College Football Playoff predictions: How likely are pundits to predict the correct field?
College football is an unpredictable beast, and that’s what we love about it. It only takes a loss or two for a juggernaut to miss out on the College Football Playoff.
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Here were NCAA.com’s projections before the 2015 season. Spoiler alert: they weren’t pretty. For my section in particular, tweets like this ensued:
Here is how the NCAA.com staff fared as a whole:
|Writer||Team 1||Team 2||Team 3||Team 4||Correct Picks|
|Joe Boozell||Auburn||Ohio State||Baylor||Notre Dame||0/4|
|Tyler Greenawalt||Ohio State||TCU||Georgia||Oregon||0/4|
|Courtney Martinez||Ohio State||TCU||Auburn||Oregon||0/4|
|Sam Richmond||Ohio State||TCU||Alabama||Oregon||1/4|
|Craig Thomas||Ohio State||Baylor||Auburn||Clemson||1/4|
|Eric Vander Voort||TCU||Ohio State||LSU||Boise State||0/4|
|Austin Vaughn||Arizona||Ohio State||Alabama||TCU||1/4|
My eyes hurt. As a staff, we went 3-for-28. And yes, we fully intend to do staff predictions for the 2017 College Football Playoff next week; predictions are fun to make, and a year later, they’re even more fun to look back on and (usually) laugh at.
With that said, NCAA.com wasn’t the only outlet to make preseason predictions for the 2016 College Football Playoff. Saturday Down South compiled a list of eight writers and analysts from eight different college football publications in 2015, and here's how they did:
|Ralph D. Russo, Associated Press||Auburn||Notre Dame||Ohio State||Baylor||0/4|
|Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports||Ohio State||Auburn||Alabama||Baylor||1/4|
|Steve Silverman, Bleacher Report||Ohio State||Michigan State||Alabama||TCU||2/4|
|Jerry Palm, CBS Sports||TCU||Auburn||Ohio State||Clemson||1/4|
|Brett McMurphy, ESPN||TCU||USC||Ohio State||Auburn||0/4|
|Tim Brando, FOX Sports||Ohio State||TCU||USC||Alabama||1/4|
|Kevin McGuire, NBC Sports||Ohio State||Oregon||TCU||Auburn||0/4|
|Gene Wang, Washington Post||Ohio State||Baylor||Alabama||TCU||1/4|
This group of writers and analysts went 6-for-32. Better than our numbers, sure, but not exactly the kind of work you’re hanging on your mother’s refrigerator. Here are a few interesting stats and tidbits from the combined sample sizes:
- In the 15 sets of predictions above, people went 9-for-60 in projecting College Football Playoff teams correctly. That’s an even 15 percent.
- Of the 15 sets of predictions, seven had zero teams correct.
- Nobody picked Oklahoma to make the College Football Playoff; one person picked Michigan State.
- Just one writer, Steve Silverman of Bleacher Report, correctly predicted at least two teams.
- Of the nine correct picks, six were Alabama. Going into last season, the Crimson Tide had won three national championships in six years.
- Every single set of predictions included Ohio State. Ohio State did not make the playoff.
It's easy to draw parallels between this exercise and others in the world of college sports. Take March Madness, for instance. NCAA tournament brackets are extremely unpredictable. They’re lauded for being next to impossible to fill out with a smidge of confidence, and rightfully so.
Projecting College Football Playoff teams prior to the season is similar. It’s fun, you’re probably going to be wrong, and once you are, there’s nothing else to do but root for craziness.