Each BCS contender's odds of winning out, no matter what happens this week

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Ten teams have realistic (or very optimistic) shots at the BCS National Championship, but Thursday and Saturday will tell us exactly how many are fighting for the top two spots.

Two weeks ago, we took a look at what win probabilities (derived from the F/+ rankings) could tell us about each BCS contender's chances of winning out. With a couple of enormous games on the docket Thursday, let's take a look at where things stand.

The probabilities

Below are 10 of the top 11 teams in the BCS standings, ranked in order of their probability of winning out. We're skipping No. 7 Clemson, simply because the Tigers don't have any games left against top-11 teams (the other one-loss teams do) and therefore don't have many opportunities to impress either the voters or the computers. They probably aren't true BCS contenders because of that, though for the record, their chances of winning out are at 23 percent thanks to a low probability of beating South Carolina.

1. Florida State (8-0)

BCS Ranking: 2
F/+ Ranking: 2
Chances of winning out: 79%
Two weeks ago: 52%

Remaining games: at Wake Forest (99%), Syracuse (99%), Idaho (100%), at Florida (90%), ACC Championship (~90%)

With the Miami hurdle cleared, the Seminoles are in the driver's seat when it comes to finishing undefeated. Depending on who they might play in the conference title game, their odds of winning are between 87 percent (Virginia Tech) and 94 percent (Georgia Tech). And with Florida stumbling and suffering injuries left and right, FSU's odds of winning that game continue to increase.

2. Alabama (8-0)

BCS Ranking: 1
F/+ Ranking: 1
Chances of winning out: 63%
Two weeks ago: 60%

Remaining games: LSU (91%), at Mississippi State (99%), Chattanooga (100%), at Auburn (82%), SEC Championship (~85%)

The LSU odds feel high, but considering how inconsistent the Tigers have been on defense (and considering the game is in Tuscaloosa), it at least makes some amount of sense. (And no, Les Miles cares not for odds.) MSU should offer little obstacle, but even if they get past LSU, the Crimson Tide don't have total slam dunks against Auburn and either Missouri (84 percent) or South Carolina (86 percent) in the SEC title game. So while Alabama is the No. 1 team, FSU's odds are better at this point.

3. Baylor (7-0)

BCS Ranking: 6
F/+ Ranking: 5
Chances of winning out: 60%
Two weeks ago: 50%

Remaining games: Oklahoma (90%), vs. Texas Tech (96%), at Oklahoma State (75%), at TCU (96%), Texas (96%)

Baylor's Big 12 slate is back-loaded, and honestly I don't feel great about the Baylor-OSU game, but that's the gut speaking. The numbers love Baylor.

4. Ohio State (9-0)

BCS Ranking: 4
F/+ Ranking: 7
Chances of winning out: 51%
Two weeks ago: 29%

Remaining games: at Illinois (96%), Indiana (97%), at Michigan (78%), Big Ten Championship (~70%)

Ohio State has hit fifth gear over the last two weeks, though obviously these numbers are based on full-season performance. The trip to Michigan is a likely win but not a guarantee, and Ohio State would only have about a two-in-three chance of beating Michigan State in the conference title game.

5. Stanford (7-1)

BCS Ranking: 5
F/+ Ranking: 3
Chances of winning out: 27%
Two weeks ago: 26%

Remaining games: Oregon (65%), at USC (60%), California (99%), Notre Dame (88%), Pac-12 Championship (~79%)

I talked yesterday about what the numbers see in Stanford, though obviously the eyeballs feel these odds are a bit high.

If USC is as good as the numbers suggest, Oregon is just the first game of a pretty brutal back-to-back for the Cardinal.

6. Oregon (8-0)

BCS Ranking: 3
F/+ Ranking: 4
Chances of winning out: 19% (55% if the Ducks beat Stanford)
Two weeks ago: 14% (44% if the Ducks beat Stanford)

Remaining games: at Stanford (35%), Utah (85%), at Arizona (82%), Oregon State (99%), Pac-12 Championship (~79%)

Utah is fading quickly, so I figure those odds are a bit low. Bottom line: Win tonight, and things start to look great for the Ducks, especially if one assumes they overtake an undefeated FSU in the BCS standings.

