The problem with college football is that the regular season determines who makes it to the playoff. This leads to two teams in a major conference being ranked number one and two, but only making the title game if they are playing each other. The College Football Playoff gives four teams an opportunity for a national championship without this disadvantage.
The “Pittsburgh Panthers have a legitimate College Football Playoff chance” is an article that discusses why the Pittsburgh Panthers have a legitimate College Football Playoff chance. The article also includes statistics and odds for the playoffs.
Pitt has a chance to make the playoffs. This team is a legitimate postseason contender.
The Panthers were initially mentioned when they began to appear in the Allstate Playoff Predictor’s projection a few weeks ago. The matchup versus Clemson was one of their toughest challenges at the moment. That box should be ticked.
Pitt now has a 22 percent chance of making the playoffs, placing seventh among all teams behind Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma, Cincinnati, Ohio State, and Michigan as we approach the initial CFP rankings. Then there’s Pitt. Despite the Panthers’ 44-41 defeat to Western Michigan at home. Pitt has a greater chance of reaching the CFP than a bevy of larger names, according to the Allstate Playoff Predictor. It has a significantly greater chance than Wake Forest, who is undefeated and in the same league!
It’s all a little perplexing. So, let’s take a look at the Panthers’ case.
Pitt is a fantastic actor.
According to FPI, the Panthers are the sixth best squad in the nation. Sixth place! That Cincinnati squad that has been touted as the first Group of 5 school to reach the College Football Playoff? Pitt is superior. Michigan State is undefeated? Pitt is superior. Notre Dame and Oregon each have one loss? Pitt is superior. Wake Forest, undefeated? Pitt is much superior. You get my drift.
So, what makes FPI think Pitt will be so successful? Simply said, Pitt has been outstanding on a play-by-play basis.
Efficiency is the measure we use to assess individual unit performance in the past. It’s the projected number of points added every play, adjusted for opponent quality and garbage time. Pitt is ranked sixth overall, ninth in offensive efficiency, fifth in defensive efficiency, and 105th in special teams efficiency. It’s worth noting that special teams has been a liability: Because it is the least stable of the three units, FPI predicts that the Panthers will be around average on special teams in the future.
Pitt’s offense is very strong on pass plays, which is ideal: the Panthers average 8.6 yards per dropback, which is the sixth-highest rate in the NCAA. Kenny Pickett has a QBR of third in the country and is developing into a Heisman contender.
You want things to be as easy as possible? Pitt presently ranks fifth in the nation with a plus-25.7 point differential per game.
And the Panthers’ unanticipated success is really working against them. Prior to the season, FPI’s opinion of Pitt was not exceptionally high in comparison to other key competitors. This is still taken into account, although Pitt’s FPI rating of No. 6 is a result of it.
Full Highlights of Clemson Tigers vs. Pittsburgh Panthers
It will be able to recover from the setback against Western Michigan.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: It doesn’t matter whose team you lose to as long as the schedule and record stay the same. Seriously.
To put it another way, Pitt is now ranked 17th in terms of record strength. It would have finished 17th if it had lost against Western Michigan, Georgia Tech, Clemson, or even New Hampshire. As long as the Panthers followed the same schedule and finished the season with a 6-1 record. Is it really that important?
When we compare Pitt to Ohio State, we can see that the Buckeyes were defeated by a far superior team in Oregon. However, Ohio State has yet to defeat a team of Clemson’s level. Or, for that matter, won a victory at Tennessee. When comparing timetables, Pitt’s has proven significantly more difficult. Which is why going 6-1 against Pitt’s schedule is marginally more remarkable than going 6-1 versus Ohio State’s (the Buckeyes rank 20th in SOR).
It has a 27% probability of winning out and might be a serious contender for one-loss champion.
Now that we’ve gotten beyond who Pitt fell to, let’s talk about whether it can still make the playoffs despite the setback. Of course, we’re talking about a scenario in which Pitt wins out — that’s the only way any of this counts — so imagine the Panthers going on a tear, winning out, and winning the ACC.
Because of everything we’ve just talked, it’s not that far-fetched: Pitt is a very powerful team, and it doesn’t have a particularly difficult schedule now that Clemson is out of the way.
Pitt would be ranked sixth in strength of schedule at 12-1. So, according to the model, Pitt would finish fifth in strength of schedule, sixth in FPI, have one defeat, and win the conference. It’s hardly a pristine resume, and a playoff spot isn’t certain. But it’ll most likely be enough to get in.
If you’re seeking for a comparison, consider this: Oklahoma in the year 2019. The Sooners finished sixth in SOR but tenth in FPI that season, a spot behind where Pitt is presently. They had a 12-1 record and were the Big 12 champions. They also advanced to the playoffs.
However, it would need some disorder.
Four of the following cannot be present on selection day for a 12-1 Pitt:
1 loss or undefeated Georgia
Alabama is a one-loss champion.
Oklahoma is the undefeated or one-loss champion.
Ohio State or Michigan are the undefeated or one-loss champions.
Undefeated Michigan State University
In addition, here is a non-exhaustive list of possible scenarios in which Pitt might lose:
That seems to be quite a sum! But here’s the thing: any scenario we devise to make four of them happen is very unlikely.
Let’s take a look at a chalky scenario. Oklahoma, Ohio State, and Alabama all have a 1 percent chance of winning out, with Georgia winning out until it loses to Alabama.
Let’s see if we can get this right: Oklahoma, Ohio State, Georgia, and Cincinnati are the winners. That’s a one-in-a-million probability, and it’s unclear whether Cincinnati or Pittsburgh would grab the last playoff place if the Panthers also won out.
These numbers may pile up quickly, especially when we consider that some of these clubs have space to lose a game. But here’s the point: We shouldn’t compare Pitt’s record to that of other current competitors. We should compare it on selection day… and there will very certainly be chaos in the meantime.
What is the difference between Pitt and Wake Forest?
It’s a bit surprising to see Pitt with a 22 percent probability of making the playoffs while Wake Forest, despite being undefeated, has a 1 percent chance. So, what’s the difference between the two? Quite a bunch, really.
FPI feels Pitt is a significantly superior squad than Wake. Remember how Pitt has the top points differential in the FBS at plus-25.7 points per game? Wake Forest’s score is just plus-16.9. Despite the fact that Pitt has had the 57th-most difficult schedule and Wake Forest has had the 91st-most difficult schedule, the Panthers are still undefeated.
Because FPI ranks Wake Forest as the 35th-best team in the FBS, the Demon Deacons have a substantially lower chance of winning out. This is exacerbated by the fact that Wake Forest has the 19th-most difficult remaining schedule, while Pitt has the 49th-most difficult remaining schedule.
In the end, the model estimates Wake Forest has a less than 1% probability of winning everything (including the ACC title game), compared to 27% for Pitt, which is why it is so eager to rule the Demon Deacons out of the playoffs.
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