Here Are College Football’s Most Important Week 8 Games

Thanks to our College Football Playoff model — which simulates every game of the season to figure out each team’s chance of reaching the final four stage — we can see how much influence any given game has on the overall playoff picture. Most games have little to no effect, but some can potentially swing the playoff probabilities not just for the two schools involved but also for numerous teams around the country. To help you prepare for Week 8 of the college football season, here are the games that matter most this weekend in terms of their potential cumulative effect on the entire nation’s playoff chances.


No. 3 Clemson (6-0) vs. No. 16 NC State (5-0)

Favorite: Clemson (84.1 percent)
Total potential CFP swing: 28.5 points

The stakes: Right now, we list Clemson as tied with Alabama for the best odds of making the playoff at 65 percent, a number that would rise to 74 percent with a Tiger win this week … or fall to 23 percent with a loss. Though it’s not overly likely — particularly since the game is in Death Valley — the Wolfpack do have the potential to pull off a huge surprise win. Despite a 5-0 record, NC State is still probably the nation’s best-kept secret (granted, its most impressive win so far is merely a 28-23 victory over Boston College), but it could really begin to gain national traction by knocking off Clemson. The Wolfpack’s playoff chances would rise to 37 percent with a win on Saturday, making them the rare unheralded team to make noise in today’s stratified college football world. Notre Dame and Ohio State should be rooting for the Wolfpack, too: The Irish would pick up 4 percentage points of playoff probability if Clemson loses, while the Buckeyes’ chances would improve by 3 percentage points. Clemson is an 18-point favorite, so don’t hold your breath, but this is still the game with the most potential playoff ramifications of any in Week 8.

How Clemson-NC State swings the playoff picture

Potential changes in College Football Playoff probability for selected teams based on the outcome of the Oct. 20 Clemson-NC State game

Change in odds w/ Clemson…
Team Current Playoff% Win Loss Wgtd Swing
Clemson 65.5% +8.1 -42.7 ±13.6
NC State 7.5 -5.7 +29.9 9.5
Notre Dame 50.1 -0.8 +4.1 1.3
Ohio State 51.7 -0.5 +2.9 0.9
Alabama 64.5 -0.3 +1.5 0.5
Oklahoma 23.3 -0.2 +1.1 0.3
Total* 28.5

Swing in playoff odds is weighted by the chance of each outcome — win or lose — actually happening.

*Total swing includes every game in the country — not just those listed here.

No. 9 Oklahoma (5-1) at TCU (3-3)

Favorite: Oklahoma (72.1 percent)
Total potential CFP swing: 17.7 points

The stakes: Last week, we talked about how Oklahoma could still make the College Football Playoff after losing to Texas earlier this month. The Sooners’ path hinged on taking care of business over their reasonably winnable remaining schedule and hoping for a peer like Notre Dame to slip up along the way. They almost got their wish for the latter with an Irish near-loss to Pitt, but OU’s own journey back starts with Saturday’s clash against the Horned Frogs. A loss would all but dash Oklahoma’s playoff hopes, and TCU is a tough opponent in spite of its 3-3 record, so the stakes for this one are already high from the Sooners’ perspective. But the game also picks up extra leverage from the fact that another loss would seriously damage OU’s chances of making the Big 12 championship (which helps conference leader Texas) and also remove it as a viable playoff rival for Notre Dame plus fellow one-loss squads LSU, Michigan and — now — Georgia, which fell to the Bayou Bengals last week.

How Oklahoma-TCU swings the playoff picture

Potential changes in College Football Playoff probability for selected teams based on the outcome of the Oct. 20 Oklahoma-TCU game

Change in odds w/ Oklahoma…
Team Current Playoff% Win Loss Wgtd Swing
Oklahoma 23.3% +6.1 -15.8 ±8.8
Notre Dame 50.1 -1.1 +2.8 1.6
Texas 15.0 -0.6 +1.5 0.8
Georgia 22.0 -0.5 +1.3 0.7
LSU 13.6 -0.4 +1.1 0.6
Michigan 15.5 -0.4 +1.1 0.6
Total* 17.7

Swing in playoff odds is weighted by the chance of each outcome — win or lose — actually happening.

*Total swing includes every game in the country — not just those listed here.

