With the third College Football Playoff Rankings for the 2020 season set to be released Tuesday night, we do not want to wait that long to get a taste of how the CFP Selection Committee will be ranking the top 25 teams in the nation. This is a warm up act for the warm up act, which are all of the CFP Rankings releases before the final one after conference championship week on Dec. 19.
Normally, I would detail here some of the criteria the CFP Selection Committee uses to rank the top 25 teams and choose the top four. However, nothing about 2020 is normal, and that includes the information available to the committee. Here is the entire list of criteria for 2020:
- Eye test
- Head-to-head record (if applicable)
- Conference championship (if applicable)
That's it. No strength of schedule or relative offense or any other analytic because four conferences have statistically distanced themselves from the rest of college football by playing only conference games. For example, mathematically speaking, there is no way to compare teams from the SEC to teams from the Big Ten or any other league for that matter.
Even some of the ancillary categories discussed -- wins over teams above .500, wins over ranked teams -- are not helpful. The lack of nonconference games has some teams on either side of that .500 line would not normally be in those positions. The Big Ten and Pac-12 weren't even eligible to be ranked in the AP Top 25 for much of the season, so some teams were in the bottom of those rankings that normally would not have been placed there, especially early on. Going by game-time rankings is illegitimate anyway.
Due to COVID-19, the committee will have more roster issues to consider with than ever before. How much that concerns them is yet to be determined. It will also have to factor in teams playing an unequal number of games. It is unchartered territory.
With all of that in mind, here is what I think the CFP Rankings will look like Tuesday night.
Note: Predictions in this story are based only on results to this point, so they do not reflect the final forecast for the playoff. My current playoff and bowl projections can be found here.
|The Crimson Tide just keep rolling along. Bama smashed LSU, 55-17. If the Tide win at Arkansas this week, they will clinch a spot in the College Football Playoff. There will not be a scenario that knocks Alabama out.|
|Notre Dame started slow against Syracuse but eventually cruised to a 45-21 win over the Orange. With the ACC taking this week's game off its schedule, Notre Dame's spot in the ACC Championship Game was secured.|
|The Tigers smoked Virginia Tech in the second half to defeat the Hokies, 45-10. Clemson also has the week off to prepare for the ACC title game rematch with Notre Dame.|
|Ohio State was missing 23 players, including three starting offensive linemen, at Michigan State on Saturday. It didn't seem to matter much. The Buckeyes crushed the Spartans, 52-12. Now they wait to see if Michigan is available to play this weekend. If that game is played, OSU will clinch a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game. If it cannot be played, as the rules stand now, the Buckeyes would not be eligible for the league title.|
|The Aggies rode a strong fourth quarter to a 31-20 win at Auburn. There is still a small chance that Texas A&M could back door into the CFP, but a New Year's Six game is much more likely. The Aggies were supposed to host Ole Miss this Saturday, but that game has been canceled.|
|Florida had to work a little to beat Tennessee this week, but it won by enough that the No. 6 ranking should not be in jeopardy. The Gators host LSU this week as a tune-up for the SEC Championship Game against Alabama.|
|The Bearcats were still on sabbatical last week but figure to hold this spot. There is a chance they could get jumped, possibly by Indiana. Their game against Tulsa this week was canceled, but the teams were set for a second game anyway next week in the AAC Championship Game.|
|Georgia's game with Vanderbilt was postponed to Dec. 19. The Bulldogs are vulnerable to be jumped this week by the two teams behind them, but the CFP Selection Committee loves themselves some Georgia Bulldogs, so I am not counting on it.|
|The Cyclones put up 42 points on West Virginia, which has one of the best defenses in college football. Iowa State is off this week and will face Oklahoma for the Big 12 title on Dec. 19|
|The Hoosiers beat Wisconsin at its own game and did so with a backup quarterback. Jack Tutlle, making his first start, led Indiana to a 14-6 win on the road. There is a case for IU to be ranked as high as No. 6 or 7. It gets slumping Purdue next in the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket.|
|The Hurricanes did what they were supposed to do to Duke. They walloped the Blue Devils, 48-0. I still expect Indiana to jump the Hurricanes this week. Miami hosts North Carolina on Saturday with what I expect to be an Orange Bowl berth at stake.|
|Oklahoma came out flat against Baylor but emerged with a 27-14 win. The Sooners have a makeup game this week at West Virginia. They cannot get caught looking ahead to the Big 12 title game with Iowa State.|
|The Chanticleers were supposed to host Liberty this week, but COVID-19 knocked out the Flames. On Thursday, BYU replaced them and we were gifted one of the best games of the season, which CCU won 22-17. It is still an uphill battle for the Chants to make a New Year's Six game, but they still have two games remaining starting with a visit to Troy.|
|The Wildcats had an unscheduled week off, but now know they will be playing for the Big Ten title on Dec. 19. They host Illinois on Saturday for the Land of Lincoln Trophy.|
|The Trojans had to wait until Sunday night to play, but they wasted no time getting on the scoreboard when the game started. A 28-point first quarter propelled them to a 38-13 over Washington State. Expect USC to get a little more love from the committee this week.|
|Iowa got off to a slow start against Illinois but ended up with a comfortable 35-21 win. The Hawkeyes' ceiling in these rankings is Northwestern, which beat them earlier this season.|
|You have to give the Cougars a lot of respect for taking a game across the country at Coastal Carolina with only a couple days' notice. Unfortunately, it ended in a loss, dashing their hopes for an undefeated season and perhaps a New Year's Six bowl berth.|
|UNC played FCS Western Carolina this week and got the expected win. That won't move the needle for the committee. The game at Miami can do that, though.|
|Wisconsin played only its fourth game of the season last Saturday, which was a loss at home to Indiana. The Badgers chances of a New Year's Six berth are gone, but they could still play on New Year's Day.|
|The Cowboys took a tough loss at TCU, ending whatever remote chance they had to play for the Big 12 title. A promising start to the season has gone south a bit. Oklahoma State has now lost three of its last five.|
|The Ragin' Cajuns picked up another good win over the weekend, taking down Appalachian State, 24-21. Next up is the Sun Belt Championship Game at Coastal Carolina.|
|Tulsa was able to take down Navy 19-6, setting up a winner take all game with Cincinnati for the regular season title in the AAC.|
|The Buffaloes are the other undefeated team in the Pac-12. They are now 4-0 after a win at Arizona. Colorado's game with USC was canceled earlier this season, but the Trojans hold the tiebreaker for the division title if both win out.|
|The Longhorns took out some frustration on Kansas State in a 69-31 win over the Wildcats. That should be enough to push them back into this week's rankings.|
|The 5-0 Spartans are having one of their best seasons in quite some time and doing so now under difficult circumstances. They are in Santa Clara County, which is not allowing them to play games at home. Instead of playing Nevada at home this week, with a spot in the Mountain West Championship Game at stake, they will have to play it in Las Vegas.|