The first rankings from the College Football Playoff Selection Committee were released on Tuesday night, and as expected, some of the top 25 placements didn’t come as a surprise, but there were a few things that were. As expected, Georgia was No. 1, with Alabama, Michigan State and Oregon rounding out the top four. Ohio State, Cincinnati, Michigan and Oklahoma round out the top eight.
With five weeks of games remaining, a lot can (and will) change in the world of college football. What are the biggest takeaways from the first release? Here are a couple of things of note:
There’s a big discrepancy between the human polls (Associated Press and Coaches) to the CFB Playoff Selection Committee. The Bearcats are No. 2 in both of the human rankings but checked in at No. 6 in the committee’s top 25. Coach Luke Fickell’s team has a top-10 win over Notre Dame and is undefeated (8-0), but the committee knocked Cincinnati for its sluggish performances against Tulane and UCF and a lack of top-25 wins outside of the road victory in South Bend.
However, the No. 6 ranking doesn’t really change much about the path for the Bearcats to the playoff. Obviously, Fickell’s team needs to win out, but all of the teams ahead of Cincinnati in the ranking have tough matchups remaining. In other words, it’s too early to panic about the Bearcats and the playoff. If Georgia beats Alabama and Oregon or Oklahoma stumbles, that provides a viable path to get into the top four.
Oregon vs. Ohio State
All rankings are just a snapshot in time, but the first release provides a window into the committee’s thinking. A quick glance through the top 25 shows head-to-head victories were significantly valued in the first release. Even though Oregon won at Ohio State earlier this year, the Ducks are behind the Buckeyes in the human polls. However, the committee valued Oregon’s win and has coach Mario Cristobal’s team one spot ahead in the first top 25. The Pac-12 is very much alive in the CFB Playoff race.
Oklahoma at No. 8
The Sooners ranked No. 4 in both human polls but checked in at No. 8 on Tuesday night. Why the discrepancy? “First of all, they're 9-0, and so they belong being ranked eighth,” said CFB Playoff Chair Gary Barta. “They're undefeated, so they get a lot of credit for that. But you mentioned it, defensive struggles throughout the year certainly was discussed.”
As the above quote indicated, the committee doubts Oklahoma’s defense, is concerned about the close calls, and is waiting to see how this team evolves over the next few weeks with freshman quarterback Caleb Williams at the controls. While the Sooners are eighth, this team is still in good shape to make the CFB Playoff with a 13-0 mark. Oklahoma still has remaining games against Baylor and Oklahoma State – both teams are ranked in the top 25 – and a potential rematch against one in the Big 12 title game.
Minnesota seems overranked at No. 20. The Golden Gophers don’t have a top 25 win and lost to Bowling Green on Sept. 25.
Why wasn’t Penn State ranked? Yes, the Nittany Lions lost to Illinois, but coach James Franklin’s team has wins over Wisconsin (No. 21) and Auburn (No. 13). The Nittany Lions have the same record as Wisconsin and own the head-to-head victory.
At 7-1 and fresh off a big win over SMU, Houston probably deserved to be in the top 25.
On first glance, Mississippi State at No. 17 seems like a reach. But consider this: The Bulldogs have three wins over top-25 teams – Kentucky, NC State and Texas A&M.
Top 25 CFB Playoff Rankings First Release (Nov. 2) -
3. Michigan State
5. Ohio State
9. Wake Forest
10. Notre Dame
11. Oklahoma State
14. Texas A&M
16. Ole Miss
17. Mississippi State
19. NC State
23. Fresno State
24. San Diego State
Projected New Year’s Six Bowls
Using the CFB Playoff Committee’s rankings, this is how the New Year’s Six and CFB Playoff semifinals would look today:
Chick-fil-A Peach: Notre Dame vs. Wake Forest
Fiesta: Cincinnati vs. Michigan
Rose: Ohio State vs. Utah
Sugar: Oklahoma vs. Auburn
Projected CFB Playoff
Orange: No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Oregon
Cotton: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Michigan State