Based on historical data, poll voting patterns, and thousands of computer simulations, we can estimate each team's chance of hoisting the crystal football trophy. It turns out that the most difficult part of predicting national champions is not simulating games, but ranking teams to match human polls. In fact, 99% of the processing time in each simulation is devoted to ranking teams, not simulating games, but the payout should be worth it. The modified ranking algorithm has a strong correlation with past voting patterns, especially in identifying the BCS qualifiers.
The results above are based on 6,540 simulations using the data that would have been available in mid-October 2009. To jog your memory, Alabama was 6-0 with Auburn left as the toughest game on the regular season schedule (86% win probability). Florida was also heavily favored all the way out, but faced a slightly stickier road. Cincinnati was also undefeated, but simply wasn't as good of a team. TCU still had BYU and Utah left, but Boise St. was sitting pretty to finish the regular season 13-0. Texas was just about to play a two-loss Oklahoma.
Given this reality, Alabama was looking at a 63% chance of playing for a national championship and a 43% chance of winning it all. Florida and Texas were coming in with an 18% chance of a national title. The most likely scenario was an SEC champ vs. Big 12 champ championship game, with nearly a quarter of simulations pointing to a Texas vs. Alabama/Florida title game. Boise St had a 1/4 chance of playing for a national championship--they were all but guaranteed an undefeated season and would have been given the nod over most one loss teams-they were often the benefactors of a conference title game upset. An undefeated TCU was usually picked over a perfect Boise St team, but the Horned Frogs faced a tougher schedule. A few teams were still in the running, but needed to win out and needed a lot of lucky breaks along the way.
Given all the undefeated challengers and conference championship games, championship game participants averaged 12.5 wins. Boise St and TCU never reached a championship game after a loss. In one simulation, a three-loss Alabama team slipped into the championship game against an undefeated TCU and won.