Friday, December 2, 2016

Spread Offense 12.2.16: Buy or Sell The Potential College Playoff Teams #CFBPlayoff

By Pat Luhta, @PLuhta

The college football rankings are set to be announced this Sunday. Before then though, we have a weekend of conference championships, some of which could have a major impact on the final rankings and determine who is in or out.

Here, we will take a look at each potential playoff team and give the reasons why we should buy stock in them making the playoffs, along with why would should sell stock in them making the playoffs. There are more than a few teams that have cases to be made, even if they need a little help still, so let's examine them here.

1. Alabama

WHY TO BUY: Alabama is the only undefeated team left in all of the power 5 conferences, and it would take some of epic meltdown in the SEC title game in order for them to not make the playoffs. They don't have to just lose, but lose by an incredible amount along with having some key injuries that could shift the committee's opinion. There's no such thing as a guarantee, but Alabama making the playoffs regardless of the outcome in the SEC title game is as close to a guarantee as there is.

WHY TO SELL: At this point, if someone sells stock in Alabama being a playoff team, then they need to be investigated for insider trading. They must know that some investigation has been launched about Alabama playing with ineligible players this season so they are going to be forced to forfeit their wins and the committee won't want that black cloud in the playoffs. That's the type of scenario that people who sell stock would have to be hoping for, so just play it safe and don't sell.

2. Ohio State

WHY TO BUY: Ohio State is currently ranked #2 and has the best overall resume as far as strength of schedule, wins over top 25 teams and wins over top 10 teams are concerned. Even though they will not be playing for their conference championship, a drop from #2 to #5 seems highly unlikely. No team has ever made the playoffs without winning their conference so there's still some doubt, but it's a pretty safe bet here that the Buckeyes will be in the playoffs.

WHY TO SELL: We are unsure how much emphasis the committee will put on a conference championship, so there's a glimmer of a chance that Ohio State will be penalized for not winning the Big Ten and the committee will overlook them because of it. There's also the big issue of the committee having to decide between them and Penn State if the Nittany Lions win the conference. Ohio State only has 1 loss while Penn State has 2, but a conference title plus being the head to head winner(PSU beat OSU this season) could make up for that 1 loss. To sell stock in OSU, you would have to buy into conference titles being very meaningful to the committee and that Penn State is going to win the Big Ten title on Saturday.

3. Clemson

WHY TO BUY: This one is pretty clear cut, buy stock in Clemson making the playoffs as long as you think that they will beat Virginia Tech on Saturday and win the ACC title. If they do, then they are an absolute lock for the playoffs and could jump to #2 even.

WHY TO SELL: Unsure about Clemson beating Virginia Tech? Thinking that an upset is about to occur? Then selling here is a good idea. If Clemson wins then they are in, but if Clemson loses then they are all but out of it. They would need Washington to also lose their conference title, then be at the mercy of the playoff committee and they choose between the B1G conference winner, Michigan, and Colorado(who would have beaten Washington in Pac-12 title) and even possibly the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State winner for the final 2 entries. There's still a chance to make it if they lose, but they would need a few dominos to fall their way, so if an upset is brewing here then sell stock in Clemson.

4. Washington

WHY TO BUY: This is just like Clemson, win their conference and they are in. The Huskies are sitting at #4 so they seem the most susceptible to be replaced, but they only have 1 loss while all teams behind them have 2 or more. That means that if Washington wins, then they would have to be replaced with a team with 1 more loss than they do, highly unlikely especially since they will be toting a conference title.

WHY TO SELL: This is even easier than Clemson's "sell" scenario, if they lose to Colorado then they are not making the playoffs. The committee doesn't tend to care much for the Pac-12 this season, as shown when Washington, who was undefeated at the time, was originally ranked #5 while a 1 loss Texas A&M team was at #4 when the first batch of playoff ranking came out a 5 weeks ago. Washington loses and they won't have the backdoor scenario that Clemson does, the Pac-12 champ(Colorado) will have a better shot at making it than the Huskies would at that point. So if you really think Colorado will pull this one out then sell all the stock you have of Washington.

5. Michigan

WHY TO BUY: 1 slip up by either Clemson or Washington and the Wolverines might be back in it. It's still risky even if that happens since that loss to Iowa may haunt them here, but they have an excellent case to make the playoffs especially if Washington loses. If the Huskies go down, then Michigan has the head to head win over Colorado and whoever wins the B1G(Wisconsin or Penn State) and all teams in the running would have 2 losses. It would appear in that case that Michigan could slide in to that 4th seed and make the playoffs.

WHY TO SELL: There seems to be a very good chance that championship week goes chalk and Clemson and Washington both win, then the final 4 of Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Washington is all but finalized. The other scenario is the B1G champ, namely Wisconsin, could hop over Michigan even if either Clemson or Washington lose. The main gripe will be that the Wolverines have beaten both competitors in the B1G title game, but the champ gaining a conference title and top 10 win to add to their resume could vault them over. Usually that 5 seed is first in line if one of the top 4 does falter, but losing 2 of their last 3 games puts Michigan in a spot where they could also get leapfrogged. This really is a 50/50 scenario on whether to buy or sell here, safe call is to sell but it isn't much of a gamble to buy here.

