With the second 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.
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 would look like if released this week.
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.
|Nick Saban sat out, but Alabama continued the dominance of it schedule with a 42-13 win over Auburn in the Iron Bowl. The Crimson Tide's rescheduled game at LSU is next. A victory would clinch the SEC West, assuming the Arkansas game gets rescheduled. Otherwise, Alabama has already clinched.|
|North Carolina battled the Fighting Irish tough for a half, but Notre Dame was able to put the game away late for a 31-17 win. They should have an easier time this week when they host Syracuse.|
|The Tigers finally got a game in after two weeks off. They took out some frustration on Pitt, 52-17. Clemson closes the regular season at Virginia Tech on Saturday, assuming the Florida State game does not get made up.|
|Ohio State had a game drop off its schedule earlier this season when Maryland had a COVID-19 outbreak within its team. Now the Buckeyes have one of its own. Last week's game with Illinois was canceled, and this week's contest at Michigan State is in doubt. One more cancelation makes the Buckeyes ineligible for the Big Ten Championship Game, but they will be eligible for the College Football Playoff regardless.|
|The Aggies had a comfortable, if low scoring, win over LSU on Saturday. The toughest game left on their schedule is this week at Auburn. A win means it would take a major upset to deny Texas A&M a New Year's Six berth, and they could still back into the CFP.|
|Florida had another relatively easy go of things last week with a 24-point win over Kentucky. The Gators are heavily favored at Tennessee this week and would officially clinch a spot in the SEC Championship Game with a win.|
|Like the other Ohio team in these rankings, the Bearcats' game last week was postponed. They were unable to play at Temple and have this week off on the schedule. Cincinnati next takes the field to face Tulsa, which might also be the Bearcats' opponent in the AAC Championship Game.|
|The shock of the initial CFP Rankings release was how high the Bulldogs got ranked. They celebrated with a 45-16 win over what's left of South Carolina. Georgia finishes the regular season this week with Vanderbilt, unless the Missouri game gets rescheduled.|
|The Hurricanes were supposed to resume action after their COVID-19 break with a game at Wake Forest this Saturday. However, the Demon Deacons also have a problem, so now Miami will travel to Duke instead for its last road game of the season.|
|Oklahoma had a week off to celebrate its win in Bedlam, but now it's back to business. The Sooners host Baylor this week in their quest to get back to the Big 12 Championship Game.|
|The Hoosiers beat Maryland 27-11, but it probably felt like a loss after quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. was lost for the season due to a torn ACL. Indiana will now travel to Wisconsin this week with sophomore Jack Tuttle under center.|
|The Cyclones won at Texas 23-20 and all but clinched a berth in the Big 12 title game. Iowa State has not won a league championship since 1912.|
|It was a good news, bad news week for the Wildcats. Northwestern lost its first game of the season on Saturday 29-20 at Michigan State, eliminating the Wildcats from CFP contention. However, Minnesota canceled this week's game, which clinched the Big Ten West division title for Northwestern. The Wildcats will play in the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 19 but still have a regular-season date with Illinois next Saturday.|
|BYU had last week off and will not play this week either. The CFP Selection Committee put the Cougars a little lower than I expected, but this is typically what happens to teams that are undefeated against poor schedules. BYU is scheduled to finish the regular season at home against San Diego State on Dec. 12.|
|The COVID-19 issues at Minnesota had a lot to do with the Big Ten West title this season. First, the Golden Gophers had to cancel last week's game with the Badgers, rendering them ineligible for the conference championship, then Wisconsin canceled this week's game with Northwestern, giving the division title to the Wildcats. The Badgers could still end up in one of the New Year's Six games, but that requires winning out, starting with a home game against Indiana.|
|The Trojans had to cancel last week's game at Colorado due a few COVID-19 cases on the team and strict governmental restrictions. They are scheduled to host Washington State this week. The three opponents USC has faced so far are a combined 0-6.|
|The Chanticleers clinched a spot in the Sun Belt Championship Game with a 49-14 win at Texas State. This week, they will play in arguably the best nonconference game of the entire season. Coastal will host 9-1 Liberty.|
|Marshall had a scheduled week off following a COVID-19 cancelation of the game with Charlotte on Nov. 21. The Thundering Herd are schedule to host Rice and can clinch a spot in the C-USA title game and getting to be the host of that game.|
|The Cowboys got back on track with a 50-44 win over Texas Tech. There is supposedly a way for OSU to play for the conference title, but it is out of their hands. None of that matters if they do not win at TCU this Saturday.|
|The Tar Heels hung tough with Notre Dame for a while but could not get its offense going after a good early start. They are now out of contention for the conference title and also a New Year's Six berth.|
|The Hawkeyes didn't belong in the rankings last week, but they do now. They knocked off Nebraska 26-20 for their fourth straight win. Iowa could actually finish with a better record than division champion Northwestern at 6-2 vs. 5-2, but the Big Ten tiebreaker would favor Northwestern because it has the same number of losses and the head-to-head win.|
|The Longhorns lost at tough one at home to Iowa State and fell out of the Big 12 race and into its every-few-years conversation as to whether its coach should be fired.|
|Tulsa is still undefeated in the AAC after its game with Houston was postponed. A win at Navy this week puts the Golden Hurricane in the conference title game.|
|After the Apple Cup game with Washington State was canceled and Utah's contest with Arizona State was also, the Pac-12 sent Utah to Washington last Saturday. The Huskies won 24-21 to move to 3-0 and take over the lead in the Pac-12 North.|
|The Ragin' Cajuns have a win at Iowa State and their only loss came to Coastal Carolina. Each of those teams appears in these rankings. The rest of their schedule is similar to that of BYU, another team that appears in the rankings.|