The first College Football Playoff Rankings will not be released until Tuesday, Nov. 5, but we do not want to wait that long to get a taste of how the CFP Selection Committee would vote today if they were ranking the top 25 teams in the nation. As such, we are here to project what the top 25 of the CFP Rankings would look like it was released a week early. 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 just drilled another opponent. This time, it was Wisconsin, which is Ohio State's best win of the season. Like everyone else in the top five of this week's projection, they are off this week.|
|The Tigers picked up another high-quality win over Auburn on Saturday. The 23-20 score is the closest LSU has come to putting a "1" in the loss column this season and the first time its offense has been held below 42 points. Winning a game like this could serve the Tigers well later on.|
|The Crimson Tide pounded Arkansas, as expected. Backup quarterback Mac Jones had a fine day, going 18-of-22 passing for 235 yards and three touchdowns. When the game got out of hand, Tua Tagovailoa's brother, Taulia, got some action behind center. Tua is returning to practice this week.|
|The Nittany Lions had an easy time at Michigan State in a 28-7 win on Saturday. The only team to score more than 13 points on Penn State this season is Michigan, which did so in a 28-21 loss on Oct. 19. Next up after the week off is undefeated but untested Minnesota in Minneapolis.|
|The Tigers are suffering in the rankings due to a poor schedule and a near miss against North Carolina, which is something none of the teams ahead of them has to this point. All they can do is continue to beat up the rest of the hapless ACC. Mission accomplished on Saturday in a 49-7 win over Boston College. I kind of misspoke earlier when I said the top five were off this week. Clemson is having a glorified scrimmage against Wofford.|
|We have now reached the fun part of the rankings. Here are the better one-loss teams that still have some hope of reaching the College Football Playoff. The Gators are the top-rated team in this group for now. Their only defeat came at LSU, and they have a win over Auburn. They face another one-loss team in Georgia in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday.|
|Nobody will have played a tougher schedule when this season is over, and nobody has played a tougher one so far. The Tigers have already defeated Oregon and Texas A&M and have lost only at Florida and LSU. The hits will keep on coming as Alabama and Georgia visit later this season. At least they have no more road games to worry about.|
|The Ducks picked up a victory against Washington State last weekend, ending a four-game losing streak to the Cougars. Oregon is the best hope for a Pac-12 representative in the playoff. The Ducks get the edge over Utah because of their nonconference game against Auburn.|
|Nobody is really talking about Baylor as a potential playoff team, but the Bears' schedule sets up very nicely for them. They will get to face both Oklahoma and Texas at home on back-to-back weekends in November. Their overall strength of schedule is not great, so Baylor will likely have to finish undefeated to get into the playoff.|
|The Sooners fell victim to Kansas State on the road, which makes three consecutive weeks that a playoff contender lost as at least a 24-point favorite. This is the least damaging of those losses, at least for now, because it was on the road and it pushed the Wildcats into this week's rankings.|
|The Bulldogs only have one loss, but that loss at home to South Carolina, an upset only outdone by Wisconsin's loss to Illinois. Georgia's victory against Notre Dame lost some luster this week as well. However, it can grab control of the SEC East and take a big step toward an SEC title with a victory against Florida this week.|
|The Utes have dealt with nagging injury problems all season but have largely come through them pretty well. Utah's only loss came at USC, when the Utes were not healthy. Of course, neither was USC. They have a tough game at Washington this week, which is looking to turn around a disappointing season.|
|Wisconsin got drilled by Ohio State, like everyone else so far this season. The Badgers are now two games back of Minnesota in the Big Ten West, but they still have a game left with the Gophers.|
|The Wolverines finally looked like the Michigan team we expected to see all season in a 45-14 rout of Notre Dame. It is too late for Michigan to make a run at the playoff, but perhaps it can build some momentum into that season-ending game at Ohio State.|
|The Irish had very little playoff hopes after losing to Georgia, and now they have none at all. The best they can hope for is to win out and squeeze into a New Year's Six game, but they might need some help. Their best win right now is USC, and that might also be true on Selection Sunday.|
|SMU is still perfect after a tough win at Houston. The Mustangs will be at Memphis this week in the biggest game in the AAC so far this season. It could decide the division title and keep the winner in the race for the Cotton Bowl.|
|The Bearcats are another strong candidate for the Cotton Bowl berth that goes to the top Group of Five conference champion. Cincinnati will be heavily favored the next three games, so look for the Bearcats to stay in these rankings for a while.|
|Iowa games are the college football equivalent of a pitcher's duel. The Hawkeyes' past five games against Power 5 foes have averaged a score of 16-13. Wins are wins, but Iowa doesn't get a lot of style points.|
|The Gophers are unbeaten, but it is hard to find anything that resembles a quality win. They have the worst schedule by far of any major unbeaten team to this point of the season. Minnesota's only victory against a team with a winning record is the one over Georgia State. I honestly do not know if the Gophers are any good, but they can make a statement in two weeks when they host Penn State.|
|The Wildcats got a signature win for new coach Chris Klieman, and it was enough to push them into this week's rankings. Kansas State beat Oklahoma 48-41 to damage the Sooners' hopes of making the playoff.|
|The Tigers have a favorable schedule in their quest to win the AAC. That starts this Saturday when Memphis hosts undefeated SMU.|
|The Broncos were off last week and return to action at San Jose State. Boise State's toughest game remaining before the Mountain West championship is at Utah State on Nov. 23.|
|The run of Group of Five teams in the rankings continues. The Knights are used to being the top team of that group but already have two losses this season and will see its two-year run of New Year's Six games come to an end.|
|The Demon Deacons represent the best of the rest in the ACC -- for now. Wake Forest's only loss has come to Louisville at home, but its best win is Utah State.|
|The Midshipmen have been quietly rolling along with their only loss coming at Memphis in a tight game. They do not have any higher quality wins, but victories against Air Force and Tulane are nice.|