOR+
|Oklahoma||Venue||Opponent||THOR+ Rank||Projected Win%|
Even lacking a conference championship game, Oklahoma was the team I thought would be hard to keep out of the playoff if they could win their final two games. Now, they are halfway there and already included in the top four. If they can go to Stillwater and beat an Oklahoma State team that is currently ranked #11 by the playoff committee, they are pretty much guaranteed a spot in the final four. Sorry, Notre Dame.
4. Iowa #18, 129 THOR+
|Iowa||Venue||Opponent||THOR+ Rank||Projected Win%|
And now we get to our beloved Hawkeyes. Thanks to Ohio State losing, their odds of winning out increase just by having Michigan State as the projected Big Ten East winner. I already discussed how THOR+ sees Iowa's potential match ups with Ohio State and Michigan earlier this week, so I won't revisit that here. Instead, let's look at some other odds.
Iowa's odds of winning out (assuming Michigan State does win the East) currently stand at 34%. If the playoff were to begin today, THOR+ would project the odds to be something like this:
|#1 Clemson||51%||44%||#2 Alabama|
|#1 Clemson||#3 Oklahoma|
|#4 Iowa||49%||56%||#3 Oklahoma|
So, Oklahoma would be the favorite, but what would Iowa's odds of winning it all be? Well, of course it depends on who they would play.
Scenario 1: Clemson, Oklahoma 16.2%
If Oklahoma were to beat Alabama, THOR+ would give Iowa a 33% win probability against the Sooners. Multiply that by their 49% against Clemson, and that leaves Iowa with a 16% chance of winning the National Championship.
Scenario 2: Clemson, Alabama 18.6%
If Alabama were move out of the first round, THOR+ would give Iowa a 38% win probability against the Crimson Tide. Combine that with the 49% odds against Clemson, and that leaves Iowa with about 19% odds of winning the National Championship in that case.
If we toss in the two games that Iowa still has to play in the next two weeks, that would leave Iowa with approximately a 6% chance of winning the National Championship in both of the above-mentioned scenarios. My point here being that Iowa is a huge underdog. But that isn't anything different than what they have been all season long. This team thrives on being the underdog, so let's go ahead and let them be overlooked. It's just fine by them.
Lastly, here are the odds THOR+ would give each team to win the National Title:
|Team||Advance to National Championship||Win National Championship|
The First 2 Out
5. Michigan State #37, 117 THOR+
|Michigan State||Venue||Opponent||THOR+ Rank||Projected Win%|
After beating Ohio State in Columbus without their star quarterback, Michigan State has now launched themselves from #9 to being the first team out of the playoff and in total control of their own destiny in the Big Ten East in the span of a week. Dantonio's team has a penchant for playing close games no matter who the opponent is this season, however. And while that leads to some amazing wins, it still leaves us with the opportunity for another "Sparty No!" before the regular season is over.
6. Notre Dame #12, 131 THOR+
|Notre Dame||Venue||Opponent||THOR+ Rank||Projected Win%|
The Fighting Irish may have been dealt their death blow. After a close win against Boston College (who does have the best defense in the nation, according to THOR+), Notre Dame fell from #4 to #6 this week. If the committee is only going to let one team without a conference championship into the final four, then Notre Dame is likely going to have a tough time bypassing Oklahoma if they beat Oklahoma State this weekend. That means Irish fans should be rooting for a Cowboy victory in Stillwater this weekend, while pulling for their team to come away victorious at Stanford. If that is their best chance at making the playoff, THOR+ would give that scenario about 20% odds of happening. That's not outrageous, but it's definitely not a lock, either.
The Next 4
7. Baylor #4, 140 THOR+
|Baylor||Venue||Opponent||THOR+ Rank||Projected Win%|
THOR+ really likes Baylor's chances of winning out, but they would need some help to get into the playoff, thanks in large part to losing to Oklahoma a few weeks ago. They would, of course, need the Sooners to lose this weekend. And, on top of that, they would also probably need Notre Dame to lose to Stanford, or to potentially play another close game, while the Bears just absolutely blew the doors off of TCU and Texas. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but they need a lot of help.
