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Joe Boozell | NCAA.com | August 25, 2016

How accurate are College Football Playoff predictions?

  Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide hoisted the championship trophy in 2016.

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.

For the top teams, just about every game is an elimination game. And even the best suqads are prone to slip-ups. That creates an extremely unpredictable environment, as you well know. But just how unpredictable?

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:

2016 NCAA.com CFP predictions
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:

2016 CFP predictions
Writer/Outlet Team Team Team Team Correct Picks
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.