Playoff Vote-In Candidate Odds

LightningDragon · February 26, 2024


By: Cole Mantell (@lightningdragon)

With just one week to go in the regular season, we know for sure almost every team is getting into the playoffs via the automatic qualifiers. However, that still leaves four valuable spots for many teams to fight over. First, let’s recap the rules. The top three teams in each of the four conferences automatically make the playoffs. If you would like a detailed recap of where each conference stands, Ryan did a great writeup a few days ago on where we stand entering Week 8.

After those 12 teams automatically qualify, the league will vote in the final four teams of the 16-team playoff. Those four teams can be from any conference, and there are no formal rules on getting voted in. However, there surely will be plenty of debates over the next few weeks on said rules, which will make the competition that much more interesting as Rivalry Week goes on. With that said, we will be using the most likely scenario for each conference’s automatic qualifiers after Week 7 for this article. That means the automatic qualifiers for this article are as follows. 

The Big 10 already has Illinois, Michigan, and Penn State. The Big XII already has Texas, Cincinnati, and Oklahoma State. The ACC (possibly not in this order but for sure these three teams) has Florida State, Miami, and Notre Dame. That only leaves the SEC. For this article, we are using the most likely scenario that the three teams that automatically qualify for the playoffs from that conference are Kentucky, Alabama, and Florida. That is because if Florida beats Georgia (no matter what LSU does), the Gators will have a tiebreaker over LSU after beating them in Week 2. Florida will likely be the favorite on Tuesday, and thus we are assuming here Georgia doesn’t pull the upset.

With that in mind, we’ll be listing the most likely teams to be voted in by the fans in order of likeliest odds. I’ve also approximated the chances in a percentage form, but that is only a guess based on team records and likely outcomes this week. I’ll stress that those percentages included are based on whether every favored team wins this week, which rarely happens in the CFSL. One big win or loss and those percentages can go right out the window. So without further ado:

LSU Tigers (5-2) (99% Odds)

Put simply, LSU is going to the playoffs regardless of what happens in their game on Wednesday or the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party on Tuesday. They are the only team with five wins at risk of even technically not qualifying automatically and have been statistically one of, if not the very best offenses in the CFSL. Take away an early season setback against Florida, and the Tigers are talking about possibly being a Top 5 squad in the CFSL, period. This is not a team an automatic qualifier is going to look forward to playing in the first round. Good luck.

Oregon Ducks (4-3) (95% Odds)

The only universe where Oregon is not a shoo-in for a vote-in campaign is if one, they lose to their 1-6 rival Washington Huskies and two, other chaos happens around the league. Already at four wins, most of the teams below the Ducks in this list either don’t have four wins and/or have less impressive wins. Their big wins over fellow bubble teams USC and Ohio State will help them here. And the three teams they lost to (Penn State, Michigan, Illinois) have a combined record of 18-3. As long as they take care of business Tuesday in Seattle (and even very likely if they don’t), Oregon is a vote-in playoff team.

USC (3-4) (60% Odds)

Notice the large dropoff in odds from Oregon to USC. After the two likely candidates in LSU and Oregon pass, you could realistically list five or more teams who can make that jump next week in the voting. USC is one of a handful three win teams where if they can beat their rival this week, will likely get in. USC plays Notre Dame at home on Monday night in a game where they likely will be underdogs against the 5-2 Fighting Irish. An upset over Notre Dame means they are almost for sure going in. A loss, so long as it is a close game, likely gets USC in as well considering most other teams in this range also have similar questions. They’ve beaten a playoff team in Florida. They’ve played one-score games against two other playoff teams in Michigan and Penn State. Barring a big loss against Notre Dame and chaos in the SEC, it seems extremely likely USC and their large fan base will get them the votes to play some postseason football.

Georgia (3-4) (50% Odds)

Georgia is in a tough spot, but not a complicated one. If they can beat Florida, they’ll be almost guaranteed to get in the playoffs. But, there are a few hurdles. First off, Florida will be the favorite on Tuesday in Jacksonville. The Gators have one of the best passing offenses again this season, and Georgia at times this season has struggled against the pass. Second, if they lose, there is a very good chance that this final spot is up in the air. LSU already will likely be the SEC wildcard in this scenario. Getting in as the second vote-in from the same conference likely won’t be easy. And that is without considering other teams around the league. For example, if Georgia loses and Clemson wins upsetting LSU, their season is over. Speaking of which:

Clemson (3-4) (45% Odds)

The fact that Clemson is even in this position is a credit to AD Loki Gunderson. After starting the season 1-3, the Tigers have won two of their last three, including a big upset over UNC. If Clemson can beat LSU, they are going to have a very good shot at a vote-in spot, regardless of the rest of the field. However, Clemson has already been mercied twice this season (Week 1 vs Miami, Week 7 vs Notre Dame). LSU is a juggernaut as well. This gives Clemson no room for error. A loss eliminates them from contention no matter what. But beating LSU will give Clemson the resume boost they need.

Auburn (3-4) (40% Odds)

Auburn is in a very similar spot to Clemson. However, their path here has been a bit different. Auburn has beaten the teams they are supposed to by a large margin (55-13 over Clemson Week 2, 80-38 over Baylor Week 4, 44-18 over Tennessee Week 7). They’ve also played two playoff teams close in Kentucky and LSU. So why is Auburn less likely than a team they beat in Clemson? Well, a few reasons. First, Auburn plays in the SEC and has a 1-4 conference record, only beating Tennessee in conference play. Auburn needs Georgia to lose to improve their chances of being one of two SEC teams voted in. It seems unlikely the SEC would have three teams voted in, even if deserving. And secondly, while Clemson has a tough matchup against LSU, Auburn plays Alabama in the Iron Bowl this week. Auburn has lost 7 straight to the rival Crimson Tide, and the Tigers stand almost no chance of getting voted in as a 3-5 team. But if they can break the streak and beat Alabama? Then there might be a party to crash.

2 Win Teams (UNC, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Ohio State, Boise State, Baylor, WVU) (1%)

I’ve put all the two-win teams in a tie at 7th because they all have the same problem. Who are they going to jump? At this point, it would be multiple teams to get that 4th spot. That’s not to say a big win from Ohio State, for example, over rival Michigan won’t help. But the Buckeyes in this example would have to hope Clemson, Georgia, and Auburn all lose by a lot to get in. Needless to say, these seven teams are looking for a miracle this week.


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