Rematch, championship game?
Four point nine percent
LSU and Alabama continue to storm through their schedules with little resistance. On Saturday, LSU beat up on National Champion Auburn 45-10. The LSU defensive line dominated, allowing only 2.6 yards per carry (87 total) to an Auburn offense that has averaged 4.4 yards per carry this season. This followed last week’s 31 point win over Tennessee on the road. Last year, LSU needed a late game miracle to squeak by Tennessee at home and lost by 7 to Auburn. LSU’s vast improvement this year has bumped their rating from 15.6 at the end of last year to 28.8 now. Alabama started slowly the last two weeks against Mississippi and Tennessee but dominated the opposition in the second half. They outscored Tennessee 31-0 by not allowing a single first down in the second half on Saturday. Alabama and LSU, along with Stanford, have gained separation atop The Power Rank with Wisconsin’s loss to Michigan State and Boise State’s poor showing at home against Air Force. These 3 teams are 6 points clear of 4th ranked Oregon.
LSU and Alabama have the week off before they play in the Tuscaloosa Super Bowl on November 5. Many have argued that these two teams should play again in the National Championship game. While politics will play a huge role in determining who plays in this game, we can say something quantitative about an Alabama LSU rematch with The Power Rank. Our rankings imply a win probability for each team in every game. Last week, we gave the probability that each of 10 teams would remain undefeated and predicted a 0.5% likelihood that Alabama, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Stanford all end the season undefeated. Losses by Wisconsin and Oklahoma late Saturday night validated this prediction. Here are updated probabilities for the remaining undefeated teams.
Boise State: 60.4%
Oklahoma State: 29.6%
Kansas State: 0.7%
Many things must happen for LSU and Alabama to both reach the National Championship game. First, every other undefeated team must lose at least one game. It is incredibly unlikely that an undefeated Stanford team with a quarterback who gave up being the first pick in the NFL draft to finish his degree would get shut out of the championship as one of two undefeated teams. The same goes for an Oklahoma State team led by a 28 year old quarterback who found college football after not making the major leagues as a pitcher. The Power Rank gives a 13.5% chance that Boise State, Stanford, Oklahoma State, Clemson, Houston and Kansas State all lose at least one game. Then, LSU and Alabama must both win all their remaining regular season games. We give this a 42.1% chance. While less than even odds might seem strange, LSU has a game with Arkansas while Alabama goes on the road to Mississippi State and Auburn. Last week, we discussed how the probability of winning all games goes down rapidly with the number of games. Last, the winner of the Tuscaloosa Super Bowl must win the SEC championship game. Assuming that South Carolina emerges from the East, there is a 86.5% chance that LSU or Alabama clear this hurdle. With these assumptions, there is 4.9% chance that LSU and Alabama play in the National Championship game. One in 20 is not a high likelihood.
The biggest barrier to a championship rematch is the need for the 6 remaining undefeated teams to lose at least once, a scenario with a 13.5% chance. Of course, with all the murkiness of two human polls and a set of computer rankings not allowed to use margin of victory, there are other scenarios that allow for an LSU Alabama rematch. Suppose Boise State goes undefeated but needs a Hail Mary to beat TCU at home and a officiating blunder to win at San Diego State. What would happen if Boise State and Alabama were the only two undefeated teams but LSU loses to Alabama by 1, crushes Arkansas by 49 and clearly stands out as the best one loss team? Chaos. No one from the south would accept Boise State in the championship game, while the rest of the country would riot or vomit with 2 SEC teams in the championship game. On the more rational side, consider the following possibility. First, Boise State goes undefeated. Second, the SEC champion, either Alabama or LSU, goes undefeated. Third, the loser of the Alabama LSU game only loses once. Last, every other team loses at least one game. The Power Rank gives this scenario a 7.4% chance. For all the haters of the system, this is your best bet for chaos.
Have a scenario of which you’d like to have the probability? Leave us a comment, please. Thanks for reading.