Every year at NCAA.com, we track the number of remaining undefeated college football teams weekly throughout the season. We started with 79 undefeated teams through Week 1.
If you're a fan of a team that hasn't lost yet in the 2018 college football season, you might be wondering how you should interpret that data. We took a big-picture approach and examined the last four seasons — since the start of the College Football Playoff — to analyze what percentage of undefeated teams, on a weekly basis, ultimately made the CFP.
Here's what we found.
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As you'd expect, the likelihood that an undefeated team will make the College Football Playoff gradually increases throughout the season with the biggest week-over-week jumps in percentage occurring in the second half of the season.
It takes until Week 5 for the CFP percentage to get above 20 percent, Week 9 for 30 percent, Week 12 for 40 percent and Week 14 for 50 percent.
Here are the biggest individual week-to-week increases in playoff percentage.
- Week 13 to Week 14 (22.5%) – This should come as no surprise given that most major conference championship games are played during Week 14 of the college football season. If a team enters its championship game undefeated and wins, it should feel confident about its chances of making the CFP — at least if it plays in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 or SEC. Florida State ('14), Clemson ('15) and Alabama ('16) each entered the Playoff undefeated, with the latter two earning the No. 1 overall seed because of their undefeated records. However, UCF ('17) and Western Michigan ('16) were both left outside of the top four — ranked Nos. 12 and 15, respectively, in the committee's final rankings — despite their undefeated records at the time. A team that lost its conference championship game has never made the CFP.
- Week 11 to Week 12 (11.43%) – Maybe there's something ominous about Week 11 of the college football season or maybe it's just a random occurrence that three CFP participants (Georgia, Clemson and Washington) have lost their perfect record in Week 11 in the last two seasons. The percentage difference (3.16%) between Week 10 and Week 12 of undefeated teams making the Playoff is consistent with the gradual, uphill trajectory of the graph above but it comes with an eight-percent fall and an 11-percent rise in between due to the anomaly of Week 11.
Here is the full breakdown from the 2014 season to the 2017 season with data for how many teams were undefeated after each week, how many teams that ultimately made the CFP were still undefeated after each week and what percent of remaining undefeated teams made the CFP in their respective seasons.
Note: We're defining "Week 1" as the week in which the majority of college football teams play their first game. For example, this season Hawaii and Colorado State played in one of four matchups featuring FBS teams that took place on Aug. 25, whereas the rest of the country played their season openers between Aug. 30 and Sept. 2.
|Week||Undefeated Teams||CFP Teams||% make CFP|
Since 2014, five FBS teams have gone undefeated in the regular season and through their conference championship game. Three – Florida State, Clemson and Alabama — have made the Playoff, and the latter two played in the national championship game, only to have the other spoil their bid for a perfect season.
On average, among CFP teams that have suffered a loss in the regular season, the loss has come 7.7 weeks into the season. Four of the 16 Playoff teams since 2014 have lost in Week 6 and three have lost in Week 11.
Ohio State's loss to Virginia Tech in Week 2 of the 2014 season was the earliest loss by a Playoff team and Alabama's loss to Auburn in Week 13 last season was the loss that's come latest in the season by a team that made the CFP.