The biggest night in the college football season is upon us! No, not the Alabama-LSU game. No, not championship Saturday or national title Monday. Even bigger than any of that, today is the first College Football Playoff Rankings release! We are here to predict what the top 25 will look like when the CFP Selection Committee makes its announcement Tuesday at approximately 7 p.m. ET. It is a warmup act for the warmup act, which are the CFP Rankings releases before the final one in early December.
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.
In this space, 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 would look like if it was released this week.
|If you were to ignore margin of victory, like they used to in basketball, Alabama's resume is a little thin. However, that is not the case in football. So far, there's no question that the Crimson Tide are the best team. LSU gets to ask the question this Saturday. |
|The Tigers are rolling up big margins since the Syracuse game, which it was fortunate to win at all after quarterback Trevor Lawrence's injury. Dennis Dodd thinks coach Dabo Swinney is doing it to try to avoid the No. 4 seed. I do not know for sure if that is true, but it is not a bad idea. |
|Notre Dame's best win is Michigan. There is little else to hang their leprechaun hats on though as Stanford and Virginia Tech continue to fade. The Irish are at Northwestern this Saturday and will likely have the home crowd advantage, if not the actual home field. |
|The Tigers have survived a treacherous schedule to this point with only a loss at Florida. Now they get a shot at No.1 Alabama at home, where they are two touchdown underdogs. Simply playing near that spread would mean the Tide had its toughest game of the season. |
|That loss to Notre Dame aside, the Wolverines have been very good, including a 25-point win over Wisconsin. They look every bit like the best team in the Big Ten at the moment. Michigan had an extra week to prepare for a visit from Penn State. |
|The Bulldogs took it to border rival Florida late for a 36-17 win in Jacksonville. Georgia was favored to win the division before the season started, and the Bulldogs can all but eliminate the last strong contender this week at Kentucky. This is the last road game for Georgia. |
|The Wildcats needed a miracle to erase an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit at Missouri. Kentucky will try to continue its improbable run to an SEC East title when it hosts Georgia on Saturday. |
|The Cougars escaped Stanford with a 41-38 win to keep its slim playoff hopes alive. They get three of their last four at home, starting this week with Cal, which just knocked off Washington. |
|The Sooners first game with interim defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill was a success as they trounced Kansas State 51-14. Oklahoma does not have to be a great defensive team; it just has to be good enough to let its offense do its thing. |
|The Gators are the only team to beat LSU so far, but division losses to Kentucky and Georgia will keep them out of the SEC race. A strong finish could put Florida in contention for a spot in a New Year's Six game. |
|Urban Meyer spent part of Monday addressing the question of whether he will be coaching Ohio State next season. Those questions arose as a result of the beating Purdue put on the Buckeyes a week ago. Ohio State had an off week to get ready for Nebraska. |
|The Mountaineers pounded Baylor on Thursday and now travel to Austin to take on Texas. The reward for the winner is likely a spot in the Big 12 title game. |
|Utah got off to a slow start at UCLA but turned on the jets to win 41-10. The Utes look like the most serious challenger to Washington State in the Pac-12, but with two losses already, they are not a playoff contender. |
|The Nittany Lions got a fight from Iowa but were able to hold off the Hawkeyes to avoid a third straight loss at home. It does not get any easier for Penn State because a trip to well-rested Michigan is next. Quarterback Trace McSorely is nursing a knee injury, but he's expected to play. |
|The Longhorns fell at Oklahoma State last weekend, which means they are out of playoff contention. However, Texas still has a good shot at the Big 12 title game and can take a big step toward securing a berth with a win over West Virginia this Saturday. |
|The Knights are still looking for a win over a team with a record above .500. They have a chance to pick one up on Thursday night when they host Temple. That begins stretch of games against the better teams in their division. Only Navy is below .500 among UCF's last four opponents. |
|The Hawkeyes missed an opportunity to stay tied for them top of the Big Ten West in a narrow loss at Penn State. They are now among three teams one game back of leader Northwestern. Iowa travels to Purdue, which is also part of that tie. |
|The Bulldogs were in need of a quality win, and a quality win is what it got when it beat Texas A&M on Saturday. Now, they need to get one on the road. That will have to wait though. MSU steps out of conference to play Louisiana Tech. |
|The loss to Mississippi State was the Aggies' first to a team that is not currently undefeated. Texas A&M will play its third consecutive road game this Saturday at Auburn. |
|The Orange are seconds away from being undefeated. They lost late against Clemson and the next week at Pitt in overtime. They've since handed NC State a second consecutive loss. The next two games are also winnable, although Wake Forest has proven to be feisty. |
|The Wolfpack have cooled off since their 5-0 start. They figure to be favored the rest of the way, but even at 10-2, their New Year's Six chances are pretty slim due to a weak schedule. It would have helped to play West Virginia, which was canceled due to a hurricane, instead of East Carolina. However, it only would have helped if NC State won. |
|The win over Washington seemingly looks worse every week, but that is not Auburn's biggest problem. Road games with Georgia and Alabama are their biggest problem. First comes a visit from Texas A&M, and that's no cakewalk. |
|October was not kind to Washington. The Huskies went 2-2 and didn't look good, even when they won. Their playoff hopes are shot, so they best they can do is get hot and try to get to the Rose Bowl. UW still controls its own fate for that. |
|The Cardinal came close to eliminating the Pac-12 from playoff contention but fell to Washington State. Now, just to make the Rose Bowl, Stanford needs to win out and get help. That starts at Washington. |
|The Wildcats lost at home to Duke and Akron, yet here they are in first place in the Big Ten West by themselves. They have already defeated Purdue and most recently, Wisconsin, two of the other contenders. NU still has a game at Iowa, but the Cats can make an even bigger splash this week by beating Notre Dame. |