College football fans are officially a month away from finding out which four teams will fight for the CFB National Championship in Atlanta on January 8. Nine weeks into the season, a few things have become clear.
Alabama and Georgia seem to be on a No. 1 vs. No. 2 SEC Championship collision course. Ohio State controls its own destiny for now and if Notre Dame wins out, they are a lock for one of the four playoff spots. Fans have also witnessed a number of surprising upsets this year. From Iowa State knocking off both No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 TCU to the mess that is commonly known as “Pac-12 After Dark,” there’s no shortage of excitement.
While the AP and Coaches Polls are voted on by various analysts and coaches, the College Football Playoff Rankings (CFPR) are selected by a committee of 13 former athletic directors, coaches and NCAA executives. These rankings are based off of strength of schedule, head-to-head competition, comparative outcomes of common opponents and, at the end of the season, championships won. Most importantly, these rankings determine which four teams make the College Football Playoffs. There are six CFPR rankings, the first of which was released on tonight, and only the final ranking decides which teams make the playoffs.
After much deliberation, the top four teams were revealed and, to everyone’s surprise, Alabama was not number one. Instead, Georgia (8-0) found itself at the top of the CFB Playoff Rankings.
Georgia is followed by Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson and Oklahoma, in that order. No. 2 Alabama hosts No. 19 LSU Saturday night in a game that will give the Tide a much-needed boost to their strength of schedule. No. 3 Notre Dame hosts a much-improved Wake Forest team Saturday night, while No. 4 Clemson and No. 5 Oklahoma go on the road Saturday afternoon to face top-25 opponents.
In spots six through 10, the CFP committee placed No. 6 Ohio State, No. 7 Penn State, No. 8 TCU, No. 9 Wisconsin and No. 10 Miami. After the Buckeyes’ win at home against Penn State, Ohio State was placed at one spot ahead of the No. 7 Nittany Lions. Surprising many, two of college football’s undefeated teams, Wisconsin and Miami, were ranked nine and 10. Although 8-0 and 7-0 respectively, both teams lacked sufficient strength of schedule. No. 9 Wisconsin’s best win came against Northwestern and No. 10 Miami’s most impressive victory was a 25-24 squeaker at home against Georgia Tech.
The rest of the rankings are as follows: 11. Oklahoma State (7-1), 12. Washington (7-1), 13. Virginia Tech (7-1), 14. Auburn (6-2), 15. Iowa State (6-2), 16. Mississippi State (6-2), 17. USC (7-2), 18. UCF (7-0), 19. LSU (6-2), 20. NC State (6-2), 21. Stanford (6-2), 22. Arizona (6-2), 23. Memphis (7-1), 24. Michigan State (6-2), 25. Washington State (7-2).
With another Saturday full of top-25 matchups, these rankings are bound-to-change and are written only in pencil. No. 7 Penn State travels to East Lansing against No. 24 Michigan State. No. 25 Washington State hosts No. 21 Stanford in an effort to cling onto the last spot in the rankings. No. 13 Virginia Tech travels to No. 10 Miami in a matchup that will likely determine who gets a trip to Orlando for the ACC Championship. In a classic #Pac12AfterDark matchup, No. 22 Arizona travels to the LA Coliseum to play No. 17 USC.
There’s one thing we do know: we are a few upsets away from complete chaos in college football. A week from now, these rankings could be flipped completely upside down and we will be reminded of how much we don’t know. But, for today, we know who can win it.