6. Wisconsin

WHY TO BUY: Here is where that pendulum swings from"mostly buying" to "likely selling", especially here with Wisconsin. They first would need to beat Penn State on Saturday. Next, they would need Clemson and/or Washington to lose. Then, they would still hope for the committee to choose them over Michigan since they aren't going to choose 3 teams from one conference(Ohio State would already be in.) In order to buy stock,  you have to feel fairly confident that all 3 take place, and all 3 are high risks so buy with extreme caution.

WHY TO SELL: Because the 3 events that need to take place for them to make the playoffs is a long shot. It will be a struggle to beat Penn State even, let alone banking on Clemson or Washington to get upset in their conference title game. Then if the Badgers pass those 2 phases, jumping up over a team that beat them in the regular season is also a fairly big risk.  I can see a reason to hold onto some stock just incase this happens since it would be a pretty big payout, but the smart play here is to sell stock in Wisconsin.

7. Penn State

WHY TO BUY: Though the Nittany Lions are sitting 3 spots away from the final playoff spot, they actually have a decent case if they can take care of Wisconsin on Saturday. Penn State would need to win along with Washington and Clemson winning as well. This opens the debate between them and Ohio State, who Penn State beat this season. They may need to do some politicking in order really drive their point across, but a 2 loss B1G champion could end up in the 4th spot over a 1 loss team due to the head to head result. Again, not knowing what the committee truly looks for when mapping out which teams should make the playoffs, but a win along with some help from Clemson and Washington could push PSU into the final playoff spot.

WHY TO SELL: Penn State is currently the underdog against Wisconsin, though it's a slim margin. But if they do not beat Wisconsin then they have no shot at the playoffs, so if you believe that the Badgers will win then go ahead and sell here. The Nittany Lions' overall body of work could be an issue for them as well even if they do win the Big Ten championship. Penn State has a win over Ohio State, but that is their only win against top 25 teams and they actually have a losing overall record against the top 25(1-2.) So while they could argue about their championship and head to head win over Ohio State, the Buckeyes overall have a much better body of work which would lead many to believe that they will get in over Penn State.

8. Colorado

WHY TO BUY: Only reason to buy stock in Colorado being a playoff team is if you enjoy rooting for extreme chaos to occur, because that's what it would take for the Buffaloes to make it. Colorado would need to beat Washington in the Pac-12 title game, would need Clemson to take an L in the ACC title game, and would need the B1G championship game to look like a complete dumpster fire and then they may have a shot as long as they don't get jumped by the winner of the Big 12 or even a Clemson team that lost to not fall behind them. The odds are stacked against them for sure, and they may be better off just playing spoiler to Washington's season rather than aim for the playoffs.

WHY TO SELL: Colorado would need somewhat of a miracle to make the playoffs, and it's never a good idea to hold onto stock that is based on the premise of a miracle. Everything could go Colorado's way this weekend and they still may not find themselves higher than 6th, let alone all the way up to 4th.

9. Oklahoma

WHY TO BUY: You're buying here because you think the scenario laid out in Colorado's path to the playoff will happen, but believe that the Sooners will jump them. Washington and Clemson both lose and the B1G title game is an unwatchable mess, all with the assumption that Oklahoma will beat Oklahoma State this weekend as well. And if you are curious why the Big Ten needs to have a terrible title game in order for either CU or OU to get in, it's because the committee will not take 3 Big Ten teams in the final 4 and neither team wants to compare/contrast resumes with Michigan. So if the B1G title game is poorly played, then Alabama, Ohio State and Michigan all get in and Oklahoma may have a better resume than Clemson, Colorado and B1G champ. Again, this is what needs to fall into place and we are talking a complete crapshoot even if it does happen.

WHY TO SELL: Needing to beat a top 10 team along with banking on the outcomes of 2 heavy favorites to both lose and then cross fingers that Oklahoma's resume somehow is well received enough to jump from 9th to 4th is comparable to playing Russian roulette with all 6 bullets in the chamber. There's a reason why Oklahoma is still sitting at 9th even though they are riding an 8 game winning streak and is undefeated in conference play, that should be telltale on how the committee views the Sooners' body of work.

10. Oklahoma State

WHY TO BUY: Mike Gundy already has a famous speech from a postgame press conference where he reminded everyone how old he was and why he doesn't read the newspaper. If Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma, then Gundy will need to deliver another memorable speech that resonates loudly with the committee to the point that they are willing to erase an Oklahoma State loss from existence. Buying stock here means to buy into the Cowboys winning and Gundy then reminding the entire world that they lost 1 game on a play that shouldn't have occurred, that Oklahoma State won the game and due to a referee blunder, the opposing team(Central Michigan) was undeservedly awarded one untimed down in which they managed an improbable hail mary lateral for the game winning touchdown. If that game is called correctly then Oklahoma State is now 11-1 on the season and deserves to be right there with Ohio State, Clemson and Washington as the 1 loss teams in playoff discussion. They also would need Clemson or Washington to lose and flipping a loss into a win in the minds' of the committee is a tough sell, but if you buy stock in them as a playoff team then you're buying Mike Gundy's ability to sell water to a camel.

WHY TO SELL: When a team is given less than a 1% chance of making the playoffs based on computer generated analysis that combs through every possible outcome this weekend, it's best to sell their playoff stock.

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