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 third 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.
|Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa didn't play most of the fourth quarter due to an injury to his right leg, but he is expected back this week for that big November tilt against The Citadel. (Last week: 1)|
|The Tigers got a bit of a fight from Boston College, but the Eagles never threatened to win the game. Clemson has nothing but home games left except for the ACC title game. (2)|
|No, Ian Book? No problem. Brandon Wimbush started at quarterback for the Irish for the first time since the win over Vanderbilt on Sept. 15, and while he did not have eye-popping numbers, he led Notre Dame to an easy win over Florida State. (3)|
|The Wolverines crushed another hapless foe, and they all seem to be hapless lately. Rutgers was the latest victim. That is not so great for Michigan's strength of schedule, but it is unavoidable. (4)|
|Georgia took care of Auburn, which was new to the CFP Rankings last week. The Bulldogs will step out of conference, like most of the SEC this week, and face UMass. (5)|
|For the second week in a row, the Sooners gave up more than 45 points and still found a way to win. This time, it came in the Bedlam battle with Oklahoma State, which missed a two-point conversion attempt that would have given the Cowboys the lead late in the game. (6)|
|The Tigers have played the best schedule of anyone in the rankings, but the win over Arkansas is not going to help that. The line of demarcation among the one loss teams with regard to strength of schedule is pretty clear, and LSU is settled in between the better group and the other one. (7)|
|Colorado has fallen apart since a 5-0 start. Washington State did not have any trouble with the Buffaloes in a 31-7 win in Boulder. The Apple Cup is still two weeks away, but the Cougars better not sleep on Arizona. (8)|
|The Buckeyes came out of East Lansing, Michigan, with a pretty comfortable win over Michigan State. That win is of a high enough quality to push the Buckeyes ahead of West Virginia in the rankings … for now. (10)|
|The Mountaineers are set up now for the stretch run of the season after routing TCU, 47-10. They finish the regular season with Oklahoma at home but have to take care of Oklahoma State on the road first. (9)|
|UCF jumped out to a 21-0 early lead on Navy, but the Midshipmen came back some to only lose by 11. The Knights should move up this week after a loss by Kentucky. (12)|
|The score will not indicate a blowout, but Penn State was never seriously threatened by Wisconsin after an early Jonathan Taylor long touchdown run. Strength of schedule should boost the Lions up this week. (20)|
|Syracuse made Louisville look so bad that the Cardinals finally had to put Bobby Petrino out of his -- and their -- misery. ACC teams not named Clemson are not getting a lot of respect from the committee yet. (13)|
|The Wildcats were lackluster in a 24-7 loss to Tennessee that may ultimately cost them a shot at a New Year's Six game. Kentucky's offense is really struggling. The Wildcats haven't scored 20 points in a game since September. (11)|
|Florida ended its two-game losing streak with a hard-fought 35-31 win over South Carolina. The Gators get to feast on Idaho this week. The Vandals dropped down to FCS this season after losing their membership in the Sun Belt. (15)|
|The Longhorns won a shootout at Texas Tech, 41-34. Texas is hoping to hang around long enough to get into the Big 12 title game, but it needs someone to beat Oklahoma. (19)|
|Losing to Alabama is not usually to terribly damaging to your ranking, and that figures to be true for MSU as well. It helps that a lot of other teams in this part of the bracket lost as well. The Bulldogs are the highest rated four-loss team in the rankings. (16)|
|Things got feisty with Baylor on Saturday, but the Cyclones won, 28-14. ISU still has a shot at the Big 12 title, but the Cyclones have to beat Texas at home this week for that to have a chance. (22)|
|The Huskies crept onto the top 25 last week and could move up because of the carnage in the bottom of the rankings. Washington avoided being a victim by not playing last week. (25)|
|The Utes lost their starting quarterback and running back within a few days of each other last week, but that didn't stop them from beating Oregon, 32-25. Utah is in a three-way tie for first in the Pac-12 South with the Arizona schools. They hold the tiebreaker over Arizona, but not ASU. (NR)|
|The Tigers lost to Georgia in the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry. As losses go, that one is not so bad and the Tigers may actually move up in the rankings. (24)|
|The Aggies took care of Ole Miss, 38-24. Two of their losses are to Clemson and Alabama. They count, but they don't look as bad as some others. (NR)|
|There's no cure for a bad run of play like getting a shot at Oregon State. The Cardinal had lost four out of five but wiped out the Beavers, 48-17. Stanford may not be in the rankings long though. They finish with road games against Cal and UCLA. (NR)|
|The Wolfpack climbed all the way to 14th in the rankings last week and celebrated by blowing a lead at home and losing to Wake Forest. Only a near-religious devotion to head-to-head keeps NC State third among the ACC teams. (14)|
|Virginia had an easy time with Liberty, which is transitioning to FBS. The Cavaliers' best win came at Duke. They will finish with a tough couple of road games against the Techs -- Georgia and Virginia. (NR)|