The first College Football Playoff Rankings will be released late Tuesday night, but we do not want to wait that long to get a taste of how the CFP Selection Committee will be ranking the top 25 teams in the nation for the first time in the 2019 season. We are here to predict what the initial top 25 will look like this evening.
It is a warmup act for the warmup act, which are all of the CFP Rankings releases before the final one following conference championship Saturday. In this space, we 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 how the CFP Rankings would likely look if the committee released it today.
Note: Predictions in this story are based only on results to this point, so they do not reflect the final forecast for the playoff. My current playoff and bowl projections can be found here.
|The Buckeyes took the week off, like everyone else in the top four. They are here because I believe the committee will reward the nearly unprecedented evisceration of its schedule so far, good teams and bad. The Buckeyes beat Wisconsin and Cincinnati, which may appear in these rankings, by a combined score of 80-7. Maryland and Rutgers, Ohio State's next two opponents, may not fare as well.|
|The Tigers rested up last week to get ready for Alabama. That feels like an important game. LSU has two wins better than any Ohio State has, but their overall strength of schedule is considered slightly worse than that of the Buckeyes. For what that's worth.|
|The Crimson Tide's strength of schedule could be a problem for them if they lose to LSU, and it's also a problem in this week's rankings. If Alabama manages to run the table to 13-0, that will likely not matter too much. Of greater concern is the status of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. He needs to be healthy and effective for Alabama to beat LSU.|
|If there is a threat left to Ohio State, it's the Nittany Lions, but they have to beat 8-0 Minnesota first. I have PSU ahead of Clemson largely because of strength of schedule, but it has not won its better games by large margins. I consider Penn State/Clemson for this spot to be a coin flip.|
|The Tigers might as well have taken the week off, but instead, they further damaged their schedule strength by toasting Wofford. Other than the scare at North Carolina, Clemson has handled its opposition pretty easily. The Tigers figure to be at least three-touchdown favorites the rest of the way as well.|
|Georgia took control of the SEC East with its win over Florida on Saturday. The Bulldogs only have one loss, but that came at home to South Carolina, an upset only outdone by Wisconsin's loss to Illinois. However, I believe the two higher-quality wins keep it ahead of Oregon, who lost to the only similar quality team it played.|
|The Ducks have a two-game lead with three to play in the Pac-12 North after demolishing USC in Los Angeles on Saturday. Oregon has played only one team likely to be in these rankings. That was a season-opening, last-minute loss to Auburn in Arlington, Texas.|
|The Gators fell to Georgia on Saturday and need the Bulldogs to lose twice to have a chance at playing for the SEC title. Florida still has a strong resume, which includes a win over Auburn. Speaking of which …|
|The Tigers struggled to get by Ole Miss in their first home game in over a month. Now, Auburn gets a well-deserved rest before the home stretch, which is truly a home stretch. The Tigers are done playing road games, but two of their final three games are against Georgia and Alabama.|
|Baylor struggled to get by West Virginia in a Thursday night game, but the Bears are still set up for a playoff push. It is possible Oklahoma will be in this spot, but Baylor will get its shot at the Sooners soon enough.|
|Oklahoma also took last week off, which must have been National Football Sabbatical Week. The Sooners have a challenging stretch run with games at Baylor and Oklahoma State. They still have a shot at a spot in the playoff if they finish 12-1.|
|The Utes are the lowest rated of the one-loss, Power Five teams, but they are still in the hunt for a playoff spot as well. They are here because of the loss to USC, which is arguably the best team Utah has faced.|
|Oh, look who else was off last week. The Badgers are still recovering from back to back losses to Illinois and Ohio State. They can still win the Big Ten West, but they have to win out and have someone else also knock off Minnesota.|
|The Wolverines got more of a fight from Maryland than the Terrapins have put up lately, but Michigan ran away late for a comfortable win. Someone apparently messed up and scheduled Michigan off for this week instead of last week.|
|The Irish must have still be reeling from the beating Michigan laid on them two weeks ago because they needed a last minute score to avoid being upset by Virginia Tech at home. No harm, no foul, though. The Irish will still be heavy favorites the rest of the way, but the lack of a quality win may eventually keep them out of the New Year's Six.|
|Don't look now, but the only undefeated team in AAC play is Cincinnati. The Bearcats' only loss is a 42-0 pounding at Ohio State, but as we noted earlier, that does not exactly make Cincinnati unique. It needs to avoid looking ahead to that final week matchup at Memphis.|
|The Gophers will finally get a test this week when Penn State visits in the biggest game Minnesota has played in recent memory -- maybe even not so recent memory. The last time Minnesota finished a season with fewer than three losses was 1967, and it only won eight games that year. The Gophers have the longest drought of Rose Bowl appearances in the Big Ten, having last appeared in 1961. Note that it does not matter where Minnesota is ranked this week; if the Gophers go 13-0, they will be in the playoff.|
|The Tigers had a glorious day on Saturday. With the nation watching, Memphis knocked off previously unbeaten SMU 54-48 and grabbed control of the AAC. The work is not done yet, but the Tigers now hold tiebreakers with the Mustangs and Navy.|
|The Wildcats followed up their biggest win of the season with their most important. They defeated in-state rival Kansas to move to 6-2 and become bowl-eligible.|
|Like Wisconsin, Iowa is still in the Big Ten West race, and like the Badgers, the Hawkeyes would need to win out and get help with Minnesota. They travel to Madison to face Wisconsin in a conference elimination game this Saturday.|
|The Mustangs' run to perfection came to an end at Memphis on Saturday, but this is still a great story. And it is not over yet. SMU can still win the league if it wins out and someone beats Memphis.|
|The Broncos got off to a slow start at San Jose State but won a shootout 52-42. It should be relatively smooth sailing to the division title in the Mountain West. Boisie may end up really regretting that loss to BYU.|
|The Longhorns have played a good schedule but lost to their better opposition. They also lost to TCU. If there is a three-loss team in these rankings, it will be Texas. It does have a win over Oklahoma State, though, and another over Conference USA leader Louisiana Tech. It is getting hard to find significant quality at this point of the rankings.|
|The Demon Deacons only loss so far came at home to Louisville in a game with a score that would fit better on the hardwood. Their only win over a team that is currently above .500 came at Boston College, though. They are the best the ACC has to offer behind Clemson at the moment.|
|The Midshipmen have been quietly rolling along with their only loss coming at Memphis. They do not have any higher-quality wins, but victories over Air Force and Tulane are nice. They also have a path to the AAC title that is identical to that of SMU.|