If you gave up on the chance that WSU could possibly make it to the College Football Playoff after the Cougs dropped the first two games of the season, a prominent prediction website is here to tell you that you gave up too soon!
Now that the Cougs have ripped off six wins in a row and debuted at No. 25 in the initial CFP rankings on Tuesday night, FiveThirtyEight.com predicts that if the Cougars win out, they’ve got a 45 percent chance of making it into the top four of the College Football Playoff. Even more interesting, that figure is actually the fourth-highest odds of making the playoff of all teams.
If you’re wondering how it could be possible that WSU’s odds essentially become a coin flip at that point, there are a few things in play here.
First off, that would include wins over Colorado and Washington — ranked 15th and fifth in the initial CFP rankings — and probably Utah, currently ranked 16th. That would be a trio of top 15ish victories in consecutive weeks, the sort of thing that makes an impression on a committee of people who are tasked with selecting the four best teams in the country at that particular moment.
Additionally, wins over those specific teams also has the benefit of removing the possibility that they also could win out, thus removing competition for that fourth spot; taking Washington — whom FiveThirtyEight projects at this moment to have the fourth-best odds of making the playoff (47 percent) — out of the equation is actually pretty massive to giving another team, like WSU, a chance.
Also, you have to consider how FiveThirtyEight arrives at its projections. You can check out the full methodology here, but we can basically assume that the roughly 50 percent chance of the Cougs making it includes scenarios from the simulation in which other teams falter to a degree we don’t expect right now (e.g. Ohio State, Louisville, Texas A&M, West Virginia, Baylor, Florida, etc. all or almost all lose another game). Or, for the other 50 percent of scenarios, Ohio State and/or Louisville and/or Texas A&M win out and WSU knocking UW out of the top four puts one of them in.
It’s also worth noting that the 50-50 forecast is an average of all the possible scenarios. If you put in other specific scenarios, you can get different numbers. Here’s an interesting one: If the Cougs win out and Ohio State wins out by beating Michigan, FiveThirtyEight projects the Cougs to have a better chance of making the playoff than the Wolverines. TAKE THAT JIM.
If you’re absolutely committed to being a downer, you can note that FiveThirtyEight also only gives the Cougs a 5 percent (or 1-in-20) chance of winning out.
But what fun is that? Dream big!