The first edition of the College Football Playoff Rankings was released Tuesday night with undefeated Georgia slotted as expected at the No. 1 spot in the four-team field after the Bulldogs' dominant start to the 2021 season. SEC rival Alabama is in at No. 2 despite already suffering a loss to Texas A&M, making it the highest-ranked one-loss team ever in the initial release. Undefeated Michigan State opens at No. 3 with Oregon surprising many by checking in at No. 4 ahead of a couple undefeated Power Five teams.
Cincinnati, at 8-0 with two Power Five wins, begins the CFP Rankings process outside the top four looking in. The Bearcats are hoping to become the first Group of Five team to advance to the playoff, and they start that effort ranked higher than any other such team in this process at No. 6. Cincinnati was ranked No. 7 in the final CFP Rankings last season, the previous high for a Group of Five team.
Two undefeated Power Five programs, Oklahoma and Wake Forest, are not only outside the playoff field but below four one-loss teams. The Sooners have looked uneven despite their unblemished record, while the Demon Deacons have not faced any significant competition and have played one of the weakest schedules in the nation through their first eight games.
Notably absent from the CFP Rankings are Penn State, which has two top 25 wins already this season, and undefeated UTSA of Conference USA. The Roadrunners have wins over Illinois and Memphis and are ranked No. 16 in the latest AP Top 25.
Let's take a look at the entire CFP Rankings top 25. Analysis from CBS Sports bowls expert Jerry Palm can be found below.
College Football Playoff Rankings, Nov. 2
- Georgia (8-0)
- Alabama (7-1)
- Michigan State (8-0)
- Oregon (7-1)
- Ohio State (7-1)
- Cincinnati (8-0)
- Michigan (7-1)
- Oklahoma (9-0)
- Wake Forest (8-0)
- Notre Dame (7-1)
- Oklahoma State (7-1)
- Baylor (7-1)
- Auburn (6-2)
- Texas A&M (6-2)
- BYU (7-2)
- Ole Miss (6-2)
- Mississippi State (5-3)
- Kentucky (6-2)
- NC State (6-2)
- Minnesota (6-2)
- Wisconsin (5-3)
- Iowa (6-2)
- Fresno State (7-2)
- San Diego State (7-1)
- Pittsburgh (6-2)
Analysis by bowls expert Jerry Palm
Most notable in this first set of CFP Rankings is Ohio State being slotted behind Oregon. Obviously, head-to-head is the primary factor here. Ohio State has a better strength of schedule, but that factor alone is not yet enough to overcome the head-to-head element.
That probably won't hold up over time as those teams' strength of schedules head in opposite directions. For this week, Oregon having nonconference foe Fresno State in rankings with Penn State, the best team Ohio State has defeated, being left out surely helped Oregon's case.
Despite Oregon's placement, it wasn't a good night for the Pac-12. The Ducks are the only team from the conference in the rankings, which means the league got fewer teams in the top 25 than the Mountain West.
Oklahoma checks in at No. 8. The Sooners' strength of schedule is dragging them way down. The best team they have beaten is Kansas State (5-3). Oklahoma still has games against Baylor, Oklahoma State and Iowa State, so it has a lot of room to move up.
Cincinnati at No. 6 does not matter much as the Bearcats need help from places they do not control in order to finish inside the top four. That help can come as some of the teams above them play each other, but Cincinnati can also get jumped from below, specifically by Oklahoma and Wake Forest.
The Bearcats do not have the kind of help coming on their schedule that the Sooners do as they do not play another team in the CFP Rankings over the remainder of the season unless SMU gets in prior to their Nov. 20 meeting.
Overall, the CFP Selection Committee ranked six teams that were not in the latest AP Top 25: No. 17 Mississippi State, No. 19 NC State, No. 20 Minnesota, No. 21 Wisconsin, No. 24 San Diego State and No. 25 Pitt.