Don’t completely rule out the Pac-12 from the 2020 College Football Playoff race.
Despite just a seven-game schedule including the conference championship game — on top of a three-year playoff-less streak — the Pac-12 has a 34% chance to put a team in the playoff, per the Allstate Playoff Predictor. Oregon (19%) and USC (13%) are the conference’s two real shots at getting in.
While it’s far from ideal for any conference to have that low of a shot at the playoff before playing a single game, this is actually a slightly better chance than the same model gave the conference back in May (then 28%), working at the time under the assumption of a normal schedule.
Given the circumstances of the Pac-12’s season it’s reasonable to ask: How?
Let’s start with the bad: The Pac-12’s schedules are easy due to their abbreviated nature.
An average top-25 team would have a 37% chance to go 6-0 against Oregon’s regular-season schedule. That’s high! In fact, that’s the same chance that the average top-25 team would have to go 8-2 against Alabama’s regular-season schedule. And a decent bit harder than the chance to go 7-1 against Penn State’s.
But here’s a secret about the selection committee, at least historically: It over-emphasizes the number of losses a team has. I say “over” because theoretically, the number of losses shouldn’t matter beyond strength of record, which is the top predictor of a team’s playoff chances. To the committee, however, that number is important beyond strength of record, which is why we include it in our model.
And that works to the Pac-12’s advantage. Because there’s a very real chance the Pac-12 champion is undefeated. In fact, it’s a 44% chance.
When it comes to selection day, an undefeated champion will surely at