It’s been a lackluster week for the College Football Playoff race. And that makes us wonder: What if it’s already 2026?
According to the Allstate Playoff Predictor, across all of college football, there isn’t a single game on this week’s slate in which both teams have at least one percentage point of playoff leverage. In other words: there is no game that either team wins or loses in terms of the playoff race.
Would 12 teams be better? Well, by that measure, yes. There will be eight games where both teams clear the low bar of one percentage point of playoff leverage. And as there are more playoff spots, it will increase. But it can also change the outcomes of games across the board. So what’s at stake in the 12-team world in Week 4?
As we stand now, Tennessee has an outside shot as a playoff contender and a 14% chance to earn a berth. It can increase to 15% with success. A loss drops them to 3%.
12 teams playing in a game? No team will have more playoff influence in Week 4 than the Vols. A win or loss against Florida would even out the difference between a 72% chance and a 39% chance in a 12-team playoff game. That’s huge!
Remember those eight games I mentioned where both teams had at least one percentage point worth of playoff leverage? You see the first of them. Suddenly with 12 teams playing, a team like 3-0 Maryland, if everything goes right, has a shot. At this point, if the Terps leave Michigan Stadium with a win, they are projected to see an 11% chance of making the playoffs. Less than 1% chance today.
Michigan will have several positions at stake: the Wolverines’ playoff chances will change from 52% with a win to 82% with a loss. But Michigan will also focus on one of those bags. The Wolverines can get up to a 19% bye chance with a win, while a loss drops their bye hopes to just 7%.
It’s a no-brainer for the Trojans against the 3-0 Beavers, with FPI giving USC a 69% chance to win. The consequences for USC in either setup are significant: the Trojans’ playoff chances drop to 25% in the four-team format with a win, and 7% with a loss.
Although a loss is no longer catastrophic in a 12-team format, the difference between a win and a loss is larger: 73% to 44%. Like Michigan, USC will have tough bag stakes, especially as a team with a high chance of winning in its conference. Beating Oregon State puts the Trojans up to a 48% (!) shot, while losing drops to 29%.
And how about those beavers? Beating USC (with less than a 1% loss) this week gives them a 7% chance at a playoff berth in a 12-team world. It’s better than nothing, and it raises the reward for being a spoiler (from a playoff perspective).
Here’s a game where a playoff contender’s leverage decreases in a 12-team playoff system. According to the Allstate Playoff Predictor, Ohio State currently has a 70% chance of clinching a berth with a win against the Badgers and a 42% chance with a loss.
When playing 12-teams, the difference between those numbers shrinks, as a loss to a top team like Ohio State can’t be avoided: the Buckeyes would move from a 97% playoff chance to an 85% chance with a win. A loss. But this game will feature first-round upsets, with Ohio State’s chances going from 53% to 38% depending on the win or loss.
The game would have playoff implications for Wisconsin, which is not currently in a four-team format: The Badgers have a 20% chance to make it to Perth with a win against Ohio State and an 8% chance with a loss.
FPI makes Michigan State a 61% favorite in this matchup, though undefeated Minnesota will be the more influential team: 18 percentage point swing between win and loss, 30% chance to reach the CFP with a win. Even after a loss to Washington, this game will be important for the Spartans, who are worth eight percent leverage points (with a win increasing their 11% chance in the CFP).
At our current state, only Minnesota has playoff stakes, and barely: a 3% shot with victory.
This game moves from what should be a close game (Baylor is a 53% favorite) with no playoff implications to a close game with significant playoff implications for both teams. Neither team has a chance to make the playoffs in the 12-team format, but if they win, both will have a chance. For Baylor, that’s a 25% shot and Iowa State a 10% chance.