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We might already know 3 Playoff teams. Who do the numbers see at No. 4?

Who’s got the inside track at the fourth spot, as well as the rest of the New Year’s Six games?

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

With a week to go before the first College Football Playoff rankings of the season are unveiled, we have a pretty good idea of where things stand: Alabama’s likely the clear No. 1 team at the moment, Clemson’s a clear No. 2, Notre Dame’s a clear No. 3, Michigan and LSU are next in some order, and we’ve got a bit of a soup after that.

That’s all fine and dandy. But it doesn’t tell us much about how things are going to end.

A quick reminder: In 2014, Mississippi State was given the No. 1 ranking in the first CFP rankings. The Bulldogs missed the playoff, and Ohio State (16th in in the initial rankings) won the title. The last few years have been more orderly, thanks mostly to the omnipresence of Alabama and Clemson, but this is a sport that tends to throw some plot twists at us.

Is this a year for plot twists? A year where we should expect the unexpected down the stretch? Well ... no. But read anyway!

Using S&P+ win projections as our guide (you can find the complete set of win projections in my stat profile hub), let’s go through the odds for all the primary contestants for both CFP slots and bids to the New Year’s Six bowls.

We’ll start with the three remaining power-conference unbeatens.

Win probabilities for 0-loss college football teams

Unbeaten team 0 losses 1 loss 2+ losses
Unbeaten team 0 losses 1 loss 2+ losses
Alabama (8-0) 52% 38% 10%
Clemson (7-0) 55% 35% 10%
Notre Dame (7-0) 31% 42% 27%

These projections are only for the regular season. If you add a conference title game against the highest-ranked potential champion in the opposite division, Alabama has a 66 percent win probability against Georgia, and Clemson has a 74 percent chance against Miami. So that means there’s about a 34 percent chance of Alabama reaching the finish line at 13-0, 41 percent for Clemson.

The good news for chaos lovers is that means there’s only about a 14 chance of both of them finishing unbeaten. Everybody tends to lose a game, even Bama.

Still, there’s also about a 40 percent chance that they both finish with either zero or one losses. And it’s safe to say they’re probably each in as one-loss teams.

Notre Dame still has its work cut out. The Irish don’t have a conference title game to worry about and have a 31 percent chance of reaching 12-0. At this rate, they’re probably in at 11-1, too — lots of teams will lose down the stretch — and there’s a 73 percent chance they lose one game at most. So their CFP odds are quite good.

There’s at least one more playoff spot up for grabs, though, and history tells us it’ll probably come from a pool of one-loss power conference teams. Here they are:

Win probabilities for 1-loss college football teams

1-loss team 1 loss 2 losses 3+ losses
1-loss team 1 loss 2 losses 3+ losses
Oklahoma (6-1) 37% 43% 20%
Michigan (7-1) 34% 47% 20%
Georgia (6-1) 27% 42% 31%
Ohio State (7-1) 19% 42% 39%
NC State (5-1) 14% 35% 50%
Florida (6-1) 11% 35% 54%
Iowa (6-1) 10% 33% 57%
LSU (7-1) 8% 37% 54%
Washington State (6-1) 8% 28% 65%
Kentucky (6-1) 6% 25% 69%
West Virginia (5-1) 4% 19% 77%
Texas (6-1) 3% 16% 82%

With so many teams losing over the last couple of weeks, Oklahoma is back in prime Playoff position despite the loss to Texas. The Sooners are up to third in S&P+ (first on offense, naturally) and have at least a 69 percent win probability in each remaining game. On a neutral field in the Big 12 title game, they’d have an 81 percent chance of winning a rematch against Texas and a 74 percent chance of beating WVU. Winning out is hard, but the Sooners have the best shot among the pool of one-loss teams.

Other thoughts:

  • Michigan-Ohio State on Nov. 24 could very well be an eliminator. OSU has a 42 percent chance of winning out between now and then, and Michigan is at 60 percent, 87 percent if the Wolverines get past PSU on Nov. 3. The winner would be favored in the Big Ten title game (UM would have about a 68 percent chance, OSU about 58 percent), too.
  • Georgia-Florida on this coming Saturday is also an eliminator. With a win in Jacksonville, UGA’s odds of finishing 11-1 would rise to 42 percent, and Florida’s would rise to 31 percent. Obviously, the winner would probably then have to beat Alabama in Atlanta. I’m not saying the odds are great here. But the loser’s out.
  • LSU’s schedule is relentless. The Tigers have already taken on five teams in the current S&P+ top-20 and have beaten four of them. Their reward is a Nov. 3 date with Bama. Win that, and they still have to win at Texas A&M (S&P+ has it as a relative tossup) over Thanksgiving before the SEC Championship. So yeah, their CFP odds still aren’t great.
  • There are still plenty of scenarios we could draw up that get someone unique like Iowa, Wazzu, WVU, Kentucky, or Texas in the field. But they’re all pretty big longshots, to put it lightly.

