The biggest night in the college football season is upon us! No, not the Alabama-LSU game; that happened Saturday. No, not championship Saturday or national title Monday. Even bigger than any of that, today is the second 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 evening. 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.
|Is there any doubt? (Last week: 1)|
|The Tigers seemed to be trying to get Bobby Petrino fired on Saturday. They laid 77 points on the hapless Cardinals. Who knew that Lamar Jackson was that important to Louisville? (2)|
|Notre Dame did what every one of Northwestern's nonconference foes did to the Wildcats -- beat them in Evanston, Illinois. It was a not terribly comfortable 10-point win, but a road win is a road win. (4)|
|The Wolverines eviscerated Penn State and sent a message that they are the clear favorite in the Big Ten. Yes, I know they still have trip to Columbus, Ohio, coming. (5)|
|The Bulldogs knocked off the last of their contenders for the SEC East title in a 34-17 win at Kentucky. Georgia will face Alabama for the SEC title, a national championship matchup clinched a month before the actual game. (6)|
|The Sooners got pushed on the road at Texas Tech but came away with a 51-46 win. All signs are now pointing to games with West Virginia on back-to-back weeks to end the season. (7)|
|The Tigers put up as good a fight defensively as anyone has against Alabama all season long. They got to Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on occasion and picked him off for the first time in his career. They even forced him to play the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the defense didn't score, and neither did the offense. (3)|
|It wasn't easy, but the Cougars knocked off Cal 19-13 to keep the Pac-12's CFP hopes alive. Wazzu has its last road game of the season this Saturday at Colorado. (8)|
|Coach Dana Holgerson took a chance and got a two-point conversion from Will Grier to sneak out of Austin with a 42-41 win over Texas. West Virginia is now in the driver's seat with Oklahoma to play for the Big 12 title. (13)|
|The off week since the blowout at Purdue did not seem to help the Buckeyes much. Nebraska took advantage of many of the Ohio State defensive issues that Purdue did, but it wasn't quite enough. The Buckeyes escaped with a 36-31 win. (10)|
|The Wildcats could not contain the Georgia offense for four quarters, and they are not built to win high-scoring games. A New Year's Six bowl is still in play for UK though, which would be a tremendous accomplishment. (9)|
|UCF beat Temple for its first win against a team with a record above .500. Previous opponents Pitt and Memphis won to get back above the break-even point as well. The bad news is that future opponents South Florida and Houston (possibly in AAC title game) both suffered upset losses. (12)|
|The Gators lost a head-scratcher at home to Missouri, 38-17, which likely knocks them from contention for a spot in a New Year's Six games. (11)|
|Louisiana Tech came to town for a potential trap game for MSU with Alabama on the docket next. The Bulldogs didn't miss a beat though, handling the other Bulldogs from Louisiana with ease. (18)|
|The Spartans have turned things around since the home loss to Northwestern to begin October. Michigan State has won three out of four, including a win at Penn State and the only victory over Purdue since the Boilermakers' 0-3 start. (NR)|
|The Longhorns were so close but came up short at home to West Virginia. Texas can get back to the title game if it wins out and West Virginia does also, beating Oklahoma to end the regular season. Texas has the tiebreaker with the Sooners. (17)|
|Syracuse keeps right on cruising along. The Orange handled Wake Forest comfortably to move to 7-2 on the season. They get Louisville next. That will not help the strength of schedule. (19)|
|Not that it mattered in the outcome of the game, but Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorely is not 100 percent, and it showed against Michigan. It does not get any easier as a physical and desperate Wisconsin team visits this week. (14)|
|The Wolfpack ended their two-game losing streak by crushing Florida State. NC State could put up a 10-2 record, but with losses to Clemson and Syracuse, the two best teams it played, that may not be enough to get them a sniff of a New Year's Six game. (21)|
|The Cyclones are the only team in the rankings to be ahead of a team that it lost to and has at least as good of a record. Iowa, which beat ISU earlier this season, is not projected into the top 25. The Cyclones defeat of Kansas led to the firing of Jayhawks coach David Beaty. (24)|
|1. BC has now won three straight after winning at Virginia Tech on Saturday. You could reasonably argue the four best teams in the ACC are in the Atlantic Division. The Eagles' winning streak is in serious jeopardy this weekend when they face Clemson. (22)|
|I like the Bulldogs but was surprised to see them in the rankings last week. Their best win came at Nevada and they lost to Minnesota. The Gophers just got hammered at Illinois. (23)|
|It has been an up and down year for the Tigers, but things are looking up after they came from behind to beat Texas A&M. (NR)|
|Oregon ended a two-game losing streak with a 42-21 win over UCLA. It ruined the return to Autzen Stadium for former coach Chip Kelly. The Ducks are essentially done in their own division race but can impact the South Division with games against Utah and Arizona State the next two weeks. (NR)|
|This is the Mountain West team that many expected might make last week's rankings instead of Fresno State. USU lost a tough game to Michigan State to open the season and has not lost since. However, their only win over a team above .500 so far came at Hawaii this past Saturday. (NR)|