The College Football Playoff selection committee released its first set of rankings on Tuesday night. As expected, Alabama took the top spot, with Clemson at No. 2 and Michigan at No. 3 The big surprise came at No. 4, as the committee went with Texas A&M over Washington. The Huskies checked in at No. 5, while Ohio State, Louisville, Wisconsin, Auburn and Nebraska rounded out the top 10. Western Michigan was the top Group of 5 team at No. 23, and Oklahoma was the first Big 12 team at No. 14.
The committee will release rankings every Tuesday for the remainder of the season, with the final set coming on Sunday, Dec. 4 with playoff and bowl announcements. What are the key takeaways from the first set of rankings? Here are five things to know:
5 Takeaways From CFB Playoff First Rankings
1. Don’t Panic…This is the First Set of Rankings
As expected, the release of the rankings brought loud criticism from a few fanbases. Do they have a point? Sure. But let’s keep in mind: This is just the first ranking and the top 25 over the next few weeks will change – probably significantly. Which brings us…
2. Washington is in Good Shape at No. 5
Yes, most projections indicated Washington would be in the first rankings at No. 4 over Texas A&M. However, the No. 5 ranking is nothing for coach Chris Petersen’s team to worry about. The first priority for the Huskies is to take care of business the rest of the way, which includes road trips to California and Washington State, a home game against USC and a potential Pac-12 Championship rematch against USC or a match up against Colorado. Assuming Washington wins out, the 13-0 record and a conference championship would be enough for this team to pass Texas A&M in the rankings (assuming both win out). The committee doesn’t project or take into account the future records – it can only go off the resume of teams right now. And after nine weeks, the committee thinks Texas A&M has the better resume – right now. But as mentioned above, that’s going to change by December.
3. Louisville Needs Help to Make the Playoff
In Tuesday night’s rankings, four one-loss teams placed inside of the top 10 – Texas A&M (No. 4), Ohio State (No. 6), Louisville (No. 7) and Nebraska (No. 10). Chaos or upcoming results will have an impact on this order, but Louisville is in a little trouble at No. 7. An anticipated showdown against Houston has lost some of its preseason luster, and the Cardinals take on Boston College, Wake Forest and Kentucky to round out their regular season slate. While it’s not impossible for Louisville to make the playoff, the lack of top 25 wins outside of Florida State, and the remaining schedule the rest of the way won’t provide many marquee opportunities to move up.
4. Penn State at No. 12…The Biggest Surprise?
There is a disparity in how the committee views Penn State and how the Nittany Lions rank in the Associated Press poll. Coach James Franklin’s team checked in at No. 12 in the first committee rankings, while Penn State was No. 20 in Sunday’s release of the Associated Press poll. Why the eight-spot disparity? The committee clearly likes Penn State’s win over Ohio State (No. 6) and thinks it has pieced together a solid resume with wins over Minnesota and Temple. Is it a bit high? Perhaps. However, it’s also fair to say the Nittany Lions have improved over the course of the season and have one of the best wins by a team ranked in 10-20 range.
5. Western Michigan is the Group of 5 Team to Beat…For Now
Western Michigan improved to 9-0 on Tuesday night thanks to a 52-20 win over Ball State. But that wasn’t the only good news from Tuesday night for coach P.J. Fleck. The Broncos ranked No. 23 in the first rankings, setting up Western Michigan to be the top Group of 5 team at the end of the year. However, there’s not a ton of breathing room between the Broncos and Boise State (No. 24). While Boise State is only a spot behind, coach Bryan Harsin’s team needs a little help to win their division after the loss at Wyoming. The top Group of 5 team in a New Year’s Six bowl has to be a conference champion. With that in mind, keep a close watch on San Diego State. The Aztecs have a road trip to Wyoming on Nov. 19 and could rematch against the Cowboys or take on Boise State in the Mountain West title game. Western Michigan is in good shape to be the top Group of 5 team. But the Broncos also have to win impressively to hold off a late charge by San Diego State or Boise State (provided the Broncos get back to the top of the Mountain Division).
Bowl Projections (Using the Committee’s Rankings from Nov. 1)
College Football Playoff
Peach: Alabama vs. Texas A&M
Fiesta: Clemson vs. Michigan
New Year’s Six
Rose: Ohio State vs. Washington
Sugar: Auburn vs. Oklahoma
Orange: Louisville vs. Wisconsin
Cotton: Western Michigan vs. Nebraska