We’re breaking down the biggest movers in our top 25 and revealing our TRACR projection model’s NCAAF picks for this week’s biggest matchups.

From here on out, there is little room for error.

For those teams that have played their way into position for a College Football Playoff spot, every game can either move them closer to a national championship or potentially drop them out of contention.

While there are still four weeks to go in the regular season, the race to the playoff officially began this week when the committee released its first rankings. Atop those initial rankings is Ohio State (8-0), followed by two-time defending national champion Georgia (8-0), Michigan (8-0), Florida State (8-0), Washington (8-0) and Oregon (7-1) at No. 6.

It should be noted that it remains to be seen what, if anything, transpires from the Wolverines being under NCAA investigation for allegedly stealing signs earlier this season.

“We really view it as an NCAA issue and not a CFP issue,” CFP chair Boo Corrigan said on ESPN’s rankings release show. “At this point in time, when we’re looking at it, we want to find the top four teams.”

So how did the committee do? How does its selections to compare to which teams the data points to as having the highest playoff potential?

According to our playoff potential rankings, the answer is … both good and bad. We’ll explain. Heading into Week 10, our model has a huge gap between its No. 6 and No. 7 with Ohio State owning a 91.0 playoff potential rating and Kansas State at 53.2. 

Teams with a rating between 90-100 should be considered the favorites for the playoff, while those between 80-90 have playoff potential, but would likely need to win out and have one team ahead of them fall. Teams between 61-80 would not be included unless there is a little chaos and those between 40-60 are probably two- or three-loss schools that would not make it barring total chaos (i.e. every team ahead of them somehow losing out).

Getting back to the current rankings, it’s clear that our data indicates that only six teams should be in serious consideration at this point.

Though the six teams the committee selected are the same as our top six, the order of the rankings are much different starting with the Buckeyes at the bottom of our top group instead of at No. 1. And while Washington edged Oregon 36-33 in their head-to-head matchup, the Huskies have fallen behind the Ducks after struggling to slip past Arizona State (15-7) and Stanford (42-33) over the past two weeks.

Oregon, meanwhile, rolled to an impressive 35-6 victory at then-No. 13 Utah last Saturday and is now No. 2 in TRACR and fourth in our playoff potential rankings.

TRACR (Team Rating Adjusted for Conference and Roster) is a net efficiency metric that evaluates how well a team performs based on who it plays. The model, which is trained on over 10 years of data, is based on an EPA (expected points added) calculation weighed by who teams play.

college football playoff

On the Rise

SMU has been one of the biggest movers, jumping from 16.5 to 23.1 in TRACR and increasing its probability of winning the rest of its regular-season games from 47.5% to 74.5% after its fourth straight win last weekend.

The Mustangs have two losses (at Oklahoma and at TCU), but they’ve won their last four games (Charlotte, at East Carolina, at Temple, Tulsa) by a combined 189-36 margin.

Now, they’re not only ninth in TRACR but also eighth in playoff potential rating at 52.4. That puts the co-leaders of the American Athletic Conference in the category of teams that would not make it barring total chaos (i.e. every team ahead of them somehow losing out).

SMU does not play Tulane (7-1 overall, 4-0 in the AAC) or UTSA (5-3, 4-0) during the regular season. So you’re saying they have a chance?

Yes, we are.

The Fall of Clemson

One of our model’s most eye-opening data points is its projection that Clemson only has a 76.0% chance of reaching six wins and becoming bowl eligible.

Clemson? Struggling to even qualify for a bowl game? What?

The Tigers appeared to be well on their way after losing 28-7 at Duke – not so bad of a loss looking back – by winning four of their next five games. Their only loss during that stretch was a 31-24 overtime defeat to then-No. 4 Florida State.

Clemson, however, has lost to Miami in double overtime (28-20) and at NC State (24-17) in its last two games. At 4-4, the once-proud program will need to find two more victories out of a road test at Notre Dame, home dates against Georgia Tech and North Carolina and a finale at South Carolina.

The Tigers haven’t lost three in a row since 2010 in Dabo Swinney’s third season and haven’t failed to reach a bowl game since 2004 when they finished 6-5 under Tommy Bowden.

Week 10 College Football Predictions

Which teams are the moneyline best bets? How do they compare to sportsbooks’ college football picks?

Here are the rest of our model’s win probabilities for all the TRACR top 25 college football games:

TRACR No. 1 Michigan 99.4% over No. 88 Purdue

No. 2 Oregon 96.7% over No. 70 California

No. 3 Georgia 88.1% over No. 27 Missouri

No. 4 Washington 78.1% over No. 19 USC

No. 5 Florida State 96.2% over No. 78 Pittsburgh

No. 6 Ohio State 81.0% over No. 28 Rutgers

No. 7 LSU 60.7% over No. 14 Alabama

No. 8 Kansas State 57.4% over No. 13 Texas

No. 9 SMU 88.8% over No. 53 Rice

No. 10 Penn State 71.3% over No. 24 Maryland

No. 11 Notre Dame 77.2% over No. 29 Clemson

No. 12 Oklahoma 86.9% over No. 50 Oklahoma State

No. 15 Oregon State 87.6% over No. 64 Colorado

No. 16 Texas A&M 50.9% over No. 17 Ole Miss

No. 18 UCLA 55.6% over No. 21 Arizona

No. 20 Louisville 79.0% over No. 46 Virginia Tech

No. 22 North Carolina 98.3% over (FCS) Campbell

No. 23 Miami (FL) 85.9% over No. 69 NC State

No. 25 Duke 24, No. 81 Wake Forest 21 (on Thursday)

On the outside of the CFB top 25 looking in: No. 26 Tennessee (vs. UConn), No. 27 Missouri, No. 28 Rutgers, No. 29 Clemson, No. 30 Florida (vs. Arkansas), No. 31 Troy (W 28-10 vs. South Alabama on Thursday), No. 32 Wisconsin (at Indiana), No. 33 Air Force (vs. Army), No. 34 Nebraska (at Michigan State), No. 35 Kansas (at Iowa State).

Rounding out the top 40 in TRACR are No. 36 Texas State (vs. Georgia Southern), No. 37 UTSA (at North Texas), No. 38 Tulane (at East Carolina), No. 39 South Alabama (L 28-10 at Troy on Thursday) and No. 40 TCU (L 35-28 at Texas Tech on Thursday).

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