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As The Playoff Nears, Notre Dame Is Running Out Of Time

The new College Football Playoff committee rankings are out, and the committee shook lots of things up.

Notre Dame fell from No. 4 to No. 6 after an ugly win against Boston College over the weekend. Oklahoma (at No. 3) and Iowa (at No. 4) sneaked into the top four ahead of the Fighting Irish, and Michigan State leapfrogged them too, landing at No. 5. At this stage of the season, those teams control their own destinies, but the Irish don’t.

Florida joined Notre Dame as the other big loser after the Gators squeezed out an overtime win against Florida Atlantic. The Gators fell four spots to No. 12.

But there are still several major games left to be played in the next two weeks, so let’s turn to FiveThirtyEight’s projections of how the committee will order teams in its final rankings Dec. 6.

Ranking Probability of …
Team CFP Elo FPI Conf. Title Playoff Nat. Title
Clemson 11-0 1 4 6 59% 71% 21 16%
Alabama 10-1 2 1 3 60% 64% 21 21%
Oklahoma 10-1 3 5 1 62% 64% 9a 25%
Michigan St. 10-1 5 2 17 47% 47% 21 7%
Iowa 11-0 4 12 29 37% 30% 21 2%
Ohio State 10-1 8 3 4 9% 25% 8a 7%
Baylor 9-1 7 9 2 18% 21% 21 7%
Notre Dame 10-1 6 7 8 a 21% 10 4%
Stanford 9-2 9 11 9 50% 16% 6a 3%
Florida 10-1 12 10 19 31% 13% 21 2%
North Carolina 10-1 14 8 16 41% 10% 21 2%
Oklahoma St. 10-1 11 14 14 20% 10% 21 2%
Michigan 9-2 10 13 15 7% 7% 21 <1%
Navy 9-1 15 16 38 27% <1% 21 <1%
Mississippi 8-3 18 17 7 9% <1% 21 <1%
Florida State 9-2 13 19 13 0% <1% 21 <1%
UCLA 8-3 22 23 18 15% <1% 21 <1%
Northwestern 9-2 16 21 55 0% <1% 21 <1%
Temple 9-2 25 35 48 38% <1% 21 <1%
Washington St. 8-3 20 22 45 0% <1% 21 <1%
Toledo 9-1 24 20 43 9% <1% 21 <1%
Utah 8-3 23 37 26 0% <1% 21 <1%
Oregon 8-3 17 6 24 0% <1% 21 <1%
Mississippi St. 8-3 21 15 20 0% <1% 21 <1%
TCU 9-2 19 18 5 0% <1% 21 <1%
College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings as of Nov. 24. Playoff probability changes are since Nov. 23; only changes greater than 5 percentage points are shown.

 

Oklahoma’s odds of making the playoff jumped 9 percentage points to 64 percent in our model. That’s tied with Alabama and just behind Clemson’s odds of 71 percent. Of the remaining teams, Michigan State is handicapped to have the best shot, at 47 percent, largely because the Spartans are favored if they play Iowa for the Big Ten title. (First they have to beat Penn State this weekend.) That Big Ten championship would be a de facto play-in game for the playoff (should Iowa win against Nebraska on Friday). The model puts the Hawkeyes’ playoff chances at 30 percent.

Three spots after Iowa comes Notre Dame. The Irish’s playoff odds took a significant hit, down to 21 percent. Our model has consistently projected that both a strong one-loss Big 12 champ (like Oklahoma) and an undefeated or one-loss Big Ten winner (Michigan State or Iowa) were good bets to make it to the playoff over Notre Dame.

Several other teams are on the cusp of the playoff: Ohio State at 25 percent (down 8 percentage points after their first loss of the season); Baylor at 21 percent (needing Oklahoma to slip up, among other things); and two-loss Stanford at 16 percent. All these teams need some surprises to make it in, but there’s still some football left.

For those of you who want more nitty-gritty details about our projections, check out our original methodology manifesto, as well as a methodology update.

Jay Boice is a computational journalist for FiveThirtyEight.

Reuben Fischer-Baum is a visual journalist for FiveThirtyEight.

Andrew Flowers writes about economics and sports for FiveThirtyEight.

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