No. 6 Michigan (6-1) at No. 24 Michigan State (4-2)

Favorite: Michigan (66.3 percent)
Total potential CFP swing: 16.0 points

The stakes: Michigan’s season-opening loss to Notre Dame hurt its playoff chances, but research shows that, if you’re going to lose, it’s better to get it out of the way early and win out the rest of the season. Cross-state rival Michigan State is the Wolverines’ latest impediment to that plan, and the Spartans’ own meager playoff bid (which does exist!) received a shot in the arm when they beat Penn State in Happy Valley last week. There’s about a 1-in-3 chance that Sparty does the same to Michigan in East Lansing on Saturday, which would drop the Wolverines’ playoff probability to 5 percent (and elevate MSU’s to 7 percent). Georgia, Ohio State and Oklahoma would also get about a 1-point boost to their playoff probabilities if Michigan State wins. The Fighting Irish, however, are in an unfamiliar place here. Because of their head-to-head win over Michigan, Notre Dame fans should be rooting for Michigan to win, which would add about a half-point to the Irish’s chances of making the playoff.

How Michigan-Michigan State swings the playoff picture

Potential changes in College Football Playoff probability for selected teams based on the outcome of the Oct. 20 Michigan-Michigan State game

Change in odds w/ Michigan…
Team Current Playoff% Win Loss Wgtd Swing
Michigan 15.5% +5.1 -10.1 ±6.8
Michigan State 2.5 -2.5 +4.9 3.3
Georgia 22.0 -0.6 +1.2 0.8
Ohio State 51.7 -0.5 +1.1 0.7
Notre Dame 50.1 +0.4 -0.8 0.5
Oklahoma 23.3 -0.4 +0.8 0.5
Total* 16.0

Swing in playoff odds is weighted by the chance of each outcome — win or lose — actually happening.

*Total swing includes every game in the country — not just those listed here.

No. 5 LSU (6-1) vs. No. 22 Mississippi State (4-2)

Favorite: LSU (64.7 percent)
Total potential CFP swing: 15.9 points

The stakes: LSU, the other team whose odds we broke down a week ago, always needed to keep winning games in order to maintain its position as a playoff contender. It passed its first test with flying colors by upsetting Georgia last week, raising its playoff probability to 14 percent. That number would leap to 19 percent with a win over Mississippi State but plummet to 4 percent with a loss, effectively ending any realistic playoff chance for the Tigers. Those stakes are compounded by the slight gains for fellow SEC contenders Alabama and Georgia if Mississippi State can go into Baton Rouge and pull off the upset, to say nothing of the small playoff chance the Bulldogs would see (3 percent) if they win.

How LSU-Mississippi State swings the playoff picture

Potential changes in College Football Playoff probability for selected teams based on the outcome of the Oct. 20 LSU-Mississippi State game

Change in odds w/ LSU…
Team Current Playoff% Win Loss Wgtd Swing
LSU 13.6% +5.4 -9.8 ±6.9
Mississippi State 1.1 -1.1 +2.0 1.4
Alabama 64.5 -1.0 +1.9 1.3
Georgia 22.0 -0.8 +1.5 1.0
Notre Dame 50.1 -0.7 +1.2 0.9
Ohio State 51.7 -0.4 +0.8 0.5
Total* 15.9

Swing in playoff odds is weighted by the chance of each outcome — win or lose — actually happening.

*Total swing includes every game in the country — not just those listed here.

No. 2 Ohio State (7-0) at Purdue (3-3)

Favorite: Ohio State (81.2 percent)
Total potential CFP swing: 15.9 points

The stakes: The Buckeyes are in great shape right now, sitting undefeated with a 52 percent chance of making the playoff. And on paper, the Boilermakers don’t pose too great a threat to Ohio State’s winning streak, ranking 41st in ESPN’s Football Power Index ratings. But the great thing about college football’s regular season is that no team is safe, and any loss can throw a season into disarray. A slip-up against Purdue would drop OSU’s playoff chances by a whopping 21 percentage points, and the biggest beneficiaries would be Clemson, Michigan and Notre Dame — each of whom would receive multiple points of playoff probability with the Buckeyes dropping down. Ohio State should win this one as 12-point favorites, making all of these possible shakeups moot, but the potential for anarchy is lurking.

How Ohio State-Purdue swings the playoff picture

Potential changes in College Football Playoff probability for selected teams based on the outcome of the Oct. 20 Ohio State-Purdue game

Change in odds w/ Ohio State…
Team Current Playoff% Win Loss Wgtd Swing
Ohio State 51.7% +4.9 -21.0 ±7.9
Clemson 65.5 -0.8 +3.4 1.3
Michigan 15.5 -0.7 +3.0 1.1
Notre Dame 50.1 -0.5 +2.1 0.8
LSU 13.6 -0.4 +1.8 0.7
Texas 15.0 -0.3 +1.4 0.5
Total* 15.9

Swing in playoff odds is weighted by the chance of each outcome — win or lose — actually happening.

*Total swing includes every game in the country — not just those listed here.

Check out our latest college football predictions.

Source: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/here-are-college-footballs-most-important-week-8-games/

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