And here we go. The fourth College Football Playoff rankings of the season come out on Tuesday night. What will the top 25 be?
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It’ll be fascinating to see for future College Football Playoff projections over the coming years to see just how much the rankings after the fourth installment compare to the final ones. There’s a great chance that they’re far different with wild mood swings, but there’s still one giant variable that we still don’t know.
Just how much – really, how much – will conference championships matter?
Will a 12-1 Pac-12 championship mean more than an 11-1 juggernaut – cough, Ohio State, cough – with a better resume? How about an 11-2 Big Ten champ vs. the Buckeyes?
For now, here’s the best guess on what we’ll see on Tuesday night.
2016 Fourth College Football Playoff Top 25 Rankings Will (Most Likely) Be …
1. Alabama (11-0)
Week 3 Ranking: 1: Obviously, nothing changes. However, the resume might not be quite as good as Michigan’s or Ohio State’s. Beating USC and LSU might seem nice, but where’s the really, really, really amazing win?
2. Ohio State (10-1)
Week 3 Ranking: 2: Again, the warning has to keep being delivered here. Just because the Buckeyes are No. 2 now. that doesn’t mean that can’t or won’t be knocked out once the conference championships kick in. OSU still could use a Michigan State win over Penn State, because if the Nittany Lions win the Big Ten title, there could be problems.
3. Michigan (10-1)
Week 3 Ranking: 3: It won’t happen, but you could almost make a case that the Wolverines could be No. 2 considering the Colorado win looks even more amazing now. Don’t forget, Michigan whammed Penn State, and also beat Wisconsin. It doesn’t matter – beat Ohio State.
4. Clemson (10-1)
Week 3 Ranking: 4: The Louisville win suddenly takes a hit, but the win at Auburn is still strong. It’s this simple for the Tigers: beat South Carolina, beat – most likely – Virginia Tech, and get in no matter what.
5. Washington (10-1)
Week 3 Ranking: 5: That’s more like it. The Huskies were shaky to start, but they blew away Arizona State once everything started to kick in on both sides of the ball. While it’s not as cut-and-dry as being on the doorstep to getting in with a Pac-12 title and the Michigan-Ohio State loser being bounced out, but it might not be too far off.
6. Wisconsin (9-2)
Week 3 Ranking: 7: Is there really an amazing win on the resume now that LSU lost again? There are plenty of good wins, and it could all add up to a College Football Playoff spot with two more victories. Watch out, though – beating Minnesota won’t be a layup.
7. Penn State (9-2)
Week 3 Ranking: 8: Get those Ohio State pom-poms out, Penn State. Here’s the big key to the Nittany Lions the rest of the way, if they win the Big Ten championship, Ohio State doesn’t have any case to get in over them.
8. Oklahoma (9-2)
Week 3 Ranking: 9: Don’t be stunned if the Sooners are in the top seven or better after a dominant performance on the road at West Virginia. There might be a hard-ceiling on what OU can do, though. It’s not getting in ahead of Ohio State, and it’s not getting in over any of the four Power 5 conference champs if Clemson and Washington win out.
9. Colorado (9-2)
Week 3 Ranking: 10: This was one of the big whiffs in last week’s College Football Playoff rankings – USC should’ve been ahead of the Buffs, – but now it’s all good with the win over Washington State. Beat Utah next week and Washington to follow, and they might have a case to make if Clemson doesn’t win the ACC title and if Michigan wins the Big Ten.
10. USC (8-3)
Week 3 Ranking: 12: There’s an outside shot the Trojans stay behind Oklahoma State, but the win over Washington looks even more amazing now. The team continues to stay red hot since the loss to Utah a million years ago.
11. Oklahoma State (9-2)
Week 3 Ranking: 11: The committee liked the Cowboys last week, and they might just move up a few slots after destroying TCU. But that was TCU, while USC keeps beating better opponents. OSU, though, could easily be in the top team going into the Bedlam showdown with Oklahoma for the Big 12 title.
12. Florida (8-2)
Week 3 Ranking: 23: Beating No. 16 LSU on the road will really, really matter. The committee still won’t like the Arkansas loss, and losing to Tennessee is still a problem, but it loves big wins, especially away from home. Beat Florida State, beat Alabama, and it’s off to the College Football Playoff.
13. Auburn (8-3)
Week 3 Ranking: 15: The Tigers have their shot to go to the Sugar Bowl – or make a case for the Orange – with a win over Alabama. Beating Alabama &M is no big deal, but the Tigers will make a leap up with so many other key teams losing.
14. Tennessee (8-3)
Week 3 Ranking: 19: Remember, the committee tends to like big wins more than they punish/hate key losses. Now, the Florida win is going to receive a whole lot of credit and love. The Vols might not be going off to the SEC championship game, and they might technically deserve to stay ahead of Florida, but they’ll make a big jump up after looking good the last two weeks.
15. Florida State (8-3)
Week 3 Ranking: 17: Go for it, Florida State. Florida has a path to the College Football Playoff, but FSU, you can close that down in a hurry. Blowing away Syracuse doesn’t matter too much, and now the loss to Louisville isn’t as acceptable.
16. Nebraska (9-2)
Week 3 Ranking: 18: Even without Tommy Armstrong, the Huskers were able to beat Maryland in a walk. that shouldn’t seem like that big a deal, but it’ll be enough to get them more respect than they received last week.
17. West Virginia (8-2)
Week 3 Ranking: 14: The Mountaineers still don’t have any really impressive wins, but losing to Oklahoma won’t drop them too far. They’ll take a hit, but the losses to the Sooners and to Oklahoma State won’t seem so bad.
18. Boise State (10-1)
Week 3 Ranking: 20: Beating UNLV isn’t that big a deal, and there’s a shot they don’t move up much considering Wyoming might just make its way into the top 25 after beating San Diego State.
19. Western Michigan (11-0)
Week 3 Ranking: 21: It’s going to be hard to give the Broncos too much credit considering Northwestern and Illinois – the two big wins – lost this week in ugly fashion. Root for Wyoming to beat New Mexico and/or Air Force to beat Boise State. The BSU Broncos can win the Mountain West, and then the WMU Broncos might be out of the NY6.
20. Houston (9-2)
Week 3 Ranking: NR: The losses to Navy and SMU will still matter, but now the Cougars have wins over Oklahoma and Louisville – they have wins over two top 5 teams. It won’t just be the resume, it’ll be the way they did it against both the Sooners and Cardinals.
21. Louisville (9-2)
Week 3 Ranking: 5: This might be kind. The problem is that the Florida State win continues to be the only one that’s any good – Wake Forest is the only other win over a bowl bound team. There’s a chance the Cardinals don’t slip this fall if the committee puts them ahead of Florida State.
22. Stanford (8-3)
Week 3 Ranking: 24: Beating Cal isn’t going to move the Cardinal up too much, but the win over USC will keep looking better and better. It might not be the year the team was hoping for, but it’s turning out to be not that bad.
23. Texas A&M (8-3)
Week 3 Ranking: 25: The Aggies have been getting too much love throughout the College Football Playoff process, and while they struggled a bit against UTSA, they’ll be manage to move up a wee bit.
24. Virginia Tech (8-3)
Week 3 Ranking: NR: There might not be a sensational win, and the losses to Syracuse and Georgia Tech hurt, but the wins over North Carolina, Miami and Pitt will be enough to get on the radar, and even though Notre Dame stinks, that win on the road still gets noticed.
25. Navy (8-2)
Week 3 Ranking: NR: All of a sudden, Navy will move up thanks to the wins over Houston and Tulsa, moving forward by getting to the American Athletic title game.