Hot & Not Playoff – Part 1

Part 2

Who's Hot and Who's Not

Collge Football Playoff Edition – Part 1

With last week's piece dissecting the conference championship games touched on a few things, the actual selections it suggested – Hawaii against the spread (ATS) and Wisconsin (ATS) – ended up splitting the board. It was a week that saw favorites and underdogs go dead even at 5-5 ATS in the championship games, and while personally I was on the wrong side of that break even split between favorites and 'dogs, it was interesting to see that it did shake out with a .500 record.

And thanks to those results, we've now got the CFB Playoff for this year lined up and it should be a great one no matter how it shakes out. It is interesting to note that there is quite an extended rest between the semi finals and the title game, so keep that in mind when the time comes, as one of LSU, Ohio State, Clemson, or Oklahoma will be your 2019 champion.

Speaking of which, this week's piece aims to help us find which one of those four programs will end up hoisting the trophy, and because of it there will be a change of format. Hopefully it's easy to follow and you can find value in any or all of the information presented, and I do have one thing to mention in that regard.

If you do find value in any of this information and want to share it with the masses out there in the “time vaccum” known as social media, how about giving a little credit where it's due. It doesn't have to be to me personally, but at least to this site – – because they are the ones willing to put this stuff out there and up on their platform. I've heard it's happened multiple times in the past this year, and while I'm all for sharing of knowledge to help us all become better bettors, there is always a better way to do so in terms of giving credit when it's due. And if you don't find value in the information, that's fine too.

Which does lead me to one of the most popular historical perspective to get bandied about over the next month and it is one that's got very little value from my perspective too. That is the fact that no #1 or #3 seed in the CFB Playoff is something I'm sure you'll hear plenty of in the coming weeks and maybe there is something to that. That would be a negative for LSU and Clemson this year, but I believe the other historical perspectives I'm about to present are much more actionable and they'll be broken down by category in the format change.

Let's get to it, as I've split this piece in two so as to cover everything. And remember, there is always a first time for everything.

*All numbers are pulled from regular season data only (including conference championship games) for the CFB Playoff teams that particular season

ATS Records

2019: LSU: 8-5; Ohio State: 9-4; Clemson: 10-3; Oklahoma: 5-8 ATS

Past numbers with champion in Bold

2018: Alabama: 8-5; Clemson: 7-6; Notre Dame: 6-4-2; Oklahoma: 5-7-1
2017: Clemson: 8-4-1; Oklahoma: 8-5; Georgia: 9-4; Alabama: 5-7
2016: Alabama: 9-4; Clemson: 6-7; Ohio State: 6-6; Washington: 7-6
2015: Clemson: 6-7; Alabama: 7-6; Michigan State: 5-7-1; Oklahoma: 9-3
2014: Alabama: 5-8; Oregon: 9-4; Florida State: 3-10; Ohio State: 8-5

Point #1: In the history of the CFB Playoff, every National Champion had at least 5 ATS losses

Positive for: LSU and Oklahoma
Negative for: Ohio State and Clemson

Call it a statistical anomaly or whatever you want, but the best money earner in the market for the season hasn't equated to national titles in the history of the playoff. In the five years we've had it, the best regular season ATS record was pulled off by the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes (8-5 ATS) while since then it's been records of 7-6, 6-7, 5-7, and 7-6 ATS that have come out on top.

Point #2: The team with the best regular season ATS record has been the runner-up in each of the last three years, and four of the five seasons overall

Negative for: Clemson

No need to spend too much time on this point, as it suggests the defending champs from Clemson will be the ones to get past the Buckeyes in the semis but fall short in the final with their 10-3 ATS record this year. Clemson opened up as a slight favorite as the #3 seed and you know that won't be taken too lightly by the market. But we are simply trying to find the eventual champion, so in terms of this piece, this is actually considered a negative for Dabo Swinney's program. Just another piece of ammunition for his absurd rhetoric train though.

