What will the College Football Playoff rankings be in the first unveiling on Tuesday night?
The College Football Playoff rankings are going to be more interesting than ever this season.
With so many teams legitimately in the mix, and with so many interesting theoretical arguments to be made, there will be a whole lot of room for interpretation once the first round of the exercise gets released on Tuesday night.
Last year there were just three unbeatens from the Power Five world when the first CFP rankings were released. There are seven this year.
A few things to remember once these come out.
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 first College Football Playoff rankings will be on Tuesday night.
25. San Diego State Aztecs (7-1)
Current Rankings: AP: 24, CFN: 44, Coaches: 24, FWAA: NR
There’s nothing about the eye-test that looks remotely appealing, but the team just keeps on getting the job done despite the lack of a decent offense. Even so, beating Wyoming is good now, and taking down UCLA in LA sort of matters, but it’ll be a fight to get into the top 25 with the one loss at home to Utah State.
24. Navy Midshipmen (7-1)
Current Rankings: AP: 25, CFN: 30, Coaches: 25, FWAA: NR
How much does the committee like the 34-25 win over Air Force? The 12-point loss to Memphis will make getting into the top 25 a fight, but beating Tulane matters, and getting to 7-1 with the nation’s top rushing attack will be enough to get on the board.
23. Boise State Broncos (7-1)
Current Rankings: AP: 21, CFN: 31, Coaches: 21, FWAA: NR
Is the committee watching all the games? It’ll be easy to make the knee-jerk call that Boise State is Boise State and should probably be in the top 20, but it’s limping. The committee will take into account that the offense didn’t have QB Hank Bachmeier in the loss to BYU, but BYU didn’t have its top quarterback option, either. Beating Air Force was excellent, but it’s been a struggle lately – the D is having a rough run.
22. Iowa Hawkeyes (6-2)
Current Rankings: AP: 18, CFN: 15, Coaches: 18, FWAA: NR
There’s a chance the Hawkeyes slide on into the top 20, but they don’t have a big enough win to get excited about. They’ll be this high mostly because they were competitive on the road at Michigan and against Penn State, but Iowa State is the only decent victory.
21. SMU Mustangs (8-1)
Current Rankings: AP: 23, CFN: 33, Coaches: 23, FWAA: NR
This might be a few spots too low. There might be the shootout loss at Memphis on Saturday, but they also walloped a Temple team that beat the Tigers, and they dropped TCU on the road. There’s a chance they slip into the top 20.
20. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7-1)
Current Rankings: AP: 22, CFN: 36, Coaches: 20, FWAA: NR
Oh to be a fly on the wall to hear the conversations in the room in Grapevine about how the committee members view the Demon Deacons. There’s the 62-59 shootout loss against Louisville, but the offense has been explosive, and while there’s no amazing win, they’ve been steady and sensational. It should all be enough to get into the top 20.
19. Kansas State Wildcats (6-2)
Current Rankings: AP: 20, CFN: 19, Coaches: 22, FWAA: NR
The Wildcats might get a lot more love and respect than this. They lost in a decent battle at Oklahoma State, and their other loss was to an unbeaten Baylor. They dropped Mississippi State on the road, and biggest of all, handed Oklahoma its only loss. Don’t be shocked if they’re ranked in the top 15.
18. Cincinnati Bearcats (7-10
Current Rankings: AP: 17, CFN: 23, Coaches: 17, FWAA: NR
This will be a fun one to watch out for. The one loss was a wipeout against Ohio State on the road, but everyone’s getting destroyed in Columbus so far. The committee might love the win over UCF more than the Memphis win over SMU.
17. Memphis Tigers (8-1)
Current Rankings: AP: 19, CFN: 25, Coaches: 19, FWAA: NR
They have a better Power Five win – they beat Ole Miss, UC beat UCLA – to possibly get the flip-a-coin spot to be the top-ranked Group of Five program. The 30-28 loss at Temple wasn’t that bad, but they’ll be ranked up here after handing both SMU and Navy their only losses.
16. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-2)
Current Rankings: AP: 15, CFN: 14, Coaches: 15, FWAA: 15
The way the Irish lost to Michigan hurts, and the tough performances against USC and Virginia Tech at home aren’t great, but the wins over Louisville and Virginia help. The two losses will keep them down, but dropping the games on the road at Georgia and Notre Dame won’t kill hopes of getting a New Year’s Six game.
15. Michigan Wolverines (7-2)
Current Rankings: AP: 14, CFN: 13, Coaches: 14, FWAA: 14
How much would the Wolverines love to have that Wisconsin game back? It happened, though, and it matters. The blowout win over Notre Dame, and the overall improvement in play, will be just enough to push into the top 15. However, even with the win over Illinois, they can’t be ranked ahead of …
14. Wisconsin Badgers (6-2)
Current Rankings: AP: 16, CFN: 12, Coaches: 16, FWAA: 16
This whole thing is a puzzle. The Illinois loss doesn’t quite seem so devastatingly bad now, but the way the Badgers got destroyed by Ohio State hurts. Even so, the destruction of Michigan and Michigan State will be enough to put Buckeye somewhere into the top 15.
13. Auburn Tigers (7-2)
Current Rankings: AP: 12, CFN: 8, Coaches: 12, FWAA: 12
If the committee is really doing this right, Auburn has to be ahead of Oregon. That likely won’t happen, but with wins over the Ducks and Texas A&M away from home, and with good losses to Florida and LSU in battles, it wouldn’t be totally insane to put the Tigers somewhere just outside of the top five. However, they’d have to be behind …
12. Florida Gators (7-2)
Current Rankings: AP: 10, CFN: 7, Coaches: 11, FWAA: 6
How much do you reward big wins and punish losses of any kind? There’s an off-chance that the committee loves the double-digit win over Auburn and doesn’t have too much of a problem with losses to LSU and Georgia. It’s a good enough overall body of work to be the top two-loss team, but it won’t make the top ten.
11. Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-0)
Current Rankings: AP: 13, CFN: 16, Coaches: 13, FWAA: 13
The Gophers will be the wild card in the top ten – it could be anywhere +/-3 on this list depending on the committee’s mood. On the surface, there’s nothing to like so far on the way to the 8-0 start. However, the team has gotten better, it’s annihilating everyone lately – what you’re supposed to do to bad teams – but the best win is over …. Illinois? There’s a fantastic chance that Minnesota hasn’t beaten anyone who’ll go bowling.