College Football Playoff Rankings prediction: Utah ahead of Oklahoma outside top four
Jerry Palm provides his prediction for how the penultimate CFP Rankings will look on Tuesday night
The penultimate College Football Playoff Rankings will be released Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET, 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 with only a couple weeks left in the 2019 season. We are here to predict what the top 25 will look like this evening.
This 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 will likely look when the committee releases them this evening.
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 beat Michigan again. That makes eight in a row and 15 out of 16. This one was close for about a half, but the Buckeyes ran away for a 56-27 win. The committee moved OSU up to the top last week, and the Buckeyes gave them no reason to change their mind. Ohio State gets a rematch with Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. Last week: 1|
|The Tigers, like most of the teams at the top of the rankings this week, had an easy week. LSU pounded Texas A&M 50-7. This was the third time this season the Aggies had played the team ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25. The Tigers take on Georgia for the SEC title on Saturday. Last week: 2|
|Another week, another patsy for Clemson. This time, it was in-state rival South Carolina that got trampled by the Tigers. Clemson beat the Gamecocks 38-3 and will face Virginia in the ACC Championship Game. The Tigers are a four-touchdown favorite over the second-best team in the league. Last week: 3|
|Georgia wrecked Georgia Tech 52-7 in its rivalry game on Saturday. Despite being fourth in the CFP Rankings for the last three weeks, Georgia's playoff hopes hinge on beating LSU in the SEC Championship Game. Last week: 4|
|Utah clobbered Colorado 45-15 to set up the Pac-12 Championship Game we mostly expected against Oregon on Friday night. The only thing we did not expect was for Oregon to be 10-2 entering the game. That could impact the Utes' playoff hopes, but they have to win first. Last week: 6|
|The Sooners finally won a game by more than seven points. Oklahoma took care of Oklahoma State 34-16 in Bedlam. I am not sure if that is the level of dominance the committee has been looking for from Oklahoma, but it is a start. Last week: 7|
|Baylor is another team that has struggled to get style points, but it won with plenty of style on Saturday. The Bears crunched Kansas 61-6, giving us a Big 12 Championship Game between one-loss teams, something the Pac-12 wishes it had. Last week: 9|
|This is not where Alabama belongs, but the more I think about it, the more I think the committee will continue to be more wowed by the margin of their wins than their lack of quality. Alabama has played only two ranked teams and lost both games, giving up 94 points in the process. The Tide only gave up 128 points total in their 10 wins and have the third-best margin of victory behind Ohio State and Clemson. This prediction also does not match my bowl projections. I'll have to change those if Alabama is above Penn State. Last week: 5|
|The Badgers dominated Minnesota 38-17 in the snow and won the Big Ten West in the process. That should boost the Badgers ahead of Penn State, although it is not a given. Wisconsin has played better or even with Penn State against their top common opponents with the exception of Ohio State. The Badgers do not match up well athletically with the Buckeyes, so it will be surprising if the second game is much closer than the first. Last week: 12|
|The Nittany Lions slumbered through a 27-6 win over Rutgers on Saturday that was still a tight game into the fourth quarter. It is probably no surprise that PSU was flat against the Scarlet Knights coming off the slugfest at Ohio State. The positioning of Wisconsin and Penn State is important relative to each other because a spot in the Rose Bowl is likely at stake. Last week: 10 |
|The Gators pummeled in-state rival Florida State 40-17 and now wait to see how the committee feels about them compared to Alabama. How the committee ranks the teams I have listed 8-11 will have a lot to say about New Year's Six berths. Last week: 11|
|The Tigers won one of the most entertaining Iron Bowls in recent memory, 48-45. Gus Malzahn was considered to be on the hot seat at the beginning of the season, but to get to 9-3 with their schedule and a freshman quarterback was remarkable. Last week: 15|
|The Ducks had to work hard for it, but they beat Oregon State 20-6 to win the Civil War. They also won the Pac-12 North by four games. No other team in the division was above .500 in conference play. Oregon can still make the Rose Bowl with a win over Utah. Last week: 14|
|The Gophers won 10 regular season games for the first time ever but lost to Wisconsin, which ended their hopes for a shot at the playoff and likely the Rose Bowl. Minnesota has not been to the Granddaddy of the All since 1962. Still, a New Year's Day bowl appearance is likely. Last week: 8|
|The Irish ended their regular season with a 45-24 win at Stanford and will likely get the best bowl available to an ACC team outside the New Year's Six. Last week: 16|
|Jim Harbaugh still cannot beat Ohio State. Don't feel bad, coach. Nobody else can, either. The Wolverines hung around for a little while, but Ohio State's superior talent eventually took over. Last week: 13|
|The Tigers beat Cincinnati 34-24 to set up a rematch this week with the Bearcats again in Memphis, this time with the AAC crown and possibly a berth in the Cotton Bowl at stake. Last week: 18|
|Iowa needed two late, long field goals -- one as time expired -- to win at Nebraska, 19-16. The Hawkeyes will be off to a nice bowl game somewhere, but the Cornhuskers will miss a bowl game for the third straight season, which hasn't happened since black-and-white television was all the rage. Last week: 17|
|The Broncos had to work hard for a 31-24 win at Colorado State to end the regular season. They will host Hawaii for the Mountain West title and a possible Cotton Bowl berth on Saturday. Last week: 20|
|The Bearcats will get another shot at Memphis and hope to come away as the AAC champion. They also hope that the committee will consider them to be ahead of a Boise State team that may have one fewer loss. Last week: 19|
|1. The Trojans had the week off, and their regular season is over. The story for them is whether Clay Helton will still be the coach when the bowl game rolls around. Last week: 22|
|The Wildcats knocked off Iowa State 27-17 to finish in a four-way tie for third in the Big 12 with the Cyclones, Texas and Oklahoma State. Not a bad result for first-year coach Chris Klieman. Last week: NR|
|The committee decided to rank an ACC team last week. That team was Virginia Tech, which was the wrong choice. Virginia validated that though with a 39-30 win over the Hokies, breaking a 15-game losing streak in the rivalry. The reward is getting to play in the Orange Bowl, miraculous win or lose against Clemson. Last week: NR|
|The Mountaineers beat Troy 48-13 to earn the right host the Sun Belt Championship Game against Louisiana, a 31-30 winner over UL Monroe. Last week: 25|
|The Midshipmen beat Houston 56-41 to earn a tie for the AAC West title with Memphis. There are not too many conferences where a school in Maryland would be considered "West," but that is where they are placed. No championship game for Navy, however, the Midshipmen can regain the Commander-in-Chief Trophy for the first time since 2015 with a win over Army on Dec. 14. Last week: NR|
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