CFB Playoff Blind Poll Results: from Alabama to Iowa (if they lose to Nebraska but win the Big Ten)

By Jason Lisk
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Yesterday, we ran a blind CFB playoff poll of the potential resumes for teams that ultimately can finish with one loss. Now, right now, Clemson and Iowa are undefeated. And I think for a host of reasons, those two will be in a playoff if they remain undefeated. The interesting question is who gets in if they lose.

Now, this blind test is very bare bones. In fact, I would compare it to a skeleton. The details, how you played against those opponents, the timing, the health of the team, etc., etc., are the meat and muscle that fills around it and completes the picture. I will also say that looking at something summarized generally like this insulates the bad results. People seem less swayed by “bad” losses, when you don’t put a name to it.

Still, I think it is instructive in a broader sense to see how teams generally compare when stripped of things like brand names and program history and perception.

So, here are the poll results of the rank order of most to least selected, based on potential end-of-regular-season resumés.

(1) 86% selected Alabama Crimson Tide (Ants) if win SEC Title to finish 12-1

(2) 78% selected Oklahoma Sooners (Elephants) if win Big 12 Title by beating OSU

(3) 61% selected Florida Gators (Gators) if win SEC Title over Alabama and beat FSU

(4) 56% selected Clemson Tigers (Monkeys) if they lose to SC but beat UNC for ACC Title

(5) 31% selected Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Horses) if they beat Stanford

(6) 30% selected Michigan State Spartans (Cows) if they win out and win Big 10 Title

(7) 20% selected Clemson Tigers (Iguanas) if they lose their first game in ACC title game to UNC

(8) 9% selected 2014 Ohio State (Owls) based on regular season resume. Yes, this was a test to see how that team would be viewed in a numbers vacuum compared to this year.

(9) 6% selected Ohio State (Nutcrackers) if they beat Michigan AND get into the Big 10 title game and beat Iowa

(10) 6% selected Baylor Bears or Oklahoma State Cowboys (Frogs), who have an identical profile of going 2-1 against top teams, if they beat TCU and OU respectively.

(11) 5% selected Iowa Hawkeyes (Bobcats) if they beat Nebraska then lose to Big 10 East Champ in Title Game.

(12) 4% selected Navy Midshipmen (Kangaroos) if they win out against Houston and in the American Conference title game.

(13) 4% selected North Carolina Tar Heels (Jaguars) if they win out and win the ACC Title Game against Clemson

(14) 3% selected Ohio State Buckeyes (Dogs) if they beat Michigan but do not reach the Big 10 title game

(15) 2% selected Iowa Hawkeyes (Lions) if they lose to Nebraska but win the Big 10 Title Game

So let’s discuss some of the what shows up here, which is honestly not all that different from Ty Duffy’s assessment in the latest college football preview column.

The SEC Champ, if it has only one loss, is in, whether it is Florida or Alabama. I don’t like Florida’s chances of getting there, but it’s hard to deny that they would jump people by closing with wins over both Florida State and Alabama, thus taking Alabama’s slot in the current top 4.

Next, Oklahoma is in if they are the Big 12 Champion by winning against Oklahoma State. The committee jumped them into the top 4 this week. It would seem unlikely that they would drop back below Notre Dame, with both playing on the road against tough opponents. The loss to Texas will be forgiven by going 3-0 against the other top teams in the Big 12 (2 on the road) plus winning at Tennessee.

Next, there is a decent argument for any of Clemson (with one loss), Michigan State as Big 10 Champ at 12-1, and Notre Dame. Practically speaking, while Clemson’s resumé is still playoff worthy with a loss, closing out the season on a losing note would likely prove decisive.

The Big 10 is not in good position unless it’s an undefeated Iowa or a 1-loss Michigan State. Either of those scenarios gets in over Notre Dame. But look where Iowa (with a loss) and Ohio State is polling. It’s not a good sign when, in a blind test, Navy is drawing similar number of votes. Ohio State basically has no chance unless they reach the title game, and then they need help. The nightmare scenario for the Big Ten would be Iowa losing at Nebraska, and then winning the conference.

Baylor and Oklahoma State are in a similar boat, with identical resumés. They both need either an Oklahoma loss (which OSU directly controls, but Baylor does not), and a Notre Dame loss. If Oklahoma wins, Baylor probably also needs to look good with their 3rd string QB in a win, and have Notre Dame lose and that nightmare scenario for the Big Ten, to become a non-conference winner claiming the final spot.

North Carolina may have some caché with a victory over Clemson, but needs plenty of other help as well. Basically, everything that Baylor and Oklahoma State are rooting for, plus a Baylor loss. Their resumé still polls below Clemson, though the guess here is that the committee will take the ACC champ in a head-to-head call.

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