CBS Sports graphic

For those of you tired of seeing the same old teams in the College Football Playoff, you had a great weekend! Michigan dumped Ohio State and Oklahoma lost Bedlam to Oklahoma State, which all but eliminates the Buckeyes and definitely eliminates the Sooners. The only regular participant in the CFP that is still alive for a spot is Alabama.

This week's penultimate CFP Rankings will go a long way toward deciding the New Year's Six bowl bids since teams that do not play this week rarely change position relative to other teams that are also not playing.

As a reminder, here is the criteria that CFP Selection Committee members consider when building the rankings each week:

  • Strength of schedule
  • Conference championships (once decided)
  • Head-to-head
  • Results vs. common opponents
  • Results vs. ranked opponents

Thankfully, the committee's definition of "ranked opponents" is different than what you're used to seeing. The rankings they use are the prior week's CFP Rankings. They do not consider where teams are ranked when the games were played either in the CFP, AP Top 25, etc. Using game-time rankings is the most worthless way to determine "ranked opponents". In fact, the committee specifically forbids the use of any poll that has a preseason starting point.

There are also criteria that are not specifically listed and will likely never be said out loud by anyone. Those include things like margin of victory. Teams cannot always control their strength of schedule, but they can take strides to make up for a weak one by dominating the opponents they do face.

Also, when it comes to game control, the cat is no longer in the bag. Despite telling me at a mock selection meeting in October that game control was something the committee never discussed, they are now openly talking about it again. Last week, chairman Gary Barta was asked how much the committee takes a team's ability to control games into account. 

"Well, each team has a little bit different style, obviously. Controlling wins, if you think about watching games, that's more important than just a team that's just running up the score in my opinion," he said. "And I think we talked in the committee, when a team has total control of a game, that might be defensively, it might be offensively, so it's certainly something that we watch. But every team is so different in their style that it just sort of depends on the team."

So, while it may not simply be a matter of piling on points, it is still better to build an early lead than a late one, even if the result is the same. However, there is no actual game control statistic. It is strictly an eye-test thing.

With that in mind, here is how I expect the CFP Rankings to look upon their release Tuesday night.

Note: This prediction is based only on results to this point. It does not reflect the final projection for the playoff. The complete bowl playoff and bowl projections through the end of the season can be found here.

College Football Playoff Rankings prediction

The Bulldogs clinched a spot in the College Football Playoff with a win over Georgia Tech in another dominating performance. Last week: 1
Jim Harbaugh's Wolverines finally won the game he was hired to win. With that comes the spoils of a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game against Iowa and the second spot in this week's rankings. Last week: 5
The Crimson Tide needed four overtimes to get past Auburn in the Iron Bowl. That will not be enough to take back the No. 2 spot after Ohio State's loss to Michigan. However, beating Georgia in the SEC Championship Game would make Alabama the No. 1 seed in the CFP. Last week: 3
The Bearcats handled East Carolina relatively easily and should hold on to a top four spot in this week's rankings. We'll see about next week. Last week: 4
Stanford put up little resistance to Notre Dame. The season is over for the Fighting Irish. Not getting a chance to win a conference could be the thing that keeps them out of this season's playoff. Last week: 6
The Cowboys won a thriller against Oklahoma and now gets a shot at the Big 12 championship. They will rematch with Baylor, which they beat 24-14 in their first meeting. A win could put Oklahoma State in position to get into the CFP on their own, but a little help would also be welcome. Last week: 7
The Buckeyes troubles on the line of scrimmage came back to bite them big time against Michigan. They will get into a New Year's Six game, though, most likely the Rose Bowl. Last week: 2
Baylor gets a chance at revenge against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 title game. A win puts the Bears in the Sugar Bowl. Last week: 8
Ole Miss won the Egg Bowl to finish the regular season 10-2. The Rebels will play in the Sugar Bowl if Alabama ends up in the CFP; otherwise, it will be most likely the Peach Bowl. Last week: 9
The Ducks cannot make the playoff, but a win over a Utah team that demolished them two weeks ago would put them in the Rose Bowl. Last week: 11
The Spartans bounced back from that annihilation at Ohio State by knocking off Penn State to finish 10-2. It is not guaranteed, but the changes are good that Michigan State gets into a New Year's Six game. Last week: 12
The Cougars finished their virtual championship of the Pac-12 with a win over USC. BYU is now 5-0 against Pac-12 teams this season, including 4-0 against the Pac-12 South. The Cougars have an outside shot at a New Year's Six game. Like Notre Dame and the other independents, there is no means of automatic selection. They just have to be ranked highly enough to get a spot. Last week: 13
The Sooners lost Bedlam and lost their coach. Rough weekend. The committee has been soft on Oklahoma this season, and it looks like they will miss out on New Year's Six action for the first time since 2014. Last week: 10
The Hawkeyes won a close game against Nebraska, like everyone else, and got some help from Minnesota to win the Big Ten West. They can win their first conference title since 2004 and their first outright championship since 1985. The Rose Bowl awaits if Iowa wins. Last week: 16
Pittsburgh finished the regular season with a win over Syracuse. They will play Wake Forest for the ACC title and most likely a spot in the Peach Bowl. Last week: 17
The Demon Deacons should be right behind Pitt, this week's opponent in the ACC title game. The winner may get into the top 12, but that is not a requirement to get into a New Year's Six game. Last week: 18
Utah handled Colorado and now prepares to play Oregon for the second time in three weeks. This time, the game is at a neutral site. If the Utes win again, they will play in the Rose Bowl against Ohio State or Iowa. Last week: 19
The Wolfpack beat North Carolina to finish the regular season 9-3. This is the first team on this list with no chance whatsoever at a New Year's Six game. Last week: 20
The Aztecs beat Boise State and will host Utah State for the Mountain West championship. If Cincinnati were to lose this week, San Diego State could end up in a New Year's Six game as the highest-rated Group of Five conference champion. Last week: 21
It was a struggle this season for Clemson, but the Tigers did finish 9-3 and will likely go
to the best bowl game the ACC has to offer. Like Oklahoma, they will also miss the New Year's
Six for the first time since 2014. Coincidentally, that season, they played the Sooners in what is
now the Cheez-It Bowl. Last week: 23
The Razorbacks handled Missouri pretty easily to finish 8-4. They should find themselves in a pretty good bowl game. Last week: 25
Houston also could make the New Year's Six as the highest-rated conference champion from the Group of Five if it beats Cincinnati for the AAC Conference title. The committee could have a decision to make between the Cougars and the Aztecs. Last week: 24
The Aggies lost to LSU in Tigers' coach Ed Orgeron's final game. Like Arkansas, they finished 8-4 and the two will be candidates for the same bowl game. Texas A&M's loss to Arkansas doesn't mean anything in that process though. Outside the New Year's Six, bowl decisions are largely not merit-based. Last week: 15
The Gophers did what nobody has been able to do for a couple of months. They slowed down the Wisconsin running attack and knocked off the Badgers. Unfortunately for them, Iowa won too, so there was no tie for the Big Ten West crown. Minnesota would have won that tiebreaker. Last week: NR
Wisconsin had been storming to a Big Ten West title but got derailed by Minnesota. The Badgers will probably find themselves in one of the Big Ten's New Year's Day games, which isn't bad after a 1-3 start to the season. Last week: 14