7. Missouri (8-1)

BCS Ranking: 8
F/+ Ranking: 11
Chances of winning out: 7%

Remaining games: at Kentucky (96%), at Ole Miss (58%), Texas A&M (69%), SEC Championship (~18%)

The Tigers have about a 38 percent chance of reaching the SEC title game at 11-1. The odds sharply decrease after that.

8. Auburn (8-1)

BCS Ranking: 9
F/+ Ranking: 22
Chances of winning out: 3%
Two weeks ago: 2%

Remaining games: at Tennessee (82%), Georgia (57%), Alabama (18%)

It's definitely not smooth sailing for the Tigers in advance of the Alabama game. The numbers favor AU only slightly over Georgia, and surviving a trip to Knoxville is not a guarantee.

9. Miami (7-1)

BCS Ranking: 11
F/+ Ranking: 27
Chances of winning out: 2%

Remaining games: Virginia Tech (55%), at Duke (61%), Virginia (92%), at Pittsburgh (75%), ACC Championship (~10%)

Obviously the numbers don't have a they-lost-Duke Johnson factor, though they probably should. Regardless, the odds are awful either way.

10. Oklahoma (7-1)

BCS Ranking: 10
F/+ Ranking: 29
Chances of winning out: 1%

Remaining games: at Baylor (10%), Iowa State (95%), at Kansas State (39%), at Oklahoma State (33%)

If Bob Stoops' Sooners win out, they would probably leap quite a few of the one-loss teams ahead of them thanks to computer rankings and this rough final stretch. Of course ... they're almost certainly not going to win out.

The simulation

For this week's simulation, I wanted to look at how things will take shape between now and championship weekend (Week 15 on December 6 and 7, which features all the conference title games, plus Baylor-Texas and Oklahoma-Oklahoma State). The above teams play in 31 games between now and that weekend. I simulated all 31 a full 2,000 times.

First, here are the odds of a certain number of teams remaining undefeated between now and then. (There are five now, since we're not counting Northern Illinois and Fresno State here.)

# of Undefeated Teams Instances Percent
None 5 0.3%
One 74 3.7%
Two 372 18.6%
Three 751 37.6%
Four 650 32.5%
Five 148 7.4%

Heading into championship weekend, there's about a 78 percent chance that at least three teams are unbeaten. That's higher than I would have anticipated. So go ahead and prepare yourself for all sorts of "Why couldn't the playoff have begun a year earlier??" chatter. I've always said the BCS' biggest problem was in failing to put three teams on the same field; the final iteration of the BCS standings could have a similar problem.

There's about a 78 percent chance that at least three teams are unbeaten.

Of course, the odds of teams being undefeated after Alabama plays Missouri or South Carolina; Florida State plays Miami, Virginia Tech, or Georgia Tech; Baylor plays Texas; Ohio State plays Michigan State; etc.; aren't nearly as good. Somebody's probably going to lose. But prepare for the narrative.

I wanted to estimate potential BCS standings heading into that weekend, but since it's impossible to predict how polls and computers will react to different wins and losses, I decided to simply establish a rough, semi-educated hierarchy of teams.

Here's a list of potential teams heading into championship weekend, ranked in order of potential BCS ranking. Some teams are on the list twice. That's because this isn't a prediction of the BCS rankings, but rather a guess at how teams stack up in multiple scenarios, to give the simulation something to work with.

  1. 12-0 Alabama
  2. 12-0 Oregon
  3. 12-0 Florida State

    These three are pretty obvious.

  4. 11-1 Alabama (with a loss to Auburn or LSU)
  5. 11-1 Stanford
  6. 12-0 Baylor
  7. 12-0 Ohio State

    This cluster is pretty messy. How far might Alabama fall with a loss to LSU? Would strong computer rankings keep them above teams like Baylor and Ohio State? Will undefeated Baylor pass undefeated Ohio State in the BCS thanks to the tough late schedule? And since Stanford's already ahead of Baylor and close to Ohio State, will the Cardinal pass the Buckeyes with a win over Oregon (and subsequent solid wins)?

  8. 11-1 Auburn

    A potential win over Alabama would certainly bump Auburn up the list, though it's quite conceivable the Tigers remain below 11-1 Alabama in the standings.

