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Playoff: 2-loss SEC or 1-loss Big 12 or Pac-12?

Playoff: 2-loss SEC or 1-loss Big 12 or Pac-12?

The argument for a 2-loss SEC team going to the playoff ahead of another 1-loss team could hinge on if Mississippi State, Missouri, and South Carolina win this weekend. If two of them stumble, then the Big 12 could catch them as long as Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoops steps in for the injured David Ash and avenge last year’s loss to a strong BYU team, and/or Arizona, Utah and Washington State all avoid slip-ups against pretty good opponents.

Nothing impacts the strength of schedule (SOS) the Selection Committee will consider than the Conference SOS determined in games like this when UAB, Toledo, and East Carolina try to build on strong starts to upset the SEC’s Mississippi State, Missouri or South Carolina respectively. Likewise, UT San Antonio, Fresno State, and Nevada will try to hurt the chances of all Pac-12 teams with upsets of Arizona, Utah and/or Washington State.

The biggest individual games on the projected result of each Week 2 game will be the defenses of Stanford and Michigan State trying to prove they are good enough to hold off the high powered offenses of USC and Oregon, respectively. However, the final spot will more likely will be between two teams that have not played before, so if Georgia, Oregon, and Oklahoma were all vying for the fourth and final spot with two losses apiece, it may come down to the SOS that plays out in whether the SEC is still two points better than the Pac-12 or Big 12 or not. 

An explanation follows this table. Basically if a conference exceeds the “this week” predictions on victory margin (e.g., 17.2 for SEC) and record (10.8-2.2 for SEC) then they move up for next week, and vice versa.

Rnk Conf ave margin this week ave Win% This week% wins loss
1 SEC 13 17.2 75% 83% 10.8 2.2
2 P12 11 13.7 72% 76% 9.1 2.9
3 B12 11 15.6 70% 78% 7.0 2.0
4 B10 6 11.2 64% 72% 9.3 3.7
5 ACC 6 13.6 54% 77% 10.0 3.0
6 AAC -4 -6.8 39% 37% 3.3 5.7
7 CUSA -8 -2.8 35% 45% 5.5 6.5
8 MWC -10 -4.8 31% 42% 5.0 7.0
9 MAC -14 -7.1 24% 35% 4.2 7.8
10 SBC -15 2.7 22% 55% 5.5 4.5
  Ind 2 0.8 57% 52% 2.1 1.9

Against average FBS competition, the SEC should win by 13 points (“average margin”), and win 75% of their games (average Win%). Based on weak opponents this week, the SEC should win by an average of 17.2 points (this week) and win 83% of their games (This week% based on the projected 10.8-2.2 record.). Any winning margin above 25 simply counts as 25 in the average.

If the SEC averages winning by 21 points and goes 12-0, they would move up. If they win by an average of 10 points and go only 9-4 with Missouri losing at Toledo, they move down for next week and the Pac-12 or Big 12 could catch them.

With many teams facing non-FBS schools this week, every conference except the American Athletic projects to have better winning percentages and victory margins than against average opponents. The Sun Belt is 15 points worse than the average FBS opponent (-15) and would be expected to win 22% of their games, but this week they are projected to have a winning record (5.5 – 4.5 for 55%).

The American Athletic is the conference with a chance for a breakthrough this week as they are projected to go 3.3-5.7 and lose by an average of a touchdown (-6.8). However, even with a good week they still have 10 points to make up to catch the weakest of the big five conferences. East Carolina travels to South Carolina, Memphis goes West to UCLA, and Tulsa hosts Oklahoma.

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