It’s Week 3 of the 2020 college football season, but we’re still waiting on some teams to play their first games — of those still playing a fall season, of course. So while we’re keeping track of the top teams’ College Football Playoff chances, we’re not taking these numbers too seriously this early in the season.
That said, after playing its first game Saturday, Texas’ chance to make the playoffs got a solid boost, according to ESPN’s Playoff Predictor.
Entering their first game, the Longhorns ranked fifth in College Football Playoff chances at 28.7 percent. But after pummeling UTEP, 59-3, that number jumped to 42.6 percent, putting them third behind Clemson and Alabama and one spot ahead of Georgia, which was No. 3 last week.
Here’s a look at the four teams with the best chances to make the College Football Playoff after Week 2, as ranked by the Playoff Predictor formula.
1. Clemson Tigers
Playoff: 89.2 percent
National championship game: 63.3 percent
Win championship: 40.5 percent
Next game: The Citadel (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET)
2. Alabama Crimson Tide
Playoff: 76.7 percent
National championship game: 52.6 percent
Win championship: 30.1 percent
First game: At Missouri (Sept. 26)
3. Texas Longhorns
Playoff: 42.6 percent
National championship game: 16.6 percent
Win championship: 5.5 percent
Next game: At Texas Tech (Sept. 26)
4. Georgia Bulldogs
Playoff: 39.9 percent
National championship game: 18.3 percent
Win championship: 7.7 percent
First game: At Arkansas (Sept. 26)
As ESPN has previously noted, its Playoff Predictor is based on factors such as strength of record, number of losses, conference championships, the Football Power Index and the selection committee’s past behavior. But Big 12 fans probably want to know why Texas’ chances jumped so much, and why it’s higher than Oklahoma, which is No. 9 with a 18.3 percent playoff chance.
Currently, Texas’ Football Power Index (FPI) ranking is higher than Oklahoma’s, and that number is designed to measure a team’s strength and predict its future performance based on its past. Texas is projected to lose two games, while Oklahoma is projected to lose closer to three.
Also, it’s obviously super early in the season, but even though both Big 12 teams are 1-0, Oklahoma’s win was over Missouri State, an FCS team, while Texas beat UTEP, a program not on equal footing but still an FBS team. So that early comparison could be giving the Longhorns a boost.
Based on these computer-generated projections, Texas is also currently favored to win the Big 12. The Longhorns have a 51.9 percent chance to win the conference, while Oklahoma is at 25.1 percent in that category. Perhaps that’s because Texas is led by senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, while Oklahoma has redshirt freshman passer Spencer Rattler — though both players had standout performances this weekend.
So if Texas is currently projected to win the conference, and, based on the College Football Playoff committee’s past behavior, likely only one Big 12 team will be selected, then it’s the Longhorns and no one else. And that could be another reason why Texas’ playoff chances are higher than Oklahoma’s.
It also probably helps Texas to not have to compete against Big Ten or Pac-12 teams for a playoff spot — though one or both conferences could end up actually playing at some point in 2020.
Regardless, it’s so early in the season that these numbers are likely to change. But for now, here’s the rest of the top-10 teams with the best chances to make the playoff, per ESPN’s Playoff Predictor.
5. Auburn Tigers
Playoff: 26.9 percent
National championship game: 10.8 percent
Win championship: 4.2 percent
First game: Kentucky (Sept. 26)
6. UCF Knights
Playoff: 25.9 percent
National championship game: 7.7 percent
Win championship: 2.3 percent
First game: At Georgia Tech (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)
7. LSU Tigers
Playoff: 22 percent
National championship game: 9 percent
Win championship: 3.3 percent
First game: Mississippi State (Sept. 26)
8. Florida Gators
Playoff: 21.9 percent
National championship game: 7.7 percent
Win championship: 2.8 percent
First game: At Ole Miss (Sept. 26)
9. Oklahoma Sooners
Playoff: 18.3 percent
National championship game: 5.6 percent
Win championship: 1.6 percent
Next game: Kansas State (Sept. 26)
10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Playoff: 6.7 percent
National championship game: 1.9 percent
Win championship: 0.5 percent
Next game: South Florida (Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET)