What it really takes to make the CFB Playoffs (Part 1). Analyzing the Florida State and Ohio State results.


The off-season has been filled with so many permutations for what it takes to make the college football playoffs, it’s become exhausting, confusing, and downright over complicated. Throw it all out, because there are two sure ways to make the playoff – blow teams away, and simply don’t lose. This will be a 2 part series, starting with how much scoring margin matters.

Let’s look at Ohio State results last year… The Buckeyes had 9 victories by 14 or more points prior to the playoffs.

August 30 vs. Navy* W 34–17
September 6 Virginia Tech* L 21–35
September 13 Kent State* W 66–0
September 27 Cincinnati* W 50–28
October 4 at Maryland W 52–24
October 18 Rutgers W 56–17
October 25 at Penn State W 31–24 2OT
November 1 Illinois W 55–14
November 8 at #7 Michigan State W 49–37
November 15 at Minnesota W 31–24
November 22 Indiana W 42–27
November 29 Michigan W 42–28
December 6 vs. #11 Wisconsin W 59–0

Florida State in contrast had 5 victories by 14 or more points.

August 30 vs. Oklahoma State* W 37–31
September 6 The Citadel W 37–12
September 20 #22 Clemson W 23–17 OT
September 27 at NC State W 56–41
October 4 Wake Forest W 43–3
October 11 at Syracuse W 38–20
October 18 #5 Notre Dame* W 31–27
October 30 at Louisville W 42–31
November 8 Virginia W 34–20
November 15 at Miami (FL) W 30–26
November 22 Boston College W 20–17
November 29 Florida* W 24–19
December 6 vs. #12 Georgia Tech W 37–35

There are quite a few people that have said Florida State would have missed the CFP had they lost a game… Possibly, but lets analyze if they had won by the same margins as Ohio State.

We are going to try match to results as close as possible to who and when Ohio State played.

August 30 vs. Oklahoma State* L 21-35
September 6 The Citadel W 66-0
September 20 #22 Clemson W 31–24 2OT
September 27 at NC State W 52–24
October 4 Wake Forest W 55-14
October 11 at Syracuse W 56-17
October 18 #5 Notre Dame* W 49-37
October 30 at Louisville W 31-24
November 8 Virginia W 34–17
November 15 at Miami (FL) W 50-28
November 22 Boston College W 42-27
November 29 Florida* W 42-28
December 6 vs. #12 Georgia Tech W 59-0

So Florida State ends the season with  5 straight double digit wins, including a 59-0 win over a 10 win Georgia Tech team fresh off beating a top 10 Georgia squad on the road? Is Florida State in as good a position to make the playoffs as Ohio State was? I don’t see why not. An early season loss to Oklahoma State wouldn’t be any worse than the Buckeyes loss to Virginia Tech.

I’m not seeing a lot of difference in resume, once the scores are swapped.

The CFP’s dirty little secret is scoring margin is a huge factor, but the committee calls it “game control”. Run it up teams if you can, that’s what the committee wants.

In part 2, we’ll get into if you go undefeated you’re going to playoffs from a Power 5 conference. There’s virtually no historical basis for an undefeated Power 5 team to finish outside the top 4. So… win and stop complaining about being left out of the playoff.

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