And now we’ll finally know. College Football Playoff rankings day is here. What will the top 25 be?
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You take Christmas morning, you take NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday, I’ll take the bowl and College Football Playoff announcement day.
Here’s the final best guess on what they’ll be, taking into account the conference championships and all the other factors that could twist everything around.
2016 Final College Football Playoff Top 25 Rankings Will (Most Likely) Be …
25. Houston (9-3)
Week 5 Ranking: 24: The Oklahoma win will be worth even more now, and the Louisville win still matters. The SMU clunker is unforgivable, and the loss to Navy won’t look as strong, but the committee will still like those other two big victories.
24. Tennessee (8-4)
Week 5 Ranking: 22: The overall body of work isn’t all that bad, and the Vols did beat Florida and Virginia Tech teams that could be ranked higher, but the way the season closed with a thud will be a big problem in the final rankings.
23. LSU (7-4)
Week 5 Ranking: 21: The losses to Wisconsin and Florida don’t look quite as okay now, but they’re hardly awful. There might not be any great wins, but the other losses to Auburn and Alabama are fine, too.
22. Utah (8-4)
Week 5 Ranking: 20: The Utes won’t move much, if at all. The overlove for USC will give the Utes more credit as the ones who came up with the last win over the Rose Bowl bound team.
21. Pitt (8-4)
Week 5 Ranking: 25: Going out on a little bit of a limb here, Pitt should make a big jump up after Penn State and Clemson both won. That means the Panthers beat two Power 5 conference champs – no one else can say that.
20. Virginia Tech (9-4)
Week 5 Ranking: 23: The Hokies will end up moving up, even after the loss. They gave Clemson a battle until the end, and combined with the earlier win over Pitt, they’ll earn a top 20 spots after the debates stop.
19. Temple (10-3)
Week 5 Ranking: NR: And here’s your high-riser in the process. The Owls won’t get up there enough to challenge Western Michigan for the Cotton Bowl spot, but the seven-game winning streak – and total domination over last-week No. 19 Navy – will ensure a terrific final ranking.
18. Stanford (9-3)
Week 5 Ranking: 18: Two keys that’ll help out the Cardinal. The win over USC will get a ton of credit, and the loss to Washington won’t get dogged at all. There might not be any movement, but in a down year, this isn’t too bad.
17. Western Michigan (13-0)
Week 5 Ranking: 17: And that ends that. No, Temple and Western Kentucky don’t have a shot to move past the MAC champs. With Navy’s loss, there’s no delay – the Broncos are going to the Cotton Bowl, probably against Wisconsin.
16. Florida (8-4)
Week 5 Ranking: 15: All that matters here is that it’s behind Auburn, keeping Florida out of the Sugar Bowl. There won’t be much of a punishment for losing to Alabama, but the last two performances against the Crimson Tide and Florida State might mean a little bit further of a drop.
15. West Virginia (10-2)
Week 5 Ranking: 16: It might not have always been pretty – the win over Baylor certainly wasn’t – but West Virginia got to ten wins. Fans might have been hoping for a Big 12 title after a hot start, but 10-2 is a terrific campaign and a boost for the Dana Holgorsen era.
14. Oklahoma State (9-3)
Week 5 Ranking: 10: It wasn’t a horrible performance against Oklahoma in the Bedlam game. The Cowboys lost by 18, but it was a bit more of a fight than that. Finishing second in the Big 12 is okay, and the win over Pitt will carry more and more weight considering the Panthers beat two Power 5 conference champs.
13. Auburn (8-4)
Week 5 Ranking: 14: The final ranking will be relatively kind for a two-loss team considering two of the defeats – Florida and Clemson – were to playoff teams. The ranking matters for the Sugar Bowl slot vs. Oklahoma – watch out for a rested and healed up Tiger team.
12. Louisville (9-3)
Week 5 Ranking: 13: Once again, the mystifying Louisville ranking continues. It was awful at the end of the season, but it only fell to 13th in last week’s rankings. The blowout win over Florida State will carry more weight than ever, and the Cardinals will still get too much credit for coming close against Clemson.
11. Colorado (10-3)
Week 5 Ranking: 8: There won’t be too much of a drop after losing to a playoff-worthy team, but losing to USC and with the way the Pac-12 Championship went down, the Buffs will fall just enough to get knocked out of the Rose Bowl.
10. Florida State (9-3)
Week 5 Ranking: 12: And here’s where the Seminoles cement their spot in the Orange Bowl vs. – most likely – Michigan. With Colorado and Oklahoma State losing, and FSU closing on a solid streak, it’ll end up in the top ten with a sweet bowl to close out an otherwise disappointing season.
9. USC (9-3)
Week 5 Ranking: 11: And here’s where this will matter: USC will pass Colorado. With Washington getting into the College Football Playoff, USC will go to the Rose Bowl to face Penn State. Considering the awful start, that’s amazing.
8. Wisconsin (10-3)
Week 5 Ranking: 6: The Badgers aren’t going to be punished too much for losing to Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State in three thrillers that went down to the wire. They might not be going to the Rose Bowl, but going to the Cotton Bowl is still a thing – even if it’s against Western Michigan.
7. Oklahoma (10-2)
Week 5 Ranking: 9: There’s an outside shot the Sooners move into the top six. OU is one of the hottest teams in the country to close things out, and having a Big 12 championship will matter. However, the final ranking outside of the top four is meaningless – it’s going to the Sugar Bowl.
6. Michigan (10-2)
Week 5 Ranking: 5: The Wolverines will be passed by the Big Ten champion, but it doesn’t matter. They’re not getting into the College Football Playoff – no chance two Big Ten teams that didn’t win the conference are getting in. The Orange Bowl isn’t a bad consolation prize.
5. Penn State (11-2)
Week 5 Ranking: 7: Yeah, Michigan beat Penn State, but the Nittany Lions are hotter, the Wolverines lost two of their last three games, and the whole Winning The Big Ten Champion thing will matter in the final rankings.
4. Washington (12-1)
Week 5 Ranking: 4: The overall resume isn’t that great, but no way a 12-1 Power Five conference champ is left out, especially after dominating in the Pac-12 title game over the No. 8 team.
3. Ohio State (11-1)
Week 5 Ranking: 2: There might have been a case had Penn State blown out Wisconsin, but forget it. The overall resume is just too terrific, helped even more by Oklahoma winning the Big 12 championship.
2. Clemson (12-1)
Week 5 Ranking: 3: The committee will reward Clemson for playing an extra championship game and winning it. There will be some reward for the whole conference title thing.
1. Alabama (13-0)
Week 5 Ranking: 1: And it won’t even be close. The Crimson Tide will be in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl with no argument from anyone in the room.