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ESPN Simulation Sends BYU Football to the College Football Playoff

ESPN Analytics gives BYU a 13% chance to make the College Football Playoff.

2020 has been a very strange year. If you would have asked me in January if BYU would be in the College Football Playoff discussion on Halloween, I would have said no. Nevertheless, BYU is set to face Western Kentucky on Saturday and odds are that BYU will be 7-0 on Sunday morning. ESPN currently gives BYU a 13% chance to make the College Football Playoff. The ESPN analytics team recently ran thousands of CFP scenarios and BYU made the cut in the first simulation. Let's be clear, a lot of things would need to happen for BYU to make the playoff. Here is the scenario that ESPN outlined in which BYU made the playoff:


Semifinal 1: No. 1 Alabama over No. 4 BYU
Semifinal 2: No. 3 Ohio State over No. 2 Clemson
National championship: Alabama over Ohio State

Headline: "Heisman winner Mac Jones outshines Justin Fields in the title game, as all four Heisman finalists make it to the playoff for the second consecutive year. After Clemson withstood Trevor Lawrence's absence in the fall, a returned Lawrence caps his brilliant collegiate career with another great performance, but ultimately the wear and tear of Clemson playing three more games is the difference against Ohio State."

How we got here: "Alabama runs the table and hands Georgia its second loss, again in convincing fashion. In the ACC championship, Clemson comes from behind to beat Notre Dame by 10. It is Notre Dame's third loss, after losing to Clemson and North Carolina in the regular season. The committee selects Alabama and Clemson as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds before members even walk into the decision room."

In the Big Ten, Indiana pulls off another miraculous upset on Nov. 21 and beats Ohio State. The Buckeyes still make it to the Big Ten championship, where they easily beat a Purdue team that is limping to a West division title after losing to Rutgers and Nebraska in consecutive weeks.

Spencer Rattler is able to will Oklahoma back into the top 10 after it wins out and beats Iowa State for the Big 12 title, but the two early-season losses haunt the Sooners.

Out west, Stanford beats a one-loss Arizona State in the Pac-12 championship to finish 7-0. Its season-opening win at Oregon diminishes as the rest of the Pac-12 North beats up on one another.

In this simulation, there is no clear-cut No. 4 team. Stanford is an undefeated Power 5 champion but played only seven games and did not look impressive in several close wins. BYU is 10-0, having beaten both 8-1 MWC champion Boise State and 8-1 MWC runner-up San Diego State. Cincinnati wins the AAC, but a loss to Houston leaves it on the outside.

Strength of record (SOR) would suggest Georgia has the best résumé of potential No. 4 teams in this situation, but the committee's aversion to losses leaves Stanford as the favorite to get the No. 4 seed. In perhaps the biggest upset in the committee's history, BYU gets the selection before losing by three touchdowns to Alabama 45-24.