8. Ohio State #6, 139 THOR+
|Ohio State||Venue||Opponent||THOR+ Rank||Projected Win%|
Ohio State now needs help just to even get to that December 5th match up with Iowa. After losing to Michigan State, they now need the Spartans to lose to Penn State this weekend, and then they need to take care of business against Michigan in the Big House this Saturday. Needless to say, out of the remaining Big Ten East teams still alive for the title, the Buckeyes now have the lowest odds of reaching the Big Ten Championship game, according to THOR+. That would also leave them with the lowest odds to make the playoff. But, if Michigan State loses, Ohio State's road back into the playoff picture don't seem to be all that outrageous. They would likely just need to make the Big Ten Championship game and win it and they would probably have a good shot at playing in the tournament for the National Championship for the second year in a row. That is, unless, the playoff committee decides to put both Oklahoma and Notre Dame in the playoff. But, even in that scenario, Clemson could potentially lose to North Carolina, and then does the committee take the Tigers or the Buckeyes?
9. Stanford #8, 138 THOR+
|Stanford||Venue||Opponent||THOR+ Rank||Projected Win%|
The Cardinal already have the Pac-12 North wrapped up, and are just awaiting USC and UCLA to decide who will win the South this weekend. THOR+ likes USC as a 64% favorite, which is why I put USC in the table above. Assuming that it will be the Trojans, that would give Stanford approximately a 34% chance of winning out. USC is not currently in the committee's top 25 rankings, but they probably would be with a win over UCLA this weekend. And if UCLA ends up winning they would likely move up in the rankings, which means Stanford has the potential to finish the season with 2 wins over committee-ranked opponents. So, while the Cardinal have 2 losses on the season, these last two wins could make them a dark horse candidate if total chaos breaks out.
10. Michigan #7, 139 THOR+
|Michigan||Venue||Opponent||THOR+ Rank||Projected Win%|
Michigan is another 2-loss team that would need absolute chaos to break out in order to find themselves in the playoff. That being said, if Michigan State loses this weekend, THOR+ really likes the Wolverines odds of winning out, including in the Big Ten Championship game. That would leave them 11-2 -- and likely still outside the actual playoff -- but looking at a New Year's Six bowl game. That punt error at the end of the Michigan State game continues to haunt Jim Harbaugh's dreams.
Bonus: The Fun Underdogs
15. Navy #13, 131 THOR+
|Navy||Venue||Opponent||THOR+ Rank||Projected Win%|
The Midshipmen and their triple-option attack now have three games left, and two against very strong competition. With Houston and likely Temple over the next few weeks, THOR+ gives Navy 36% odds of coming out of the next two weeks unscathed. If they can do that, they will have an almost 90% shot at finishing the season 12-1. They aren't going to make the playoff, but they deserve a New Year's Six Bowl if they win their next three games.
25. Temple #32, 119 THOR+
|Temple||Venue||Opponent||THOR+ Rank||Projected Win%|
The Owls' only blemishes this season were losing to Notre Dame and a good South Florida team (#26 in the country, according to THOR+). There are still bowl projections that have them making a New Year's Six Bowl if they win out, so that's why I'm including them this week. THOR+ likes their odds to beat UConn, although, I think Houston taught us not to underestimate that Huskie defense. Anyway, if Temple gets past UConn, they would still most likely have Navy or Houston and neither of those games would be easy wins.
Not Ranked Houston #44, 112 THOR+
|Houston||Venue||Opponent||THOR+ Rank||Projected Win%|
A week after the national media talked up Tom Herman and his contract status with Houston, UConn's defense tamed the Cougars' offense and handed them their first loss of the year. Losing to the Huskies was enough to take Houston from #19 and drop them completely out of the committee's top 25. I'm including them again this week, however, because with an upcoming game against Navy, they should be back in the top 25 with a win on Friday. And if they can win against Temple, a New Year's Six Bowl should still be in play for a 12-1 Houston team.