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.
|Alabama gained a little ground in the strength of schedule department, but the Bulldogs should still sit on top this week. Their last realistic chance to lose before the SEC title game is this week at Auburn. (Last week: 1)|
|Is there any doubt in anyone's mind that this is the best team? No. Alabama picked up a comfortable, if costly, win over LSU. The Tide will not gain any ground on Georgia this week unless the Bulldogs lose. (2)|
|Notre Dame has wins over three teams on this list, although NC State is just hanging on and a future opponent will likely drop off after Stanford lost at Washington State. (3)|
|No team has a better collection of wins than the Tigers, thanks to a strong schedule that includes Auburn in non-conference play and Virginia Tech in a cross-division game. You can add to that a win at NC State now after Clemson won there on Saturday. (4)|
|The Bedlam win was big for the Sooners as they now sit in control of the Big 12. That ugly loss by Ohio State does not do much for them, however. (5)|
|TCU took care of Texas and is ready for the battle for regular season supremacy in the Big 12 at Oklahoma this week. (8)|
|The Hurricanes picked up their most impressive win of the season by far on Saturday when they downed Virginia Tech 28-10. They can really make a splash if they can beat Notre Dame this week. (10)|
|The Badgers added another win over a tomato can this week. Things will get interesting now, though. Iowa visits coming off its evisceration of the Buckeyes, followed by Michigan. (9)|
|Washington humbled what's left of Oregon 38-3. The Huskies are at Stanford Friday night for #Pac12AfterDark. Uh, oh. (12)|
|Auburn is in the driver's seat in the SEC. Either it can win the or have a say in who makes the playoff. The Tigers host Georgia this week and Alabama two weeks later. (14)|
|You have to feel for Cleveland Browns fans that are also Buckeye fans. The Browns were off this week, so they were looking forward to a weekend without four quarters of incompetence and misery. So much for that. (6)|
|The Spartans knocked off Penn State on a last-second field goal to dash the playoff hopes of the Nittany Lions. Throw in wins over Iowa and Michigan, and the Spartans have a nice little resume. (24)|
|Four points is all that separates Penn State from an undefeated season. Now, it can look up the rankings at the two teams that beat it. (7)|
|The Trojans stopped the Kahlil Tate train for one week with a 49-35 win over Arizona. That win gives USC control of the Pac-12 South, which it can clinch this week with a win at Colorado. (17)|
|UMass put the biggest scare into Mississippi State that it has seen all season. The 2-7 Minutemen led 20-13 at the half before the Bulldogs rallied for a 34-23 win. That is the smallest margin of victory for MSU this year by far. (16)|
|The Cowboys scored 52 points at home against Oklahoma and still lost. This will be a season of regret for OSU. They had the schedule set up perfectly for them and couldn't get the job done at home. (11)|
|Virginia Tech turned it over four times in a 28-10 loss at Miami. That was the first game in a season ending stretch that sees three of four on the road. (13)|
|The undefeated Knights added another good win to its resume at SMU. They don't have a good enough nonconference schedule to be a playoff contender, but they will not be a fun opponent for someone in a New Year's Six game if they get there. (18)|
|The Hawkeyes obliterated Ohio State. The game started with a pick six of JT Barrett, and Iowa ran away from there. They now have two wins over teams on this list and were one stop from beating Penn State at home as well. (NR)|
|The Cyclones had been unstoppable since changing quarterbacks, but that came to an end this week at West Virginia. Their wins over TCU and Oklahoma should keep them in the rankings, but they lost to the team right ahead of them. And as we learned last week, head-to-head matters ... (15)|
|… except when it doesn't. Washington State can look up the list and see USC ahead of it despite having the same record and a win over the Trojans. The Cougars picked up a nice win over Stanford this week. It's their losses to Arizona and Cal that are holding them down. (25)|
|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. (23)|
|The Wildcats have overtime wins over Iowa and Michigan State, wins that look much better this week than a week ago. This is another case of where head-to-head isn't likely to be decisive. The loss at Duke is the main reason why. (NR)|
|LSU didn't play badly against Alabama but didn't threaten the Crimson Tide either. They should be favorites the rest of the way as they face teams with coaches trying to save their jobs. (19)|
|The Wolfpack couldn't get over the hump against Clemson and will need help to get back into the ACC title race. NC State does not have much in the way of true quality wins as Florida State and Louisville have disappointed. (20)|
Dropped out: Stanford (21), Arizona (22)