The first official College Football Playoff Rankings will not be released until Oct. 31, but we do not want to wait that long. We are here to predict what the top 25 would look like if the CFP Selection Committee were making its announcement one week earlier, this Tuesday night. It is a warmup act for the warmup act, which is all of the CFP Rankings releases before the final one.
Before we get to the predicted rankings themselves, here's a refresher listing some of key points the committee members consider when deciding a team's ranking beyond their on-field record:
- Strength of schedule
- Conference championships (once decided)
- 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 in the CFP, AP Top 25, etc. when the games are played. 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.
Notice that "game control" is not listed among the criteria. It never has been considered despite the term (or similar concepts) coming out of the mouth of past committee chairmen. (The CFP does not have a way to measure "game control" -- I've seen the data the committee uses -- but let's not kid ourselves: They do talk about it.) And really, who cares how you get to the win as long as you get there?
With all that in mind, here is how the CFP Rankings would look if released this week. Remember: This is not necessarily how I would vote if I were on the committee. I am merely predicting what they would do if the first rankings were released Tuesday night.
Note: This projection is based only on results to this point. It does not reflect the final forecast 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
|Michigan's schedule has been pretty lackluster, but you cannot argue with the Wolverines' dominance of that schedule. They lead the nation in scoring margin by more than a touchdown over second-place Oregon. Michigan's defense has yet to face a first-and-goal this season. Greater challenges will be coming but not for a few weeks.
|The Buckeyes have played two teams in these rankings already, winning on the last play at Notre Dame and beating Penn State on Saturday, 20-12. They have otherwise handled their business as you would expect.
|The Seminoles also have two wins over teams in the rankings this week. Last Saturday, they came on strong in the second half to beat Duke, 38-20. Florida State also has a neutral-site win over LSU and an overtime win at Clemson. The Seminoles still have games with in-state rivals Miami and Florida.
|Washington had a serious hangover from its win over Oregon on Oct. 14. The Huskies needed a fourth-quarter rally to beat 1-6 Arizona State at home. The Pac-12 is not short of opponents to build a CFP resume against. However, this week's opponent is not one of them.
|The Sooners have bounced back from a rough first season under coach Brent Venables. Oklahoma is 7-0, including a 34-30 win in a thrilling Red River Rivalry over Texas. The rest of the conference may not provide many more games against teams that finish in the rankings, which could hurt the Sooners later. However, that is a problem for another day.
|Georgia's push for a third straight title has been relatively lackluster. There has been only one noteworthy game so far, a 51-13 win over Kentucky, which was the only time this season that the Bulldogs have looked like a championship-caliber team. The rest of Georgia's schedule has been dreadful. It's Cocktail Party week, so the Bulldogs should expect a fight from Florida. However, Georgia has not lost to an unranked Gators team since 2014.
|The Longhorns would be challenging for a spot at the top of these rankings if they had beaten Oklahoma. As it is, the win at Alabama is a separator for them compared to the other 1-loss teams high on this list. Alabama has gotten better as well, so it is likely to hold up as a high quality win over the course of the season.
|The Crimson Tide have a pretty good CFP resume at this point. However, the loss to Texas at home creates a ceiling for them in the rankings as long as each team has just one loss. Alabama has wins over Ole Miss and Tennessee at home and will get to face LSU in Tuscaloosa as well. The Tide have two weeks to prepare for that one.
|I feel like the Rebels are flying under the radar a little bit. This team has a win over LSU at home and has given Tulane its only loss. The loss to Alabama hurts in the conference race because now the Tide hold the tiebreaker between the two. Ole Miss has a good strength of schedule ranking so far, but it figures to take a hit when it faces Vanderbilt.
|The Ducks get the slight edge over Penn State for this spot due to the more competitive nature of their loss at Washington compared to the Nittany Lions' loss at Ohio State. Neither team has played a great schedule. Oregon will get a great test this week though,
|The Nittany Lions are coming off a loss at Ohio State during which their defense gave them a shot to win, but the offense was not good enough to pull it off. Penn State shut out Iowa at home for its most noteworthy win, but given the Hawkeyes' well-documented problems on offense, that is not as impressive as it seems. There have been complaints about Penn State's weak nonconference schedule. It could be a problem in a competitive situation in these rankings -- depending on the other teams, of course. The schedule will not get any better this week.
|The Beavers have played well this season as they prepare for an uncertain future. They have beaten UCLA and Utah, and their only loss came by three points in the de facto Pac-2 title game at Washington State.
|Utah has done well this season, especially considering it was expecting Cam Rising to be the quarterback. He has now been declared out for the season. Bryson Barnes filled in and led the Utes to a win at USC on Saturday. The task of getting a third straight Pac-12 championship will not be easy regardless.
|The Fighting Irish have already played four teams in the rankings this week, splitting the results. They are coming off a demolition of USC two weeks ago in which their defense forced five turnovers. If not for the ugly performance at Louisville, we might be talking about Notre Dame as a CFP contender.
|The Tigers have played one of the tougher schedules of the teams on this list. LSU has already faced Florida State, Ole Miss and Missouri, all on the road. Those teams have a combined record of 20-2. The Tigers handed Mizzou its only loss so far. They still have games at Alabama and at home against Florida and Texas A&M. The game against the Crimson Tide is after this bye week.
|The Tigers impressed beating Kansas State in Week 3, and other than a shootout loss to LSU (49-39), they have remained impressive offensively. Georgia, Tennessee and Florida loom after the bye week, and that is where Mizzou will be able to make its case for the committee.
|The Cardinals have put together a strong first season under new coach Jeff Brohm, which already includes a dominant win over Notre Dame. However, they gave much of that away the following week at Pittsburgh. That is still the Panthers' only win over an FBS team. Louisville's bye came at a good time as it prepares for Duke.
|The Tar Heels are coming off a disastrous loss at home to Virginia, which was also UVA's first win of the season over an FBS opponent. It is hard to think of UNC as a contender for the ACC title, but it is still in the hunt. The Tar Heels will finish the season with games against Duke, followed by road trips to Clemson and NC State.
|Will quarterback Riley Leonard play or not? That is the key question facing the Blue Devils ahead of an important game with Louisville in the ACC title chase. Leonard reinjured his ankle in the loss to Florida State on Saturday.
|We have reached the part of the rankings where quality wins will be harder to find. The best the Bruins have is the one over Washington State that sent the Cougars into a three-game-and-counting tailspin. They will be bit players in their own game this week because the Coach Prime show rolls into town.
|The top four teams in the Mountain West are pretty good this season. So far, the Falcons have only played one of them. That resulted in a 34-27 win over Wyoming. They still have a game with UNLV remaining but miss out on Fresno State.
|The Green Wave are playing to get to a New Year's Six game for the second straight season. So far, so good. Their only loss was at home to Ole Miss. Their best win so far came at Memphis.
|The Trojans are still hobbled by an anemic defense, and as a result, will likely waste QB Caleb Williams' tremendous talent again. USC has lost in back to back weeks to teams that play top-flight defense. The Trojans still have games with Oregon and Washington coming up. Yikes.
|The complete opposite of USC, the Hawkeyes are comically inept on offense, but their stout defense keeps them in games and sometimes wins them. They are tough to watch unless you are a fan of black-and-white era football, but it is mostly effective.
|The Hurricanes are one truly boneheaded decision away from being much higher on this list and a player in the ACC title race. Instead, they are looking to be spoilers for someone else.