As college football's elite teams try to maneuver their way into the College Football Playoff, the four-team bracket serves as a musical chairs act for the conferences.
No one wants to be left out: A couple of conferences have had their feelings hurt two years in a row, and the SEC is a bully that won't be denied at least one seat.
As we enter intraconference cannibalizing season where contenders square off against each other, the question inevitably arises: Whom should the conference be rooting for?
Sometimes the answer isn't straightforward; so, as always, we consulted with the Allstate Playoff Predictor. And it provided answers.
No 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 11 Texas (noon ET Saturday, Fox)
The argument that the Big 12 should hope for a Longhorns victory is that it keeps alive the possibility of a rematch between these two teams, each with one loss, in the conference championship game.
And in that event, the conference would be in good shape to send the winner to the playoff as a one-loss champion.
The Allstate Playoff Predictor says that argument is wrong.
For two reasons:
1. It thinks the Longhorns have only an 8% chance to win all of their non-Oklahoma games, so the one-loss vs. one-loss Red River Showdown rematch is actually a quite unlikely scenario.
2. ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) believes Texas is only the 21st-best team in the country, so if it somehow ran the table, the Allstate Playoff Predictor wouldn't think the Longhorns would be a slam dunk to get into the playoff. Would they get in over an 11-1 LSU or a 12-1 Georgia, for example? Neither of those are sure things.
The Big 12's chances to put a team in the playoff in these two scenarios are vastly different, according to our model. With an Oklahoma win, the conference has a 51% shot to put a team in the playoff, but an upset by Texas drops that number to 18%. The chance to win the national championship also drops from 9% to 3% between the two outcomes.
Big 12's rooting interest: Oklahoma
No. 7 Florida at No. 5 LSU (8 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN)
Despite the high-profile nature of this game, the SEC actually has far less at stake here than, say, the Big 12 in the Red River Showdown.
The outcome of this one has no bearing on whether the SEC puts a team in the playoff (a lock regardless), but it does have a small effect on the chance of multiple SEC teams getting in. The conference has a slightly better shot (58%) of pulling off that feat with LSU winning than with Florida (53%).
That's partly because LSU has a better chance of getting in at 11-1 with a loss to Alabama than Florida does at 11-1 with a loss to Georgia.
This actually does not have to do with scheduling -- though Florida played two FCS schools out of conference, FPI actually considers the Gators to have a very slightly more difficult schedule than LSU from a top-25 team perspective -- but it does have to do with the fact that FPI simply thinks LSU is almost a touchdown better.
As a result, LSU is also more likely to finish 11-1 than Florida.
SEC's rooting interest: LSU
Michigan State at No. 8 Wisconsin (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday)
Should the Big Ten hope for Wisconsin to not reach the Big Ten championship game, thus clearing the path for an easier road to the playoff for Ohio State?
No. Don't overthink it.
Because Wisconsin and Ohio State are both undefeated (though they'll have to play each other in the regular season), the conference would rather have more contenders than fewer. The Big Ten has a slightly better chance to put a team in the playoff with a Wisconsin win over the Spartans and -- don't sleep on this scenario -- a better chance to put two teams in as well. There's a 17% chance the conference can put in two teams with a Badger victory on Saturday.
Big Ten's rooting interest: Wisconsin
No. 20 Virginia at Miami (8 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN)
Neither of these are playoff contenders. But my thought was: Doesn't the ACC have a vested interest in whom Clemson meets in its conference championship game? Wouldn't it want the easiest team possible?
While that's probably true, it turns out that FPI sees almost no difference between the quality of Virginia, UNC, Duke or even Miami (in the unlikely event the Hurricanes stormed back to take the Coastal division). Those teams are all considered a little better than Pitt, but the Panthers are a long shot to win the division anyway.
The point is: This game makes no discernible difference to the ACC's playoff chances.
ACC's rooting interest: The only thing that matters is Clemson.
Lauren Poe contributed to this article.