  9. 11-1 Florida State (with a loss to Florida, I guess)
  10. 11-1 Oklahoma
  11. 11-1 Missouri
  12. 11-1 Oregon
  13. 11-1 Miami

    I could be severely underestimating Oregon's BCS potential here with a loss. If the Ducks lose to anybody but Stanford, they could fall pretty far, but a loss to only Stanford could keep them around No. 8 or so. Regardless, this list is destined to be debatable. I took this list and ran with it.

With this hierarchy in place, here are some tidbits.

Odds of ranking No. 1 in the BCS standings heading into Week 15

Alabama 75% (73% when undefeated, 2% with a loss)
Florida State 19%
Oregon 6%
Stanford 0.1%
Baylor 0.1%

Odds of ranking in the BCS top two heading into Week 15

Alabama 93%
Florida State 74%
Oregon 23%
Stanford 5%
Baylor 3%
Ohio State 2%
Auburn 0.2%

Odds of ranking in the BCS top two heading into Week 15 if ... Baylor and Oregon win Thursday

Alabama 83%
Oregon 66%
Florida State 48%
Baylor 2%
Ohio State 1%

Odds of ranking in the BCS top two heading into Week 15 if ... Baylor and Stanford win Thursday

Alabama 98%
Florida State 89%
Stanford 8%
Baylor 4%

So basically, if you believe that a one-loss Alabama team would rank ahead of Baylor and Ohio State, an Oregon loss tonight would all but solidify the odds of a Bama-FSU title game. If you don't believe that, then it becomes a ridiculously tight race between a potential 11-1 Alabama team, Stanford, Ohio State, and Baylor.

Odds of ranking in the BCS top two heading into Week 15 if ... Oklahoma and Oregon win Thursday

Alabama 92%
Oregon 71%
Florida State 37%

Knocking Baylor and Stanford out basically means it's 12-0 Alabama, 12-0 Oregon, 12-0 Florida State, 11-1 Alabama, 12-0 Ohio State, or a total wild card in the title game.

Odds of ranking in the BCS top two heading into Week 15 if ... Oklahoma and Stanford win Thursday

Alabama 97%
Florida State 89%
Stanford 7%
Ohio State 6%
Auburn 1%

What if Florida State finishes undefeated?

The Seminoles have a 62% chance of ranking second, 21% chance of ranking first, 17% chance of ranking third.

What if Oregon finishes undefeated?

The Ducks have a 74% chance of ranking second, 26% chance of ranking first.

Most likely BCS top four heading into Week 15

1. Alabama, Florida State, Stanford, Baylor: 14%
2. Alabama, Florida State, Baylor, Ohio State: 13%
3. Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Baylor: 9%
4. Alabama, Florida State, Stanford, Ohio State: 7%
5. Florida State, Alabama (11-1), Stanford, Baylor: 5%

Most likely BCS top four heading into Week 15 if ... Baylor and Oregon win Thursday

1. Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Baylor: 28%
2. Oregon, Florida State, Alabama (11-1), Baylor: 11%
3. Alabama, Florida State, Baylor, Ohio State: 11%
4. Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Ohio State: 10%
5. Oregon, Florida State, Alabama (11-1), Ohio State: 4%

Most likely BCS top four heading into Week 15 if ... Baylor and Stanford win Thursday

1. Alabama, Florida State, Baylor, Ohio State: 17%
2. Florida State, Alabama (11-1), Baylor, Ohio State: 6%
3. Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, Oregon (11-1): 3%
4. Alabama, Florida State, Baylor, Missouri: 2%
5. Alabama, Florida State, Baylor, Oregon (11-1): 2%

Most likely BCS top four heading into Week 15 if ... Oklahoma and Oregon win Thursday

1. Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Ohio State: 41%
2. Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, Oklahoma: 7%
3. Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, Oregon (11-1): 4%
4. Florida State, Alabama (11-1), Ohio State, Oregon (11-1): 4%
5. Alabama, Oregon, Ohio State, Florida State (11-1): 4%

Most likely BCS top four heading into Week 15 if ... Oklahoma and Stanford win Thursday

1. Alabama, Florida State, Stanford, Ohio State: 29%
2. Florida State, Alabama (11-1), Stanford, Ohio State: 12%
3. Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, Oklahoma: 6%
4. Alabama, Stanford, Ohio State, Florida State (11-1): 6%
5. Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, Oregon: 4%

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