3rd Down Conversion Rate Percentage – Offense

2019: LSU: 49.67; Ohio State: 56.97; Clemson: 47.30; Oklahoma: 49.24

Past numbers with champion in Bold

2018: Alabama: 52.55; Clemson: 43.95; Notre Dame: 44.32; Oklahoma: 51.18
2017: Clemson: 45.99; Oklahoma: 43.06; Georgia: 45.70; Alabama: 40.43
2016: Alabama: 48.80; Clemson: 51.09; Ohio State: 48.65; Washington: 44.83
2015: Clemson: 46.70; Alabama: 35.43; Michigan State: 50.53; Oklahoma: 44.58
2014: Alabama: 52.91; Oregon: 49.70; Florida State: 46.05; Ohio State: 51.52

Point #1: In each of the last two CFB Playoffs, and three of the last four, the team with the WORST 3rd down conversion rate percentage has won the title

Positive for: Clemson

We go from a negative to a positive here for the Clemson Tigers, as they are the “worst” of the bunch in staying on the field offensively and keeping drives going on 3rd down. Recent history has treated these teams kindly as the Tigers found themselves in this same spot a year ago at 43.95%, and knocked off the best team (Alabama was 52.55% in 2018) in the dominating fashion in last year's title game.

Point #2: The team with the best 3rd down percentage has only won the national title once – Clemson in 2016

Negative for: Ohio State

Another brief and simple point here, that doesn't exactly work out in Ohio State's favor, as their 56.97% rate is actually the best we've ever seen from any team in the CFB Playoff era. Whether or not that translates into this point being one that gets tossed to the curb this year remains to be seen, as that conversion rate is superb, but also one that's going to be seemingly hard to keep up with the level of competition the Buckeyes will have to go through.

3rd Down Conversion Rate Percentage – Defense

2019: LSU: 29.65; Ohio State: 28.65; Clemson: 30.60; Oklahoma: 31.61

Past numbers with champion in Bold

2018: Alabama: 30.34; Clemson: 27.60; Notre Dame: 37.82; Oklahoma: 45.18
2017: Clemson: 28.19; Oklahoma: 38.67; Georgia: 32.95; Alabama: 32.92
2016: Alabama: 30.53; Clemson: 30.17; Ohio State: 30.77; Washington: 31.11
2015: Clemson: 24.86; Alabama: 28.88; Michigan State: 35.06; Oklahoma: 40.00
2014: Alabama: 36.90; Oregon: 41.97; Florida State: 40.98; Ohio State: 36.90

Point #1: Every National Champion in the CFB Playoff era has been either the best, or 2nd best in Opponent 3rd down conversion rate percentage

Positive for: LSU and Ohio State

The old adage that “defense wins championships” tends to be true in the CFB playoff, as teams that are the best of the best in this category tend to find themselves with holding a trophy at the end of it. Considering the only other year we had two of the four teams with a sub-30% opponent 3rd down rate was back in 2015, and they both made it to the title game - Clemson and Alabama squaring off in their first epic championship meeting, that bodes well for both LSU and Ohio State to have a shot at the trophy this year.

In fact, only one team with a sub-30% rate failed to make the title game – Clemson in 2017 – so based on this history, it's hard not to expect a #1 vs #2 matchup in the Final. Those two programs met 12 years ago in the title game when it was also held in New Orleans with LSU winning as the #2 seed, and Buckeyes fans would love to return the favor.

Point #2: The team with the better number in this category when we reach the title game has won four of five national championships – only outlier was in 2015

Positive for: Yet to be determined

This is yet to be determined obviously, but with about two weeks between the semi-finals and the title game, this is something to definitely keep in mind. 2015 was the only outlier but it was also the only year where both finalists were in that sub-30% range which is to say that both were lights out in that regard and Alabama just happened to be a bit better on that day.

Heisman Trophy Winners

Editor's Note - Joe Burrow captured the 2019 Heisman Trophy

2019: Joe Burrow

2018: Kyler Murray
2017: Baker Mayfield
2016: Lamar Jackson
2015: Derrick Henry
2014: Marcus Mariota

Point #1: No Heisman winning QB has gone on to win the National Title, and playoff teams with the Heisman winner are 1-for-4 in terms of winning it all.

Positive for: Ohio State (potentially)
Negative for: LSU (likely)

The rest of the statistical categories will come in Part 2 of this piece, but for those that don't mind ending Part 1 on a bit of fluff, I thought I'd put this in.

Considering that LSU QB Joe Burrow is the overwhelming favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this year currently, LSU fans may prefer that not to be the case. But as I said at the opening, there is a first time for everything, and maybe this will be that year that Burrow and LSU break that trend.

That being said, if a non-QB wins the trophy – say DE Chase Young for Ohio State – it's actually turned out to be a positive for that team in terms of their title hopes. RB Derrick Henry was the only Heisman winner to win a title that same year (2015), and should Young pull out the award, Buckeyes fans will be happy to hear it.