We’re still weeks away from the October 31st initial unveiling of the frightful College Football Playoff rankings. Things are beginning to take shape as the playoff contenders have emerged.
While the weekly AP and Coaches polls give fans an idea of the top teams, it is difficult to know how the playoff committee is evaluating teams until we see the first set of rankings. Each year, the committee tends to hone in on one part of the College Football Playoff criteria. While that part tends to vary, we do have a pretty good idea of what the committee prioritizes.
First, they want to see a team have a strong strength of schedule. Teams in conferences who are under-performing tend to be penalized. Teams with a strong strength of schedule can survive a loss or two with quality wins.
This brings us to the second focal point which is quality wins. The committee has forgiven “bad losses” for teams that have a number of quality wins. If your team failed to bring their A game against an un-ranked opponent, they can still make the playoff if they have a few top 25 wins.
Now that you have had a refresher of College Football Playoff 101, let’s take a look at our projections through eight weeks of football.
Alabama, Penn State, Georgia & TCU Would Make the College Football Playoff
As we look at the first two months of the season, we have Alabama ranked as the top team. Based on their schedule and the way they are beating teams, there is a sizable gap between the Crimson Tide and the field.
After their convincing win over Michigan, Penn State is a strong No. 2. The Nittany Lions have not had the strongest schedule, but their win over the Wolverines gives their resume a shot in the arm.
Georgia is ranked No. 3, meaning two SEC teams would currently make the playoff. Given this is not the strongest year for the SEC, this seems unlikely. Alabama and Georgia appear to be on a collision course for the SEC championship in Atlanta. The Crimson Tide likely could afford a loss in the title game, and still make it. The Bulldogs are unlikely to be as fortunate.
Finally, TCU sits at four leaving the Pac-12 and ACC on the outside looking in. According to the Sagarin rankings, TCU has the 26th ranked strength of schedule which puts them near the top for contending teams.
College Football Playoff Rankings Predictions
|2||Penn State (7-0)|
|6||Notre Dame (6-1)|
|9||Ohio State (6-1)|
|11||Oklahoma State (6-1)|
|12||Michigan State (6-1)|
|14||NC State (7-1)|
|15||Virginia Tech (6-1)|
|16||Washington State (6-1)|
|23||Iowa State (5-2)|
|24||Texas A&M (5-2)|
Despite losing their last time out, we have Clemson as the next team in if anyone slips up. Clemson has the 20th ranked strength of schedule including wins over Auburn, Louisville and Virginia Tech. The Tigers survived a loss to Pitt last season to advance to the College Football. If the Tigers win out, they have a good chance to make another appearance.
The poll voters may not think as highly of Notre Dame, but the Irish have one of the strongest strength of schedules. The Irish have wins over Michigan State and USC. Their only defeat was a one-point loss to a highly ranked Georgia team.
Wisconsin is the best team no one is talking about. A big reason the Badgers are flying under the radar is they have not played a lot of difficult games. The Badgers best wins were against Nebraska and Purdue. Given how weak the Big Ten West is, it would be surprising if Wisconsin does not reach the Big Ten championship game. The Badgers still have games against Indiana and Michigan which will boost their strength of schedule.
UCF and USF are the Group of Five teams battling for a New Year’s Six bowl bid. The two rivals square off on Black Friday with a trip to the AAC championship likely on the line. Whoever wins the AAC championship is the favorite to head to a New Year’s Six game.