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There is some intrigue to this week's College Football Playoff Rankings now that Oregon has lost. Will Ohio State move ahead of Alabama? Will Michigan jump Cincinnati? How far will Oregon and Michigan State fall?

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 penultimate 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

1
The Bulldogs enjoyed a pickup game with Charleston Southern last week. Barring an upset at Georgia Tech, Georgia is a lock for the playoff. Last week: 1
2
Ohio State is hitting on all cylinders right now. We knew that they would light up Michigan State's defense. What was really impressive about the Buckeyes' performance was holding the Spartans offense to just three points. I think the committee will move Ohio State up past Alabama this week, but it does not matter in the end. Ohio State cannot finish ahead of 12-1 SEC champion Alabama. Last week: 4
3
The Crimson Tide got a fight from Arkansas, though the Razorbacks got a lovely parting gift touchdown late to make the score closer. Alabama is the only team besides Georgia that controls its own fate for the top seed in the CFP. Last week: 2
4
The Bearcats have a knack for playing better against their better opponents. After struggling for a month with AAC also-rans, they came out and smoked SMU. Cincinnati has played four teams that are currently above .500 and beaten three of them by at least 34 points. The fourth team is Notre Dame. Last week: 5
5
Michigan tuned up for the big game this week by destroying Maryland. I have felt for the last couple of weeks that there was a case for the Wolverines to be ahead of Cincinnati for now, but since the committee has passed on that, nothing happened this week that should change their minds. Last week: 6
6
The Fighting Irish are playing out the string against underwhelming opposition. They handled Georgia Tech easily last week. Now, Notre Dame heads out west to play Stanford. The Cardinal beat Oregon on Oct. 2 and have not won since. Last week: 8
7
The Cowboys shut out Texas Tech on the road, which is a pretty impressive defensive performance. Oklahoma State will be favored when Oklahoma comes to town for Bedlam. The Cowboys are assured of a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game. Last week: 9
8
Baylor is still holding out hope to be the opponent for Oklahoma State in the Big 12 title game, but the Bears need to take care of their own business first. They need to beat Texas Tech this week and hope Oklahoma loses. Last week: 11
9
The Rebels are sitting at 9-2 and in pretty good shape for a spot in a New Year's Six game. A win in the Egg Bowl at Mississippi State would assure them of a spot in one of those games. Last week: 12
10
The Ducks could fall farther than this if the committee overreacts to the score of the loss at Utah. The playoff is no longer an option for Oregon, but it can still win the league and get to the Rose Bowl. Last week: 3
11
MSU is another team hoping the committee can forget last week's score. The Spartans porous pass defense has finally caught up with them. They still have a shot at a New Year's Six game also, but that requires a win over Penn State at a minimum. Last week: 7
12
Fans should not be concerned that Oklahoma is a few spots behind Oklahoma State in the CFP Rankings. It makes no difference. They are essentially the same team. If the Sooners win Saturday, they will end up being ranked where the committee would have put the Cowboys if they won. Oklahoma also still has a chance to get to the playoff. A handful of the teams ahead of them in the rankings cannot say that. Last week: 13
13
The Cougars pulled another SEC move and played a Sun Belt school in November. Such is the life of an independent. Unfortunately, BYU gets another mediocre team this week when it visits USC to end the regular season. The Cougars are looking for their fifth win against Pac-12 opposition this season. Last week: 14
14
Wisconsin held off Nebraska, which always seems to play just well enough to lose, to stay tied for first in the Big Ten West and will play for the conference title if the Badgers win at Minnesota this week. Last week: 15
15
The Aggies may stay ahead of Wisconsin this week, but playing Prairie View did some serious damage to their strength of schedule. Their New Year's Six hopes hinge on a win at LSU and probably some help from teams above them losing. Last week: 16
16
The Demon Deacons suffered their second loss in three games at Clemson. Wake Forest got smacked around pretty good after being held to its lowest point total of the season. The Demon Deacons will play for the ACC title, though, if they can win at Boston College. Last week: 10
17
Pittsburgh has yet to beat a team that has appeared in these rankings, though that may change this week. I am projecting Clemson into the rankings this week, and Pitt beat the Tigers on Oct. 23. Last week: 18
18
The Hawkeyes keep muddling along. Iowa beat Illinois this week to stay tied with Wisconsin atop the Big Ten West. The Hawkeyes need a win and Wisconsin loss to play for the Big Ten title because they cannot win any tiebreakers. Last week: 17
19
The Aztecs will play for the Mountain West title if they beat Boise State at home this week or if Freson State loses at San Jose State. Last week: 19
20
I had the Utes beating Oregon in my bowl projections ... just not like that. If not for the head-to-head loss to San Diego State, I would have moved Utah higher in the projected rankings. That could happen anyway. The Utes will play for the Pac-12 title. Oregon is favored to be the opponent. Last week: 23
21
The Roadrunners have put together a special season, clinching a spot in the Conference USA Championship Game. Their strength of schedule has kept them down on this list. Last week: 22
22
The Wolfpack beat Syracuse easily and now needs to win and get help to play for the ACC title. NC State would only get that chance if there is a three-way tie with Clemson and Wake Forest. Last week: 20
23
Clemson's offense has finally come alive late in the season. Too late to be a factor for the College Football Playoff, but the Tigers could still win the ACC. They would need Wake Forest and NC State to lose this week. Clemson is done with conference play. The Tigers are at South Carolina this week. Last week: NR
24
Houston is fortunate to be in the rankings with one of the worst schedules in FBS and a loss to Texas Tech. That said, a loss by Cincinnati this week would mean getting to host the Bearcats in the AAC title game. Last week: 24
25
The Razorbacks played Alabama well enough to stay in the rankings ahead of Mississippi State, which they beat, and the Big Ten contenders for this spot, Purdue and Penn State. Last week: 21