What will the College Football Playoff rankings be in the fourth unveiling on Tuesday night?
As always, a few things to keep in mind …
1. This is simply a snapshot. We can see how the committee is thinking early on, and we can get a first look at what it seems to like, but it gets thrown out next week and the process starts over.
2. In general, the committee over the first five years of this thing loves big wins and hates ugly losses. You can lose, but don’t get wiped out. At the end of the day, the committee can like any team it wants to, just because. However … big wins, big wins, big wins.
3. Each spot in the order is argued over. It’s not just a random list thrown together in a room. Everyone has to agree that team X needs to get put ahead of teams Y and Z. You might not agree with the rankings, but each spot in the top 25 has been meticulously debated.
And after all of that, it’s about feel, eye-test, and resumé.
So what will they be? Here’s the best guess for what the fourth College Football Playoff rankings will be on Tuesday night.
25. Appalachian State Mountaineers 10-1 (24)
The Mountaineers have been fine since losing to Georgia Southern, but they haven’t been dominant. Even so, there’s a solid chance the American Athletic stars cancel each other out, and if Boise State loses … an ASU win over a good Louisiana team might just be enough to move into the top Group of Five spot.
Up Next: at Troy
24. Iowa State Cyclones 6-4 (22)
The Cyclones will move down a wee bit only because others are looking a bit stronger. They’ve been fun, and they’ve won two in a row, but they’ll still hover around the bottom part of the top 25.
Up Next: at Kansas State
23. USC Trojans 8-4 (23)
How amazing does that 30-23 win over Utah look now? On a three-game winning streak to close things out – and taking five of the final six games – there’s a shot the Trojans end up in the top 20 in the final rankings.
Up Next: Bowl Game
22. Oklahoma State Cowboys 8-3 (21)
The Cowboys have gone on a four-game winning streak, justifying the CFP’s inclusion in the rankings from the start. Beat Oklahoma, and they’ll get one of the Big 12’s better bowl spots – even if they can’t get to the Big 12 Championship.
Up Next: Oklahoma
21. Virginia Tech Hokies 8-3 (NR)
It’s a bit of a call … the Hokies will rocket up into the rankings after beating Georgia Tech and Pitt over the last two weeks by a combined score of 73-0. The winner of the showdown against Virginia will likely end up in the Orange Bowl – assuming Clemson goes to the CFP – as the ACC’s representative.
Up Next: at Virginia
20. Boise State Broncos 10-1 (20)
There’s the Boise State we’ve been waiting for. It dominated Utah State to get to 10-1 with a date against Hawaii coming up for the Mountain West title. Win the next two games, and don’t be shocked if the Broncos end up in the New Year’s Six – going to the Cotton Bowl – because there might just be a split between …
Up Next: at Colorado State
19. Cincinnati Bearcats 10-1 (19)
The winner of the Cincinnati-Memphis showdown will be the lead team in the pack for the Group of Five’s team to get into the Cotton Bowl, but …
Up Next: at Memphis
18. Memphis Tigers 10-1 (18)
The battle against Cincinnati will probably be the first of two meetings – they could face each other in the American Athletic Conference title game a week later. The winner of the first meeting can cement a spot in the Cotton Bowl by winning the rematch – if there is one.
Up Next: Cincinnati
17. Iowa Hawkeyes 8-3 (17)
The win over Illinois won’t be enough to move up the Hawkeyes thanks to the logjam ahead of them. However, close out at 9-3, and they’ll end up in the top 15 in the final version.
Up Next: at Nebraska
16. Auburn Tigers 8-3 (15)
The Tigers will fall a little bit only because of the likely movement of Notre Dame, but it doesn’t matter. Getting a New Year’s Six game isn’t going to happen, even if there’s a win this week to ruin Alabama’s season.
Up Next: Alabama
15. Oregon Ducks 9-2 (6)
The Ducks will sink like a rock after the crushing loss to Arizona State. They might not fall this far, but it won’t be any lower than this. The College Football Playoff is off the table, but win the next two games, go to the Rose Bowl. That’s hardly a horrible consolation prize.
Up Next: Oregon State
14. Notre Dame Fighting Irish 9-2 (16)
The Irish need to dominate Stanford in a blowout win and then hope for a whole lot of help to move up in the final rankings. There’s still a distant shot at a New Year’s Six bowl, but there’s too much traffic. They’re rocking and rolling, though, since the comeback win over Virginia Tech.
Up Next: at Stanford
13. Michigan Wolverines 9-2 (13)
Only Ohio State is playing better in the Big Ten right now. If the Wolverines can get past the Buckeyes in a big home upset, they’ll rocket up into the top ten and have an honest shot at getting into the Rose Bowl. A 12-1 Big Ten champ – or unbeaten Ohio State – will go to the CFP, and the second-ranked Big Ten team will go to Pasadena.
Up Next: Ohio State
12. Penn State Nittany Lions 9-2 (8)
The committee won’t pound Penn State too much for losing to Ohio State on the road. Get to 10-2, and the Rose Bowl is still an outside possibility if it finishes ahead of Minnesota and Wisconsin in the final rankings.
Up Next: Rutgers
11. Wisconsin Badgers 9-2 (12)
The ranking will matter later. If the Badgers beat the Gophers, they’re off to play Ohio State for the Big Ten title. Win that, and it’s off to the Rose Bowl. Lose that, and it depends on the final ranking – just getting to the B1G title game isn’t going to be enough to ensure a trip to Pasadena – Michigan and Penn State could end up ranked higher.
Up Next: at Minnesota
NEXT: Top Ten