College Football Playoff Rankings prediction: Clemson, Notre Dame start in
Our projection for the first set college football rankings that will be released Tuesday night
Every week ahead of the College Football Playoff Rankings release, we will be predicting what the top 25 will look like when the CFP Selection Committee makes its announcement Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. ET. It is a warmup act for the warmup act, which are the CFP Rankings releases before the final one.
Note: Predictions in this post are based only on results to this point, so they do not reflect the final forecast for the playoff, which can be found here.
Here, we will try to emphasize the same criteria the committee uses. That will be difficult because, as we have learned, the committee can be all over the map. Sometimes, it decides that head-to-head matters; sometimes, it doesn't. Sometimes, strength of schedule matters; sometimes, it doesn't. Sometimes, relative dominance matters; sometimes, it doesn't. Sometimes it's about game control -- whatever that is -- or recency bias or ... ah, you get the idea.
What we have learned is that this process is highly subjective. It is much more subjective than the process that the basketball committee uses, which is what the football committee was modeled after. With all of that in mind, here is what I think the top 25 will look like this week.
|Is there any doubt in anyone's mind that this is the best team? No. Georgia has a better schedule, but as I just said, this is a highly subjective process. The three best teams Alabama has beaten so far all lost last week. The three best teams on their schedule are still ahead of them. (Previous: 1)|
|If the committee puts a lot of weight on strength of schedule, the Bulldogs will be ahead of Alabama. Their win over Notre Dame looks better every week. (2)|
|No team has a better collection of wins than the Tigers thanks to a strong schedule that includes Auburn in nonconference play and Virginia Tech in a cross-division game. (6)|
|Notre Dame has wins over three teams on this list, including blowouts of NC State and USC in the last two weeks. (7)|
|There were a lot of questions about the Buckeyes entering the game against Penn State. Consider them answered. Their strength of schedule is still lacking some, but they still have to play Michigan and Michigan State. (13)|
|The Nittany Lions blew a big lead late against Ohio State. That is a missed opportunity that they will be kicking themselves about for quite some time. (3)|
|The Badgers schedule is so bad that you can legitimately argue that Florida Atlantic is the best team they have played to this point. They may not play a team in the rankings until the Big Ten title game. (8)|
|TCU became the latest victim of a resurgent Iowa State, which held the Frogs to only seven points on Saturday. Their previous low was 26 against Kansas State. (4)|
|There is no bigger fan of Ohio State than the Sooners, which has a chance to pass the Buckeyes if both finish 12-1. Of bigger concern though is the Bedlam game at Oklahoma State this week. (11)|
|The Cowboys got their offense going again at West Virginia just in time for Oklahoma's visit on Saturday. Their next two weeks will likely decide if OSU plays for the Big 12 title. (10)|
|The Hurricanes are not winning big, but they are still winning. The committee will never admit it, but they like to see dominance, although a win of any size over Virginia Tech this Saturday will do nicely. (5)|
|Washington bounced back from its loss at Arizona State with a comfortable win over UCLA. That game started a stretch that sees the Huskies playing four of their last five at home. The road game is at Stanford. (16)|
|The Hokies finish with three out of four on the road, beginning with the game that will likely decide the ACC Coastal division title at Miami. (12)|
|Coach Gus Malzahn is believed to be on the hot seat despite only losing on the road to Clemson and LSU. I guess he better finish strong, starting at Texas A&M this week. (15)|
|The Trojans rebounded from that humiliating defeat at Notre Dame with a blowout at Arizona State. They racked up 48 points against a Sun Devils defense that looked to have turned the corner. (20)|
|The 21-point win at Texas A&M on Saturday is the smallest scoring margin of a Mississippi State game so far this season. The Bulldogs are either winning big or going down in flames. (17)|
|Like USC last season, a quarterback change has turned the Cyclones season completely around. However, like USC last season, they will be judged on their entire season, not just the part after they changed quarterbacks. Those home losses to Iowa and Texas count just as much as the wins at Oklahoma and, most recently, over TCU. (22)|
|The Spartans lost in triple overtime at Northwestern in a game that not only hurt them but their fellow Big Ten East brethren. That is not the way you want to lead into the games against Penn State and Ohio State. (9)|
|LSU has won three in a row since that ugly loss at home to Troy. They will turn the college football world on its head if the Tigers can make it four straight. They host Alabama this week. (25)|
|The undefeated Knights have wins over Memphis and at Navy. Unfortunately, that battle of unbeaten we were all looking forward to when they faced South Florida will not happen because the Bulls were upset last week. (18)|
|The Wolfpack got run out of South Bend, although not as badly as USC did the week before. With Louisville's loss at Wake Forest, NC State no longer has a win over a team in the rankings. (19)|
|The Cougars got crushed at Arizona, dropping their road record to 1-2. That win came over a depleted Oregon squad. They get Stanford at home before finishing up with back-to-back road games. (14)|
|The Cardinal, playing without Heisman candidate Bryce Love, squeaked by Oregon State last Thursday night. They have a chance to rocket up the rankings late in the year with games at Washington State and at home to Washington and Notre Dame. (21)|
|The Tigers have only lost at UCF and have wins over UCLA, Navy at Houston. They may get another shot at the Knights in the AAC title game. They cannot do much to move up the rankings before then. (24)|
|This is another team that has benefitted from switching quarterbacks. Since Khalil Tate took over, the Wildcats are 4-0 and making it look easy. Tate would be a Heisman candidate with the numbers he is putting up if he had started from the beginning of the season. Like Iowa State, however, those home losses to Houston and Utah still count. Arizona controls its own destiny for a Pac-12 title, though, and can take a big step toward that with a win at USC this week. (NR)|
Dropped out: West Virginia (23)
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