The third edition of the College Football Playoff Rankings was released Tuesday night with Georgia, Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State remaining as the top four teams for the second straight week. Not only that, the first seven teams in the top 25 were unchanged as all won games in a week that only saw one significant upset.
That came as Baylor knocked off previously unbeaten and eighth-ranked Oklahoma, a result that saw the Sooners fall five spots to No. 13, while the Bears moved up to two spots to No. 11. The CFP Selection Committee clearly focused on the head-to-head result above overall record given Baylor has one more loss than Oklahoma. Neither is the top-ranked Big 12 team, though, as Oklahoma State holds that distinction at No. 9 ahead of a Bedlam meeting with OU in two weeks.
Cincinnati, at 10-0 with two Power Five wins, held at No. 5 after a clean win over South Florida. The Bearcats remain the highest-ranked Group of Five program in this history of the CFP Rankings, but as of right now, that's only good enough for a New Year's Six bid given they are outside the top four. However, Cincinnati did receive some good news from the committee due to it finally ranking Houston. CBS Sports bowls expert Jerry Palm details that below.
In the history of the CFP, no team ranked outside the top seven at this late point in the season has moved into the four-team field after the conference championship games. The No. 7 team has advanced to the top four twice: Oklahoma in 2017, Georgia in 2019.
Let's take a look at the entire CFP Rankings top 25. Keep on reading for Palm's expert analysis.
College Football Playoff Rankings, Nov. 16
- Georgia (10-0)
- Alabama (9-1)
- Oregon (9-1)
- Ohio State (9-1)
- Cincinnati (10-0)
- Michigan (9-1)
- Michigan State (9-1)
- Notre Dame (9-1)
- Oklahoma State (9-1)
- Wake Forest (9-1)
- Baylor (8-2)
- Ole Miss (8-2)
- Oklahoma (9-1)
- BYU (8-2)
- Wisconsin (7-3)
- Texas A&M (7-3)
- Iowa (8-2)
- Pittsburgh (8-2)
- San Diego State (9-1)
- NC State (7-3)
- Arkansas (7-3)
- UTSA (10-0)
- Utah (7-3)
- Houston (9-1)
- Mississippi State (6-4)
Not previously ranked: Houston, Mississippi State
Analysis by bowls expert Jerry Palm
Though it's going to be difficult from Oklahoma to climb back into the playoff after dropping to No. 13 this week, it's not impossible. The Sooners have at least one game with No. 9 Oklahoma State, and they could rematch in the Big 12 Championship Game. Aiding matters is that the three Big Ten teams ahead of Oklahoma cannot all win out.
Keep in mind that these CFP Rankings do not behave like the top 25 polls where teams hold their spots simply by winning. A potential 12-1 Big 12 champion, whether it's Oklahoma or Oklahoma State, will still have a chance to climb all the way to the top four regardless of where it is ranked right now.
Houston crept onto the bottom of the CFP Rankings this week, which is helpful for Cincinnati's strength of schedule. If the Cougars can keep winning to stay in the rankings, an AAC Championship Game win by the Bearcats would help boost Cincinnati's profile with the committee.
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Speaking of Cincinnati, there has been some speculation in various places that Notre Dame at 11-1 could jump the undefeated Bearcats for a spot in the playoff. That belief is based on the Fighting Irish having a much stronger schedule and the committee already ignoring head-to-head once this season by putting Michigan ahead of Michigan State. Let me make this as clear as possible: Even though Notre Dame crept one spot closer in the rankings this week, there is no chance that the Irish will finish ahead of an unbeaten Bearcats team.
This situation is different than the one between Michigan and Michigan State. The Spartans did not fall behind the Wolverines until MSU lost and each program had one loss. When Michigan State was still undefeated, it was ahead of Michigan. In this case with Cincinnati and Notre Dame, the Bearcats will be 1.5 games better than the Irish and will have beaten Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. No strength of schedule differential is overcoming that.
I have suggested that Michigan could jump Cincinnati at some point because of its schedule strength. The Wolverines are not encumbered with a head-to-head defeat. However, even if Michigan did make that move at some point, it would have to win out to stay there. Based on the current rankings, it's highly unlikely that more than one Big Ten team would finish ahead of an undefeated Cincinnati.