So we could pretty definitively list the primary Playoff contenders as follows:

1-2. Alabama and Clemson
3. Notre Dame
4. Oklahoma
5. The Michigan-Ohio State winner
6. The Georgia-Florida winner
7. Everyone else

This might not be the most thrilling race, but luckily, college football has tiers of drama.

We can also speculate on where the NY6 bowl slots go!

Obviously a three-loss team can sneak into the New Year’s Six field, and any of the above teams could land in the NY6.

But which of the current two-loss teams is most likely to finish with two losses?

Win probabilities for 2-loss college football teams

2-loss team 2 losses 3+ losses
2-loss team 2 losses 3+ losses
Washington (6-2) 35% 65%
Utah (5-2) 19% 81%
Miami (5-2) 16% 84%
Wisconsin (5-2) 13% 87%
Penn State (5-2) 8% 92%
Texas A&M (5-2) 5% 95%
Texas Tech (5-2) 3% 97%

The odds of a Washington-Utah rematch in the Pac-12 title game are pretty good at this point, and UW would be favored in that game by about five points (win probability: 62 percent). Obviously Wazzu still has a role, and the Pac-12 South could still get super messy, but this is your most likely title game.

That leaves about three more slots, including the Playoff’s near-miss teams, and teams like Miami, Wisconsin, and this weekend’s Penn State-Iowa winner are in pretty good shape.

So what about the Group of 5?

Win probabilities for select G5 college football teams

G5 team 0 losses 1 loss 2+ losses
G5 team 0 losses 1 loss 2+ losses
UCF (7-0) 30% 44% 27%
Appalachian State (5-1) 0% 46% 54%
Fresno State (6-1) 0% 40% 60%
Buffalo (7-1) 0% 30% 70%
Utah State (6-1) 0% 23% 77%
USF (7-0) 2% 12% 86%
Houston (6-1) 0% 13% 87%
UAB (6-1) 0% 10% 90%

As noted on College GameDay this past weekend, UCF might be in the driver’s seat, but the Knights are far from safe. Yes, if they win out, they would — when taking last year’s run into account — have as good a shot as any G5 team at a CFP bid, especially if/when that fourth spot starts to get blurrier.

I’ll be frank, though: I don’t think the committee ever takes a G5 team seriously. I’ll happily admit I’m wrong if they ever choose to do so, but even with last year’s run, I don’t think an unbeaten UCF tops about sixth in the CFP rankings. Unfair? Massively. But that’s my opinion.

Odds are not in favor of UCF winning out, though.

The AAC — the East division, especially — is loaded with land mines. The Knights barely survived a trip to Memphis unbeaten, and they still have to face West contenders Temple and Cincinnati at home and volatile-as-ever (and still unbeaten, for now) USF on the road.

Surviving all that, withstanding always-tricky Navy (which isn’t nearly as good as normal this year) and then beating the AAC East champion (probably Houston) without a blemish will be awfully tough. S&P+ says there’s only a 30 percent chance of getting to the title game unscathed, and their win probability at home against UH would be about 67 percent, which cuts their odds of 12-0 down to about 20 percent.

And if they lose, then all hell could break loose in the G5 race.

Appalachian State, Fresno State, and Utah State have all looked mostly fantastic — each suffered only road blemishes against Big Ten teams (and while Fresno’s loss to Minnesota is sketchy, App and USU lost super-tight games to good teams) — and Buffalo has rolled through the non-Army portion of its schedule.

The odds of at least one of them finishing with just one loss are good, and depending on where UCF’s hypothetical loss comes, the résumés would be awfully comparable.

Unless Florida State beats Clemson or LSU beats Bama, we probably won’t see the most chaotic CFP race this year.

But there are plenty of lesser surprises ahead. So there’s that, at least.