In its final forecast Playoff Predictor believes the last spot in the College Football Playoff will come down to Ohio State and Oklahoma -- and that the Buckeyes have the edge though both teams have a legitimate shot. In terms of overall team strength and resume, the margin between the Big Ten champion and Big 12 champion remained relatively small following Saturday's action.
Playoff Predictor gives Ohio State a 71 percent chance to reach the playoff, ahead of Oklahoma at 26 percent. Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame are all virtual locks.
A full explanation of our model's methodology can be found here, but it was created by studying the committee's previous rankings over the past four seasons.
Keep in mind that the model doesn't explicitly know that the selection committee ranked Oklahoma ahead of Ohio State in its penultimate rankings. And also note that while Oklahoma is at 26 percent, that means it is still very much alive in this race (in football terms, they have about the chance of an 8.5-point underdog).
All that being said, why does Playoff Predictor lean toward Ohio State?
Because when it comes down to best and most deserving, the Buckeyes take both. That's according to our metrics, FPI and Strength of Record, respectively.
The most important of those is accomplishment, which the committee has shown is its biggest factor in determining its rankings in the past.
The simple version of the debate comes down to Ohio State having better wins (vs. Michigan, at Penn State) than Oklahoma but a worse loss (29-point loss at Purdue). But Strength of Record gives us a better picture of each team's full body of work: and the Buckeyes finished fourth in Strength of Record, ahead of the Sooners in sixth. In other words: an average top-25 team would have had a 6 percent chance to go 12-1 with Ohio State's schedule, and a 7.7 percent chance with Oklahoma's.
Fifteen of the 16 past playoff teams finished in the top four in Strength of Record. Ohio State in 2014 was the lone exception.
Of course, "best" does play some role in the equation. And in this case, the two teams were plenty close enough that either could be argued as the superior one. Ultimately, however, FPI believes that going forward Ohio State is 21.4 points better than the average FBS team, while Oklahoma is only 21.0 points better.
If it really came down to the four best teams, then another contender - Georgia - would be actually be a shoo-in. The Bulldogs, who narrowly lost to the best team in the country on Saturday, rank third in FPI (26 points better than an average FBS team), well ahead of the next tier of teams that features Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Notre Dame.
We can debate whether Georgia's second loss and lack of conference championship should keep it out of the playoff, but the committee's precedent indicates that it will. Playoff Predictor exists to forecast what the committee will do, based on its past behavior. And with that information at hand it believes the final spot will go to either Ohio State or Oklahoma.