The first set of College Football Playoff rankings is here. Buckle up, folks. There’s plenty to discuss.
But first, a look at the complete poll:
We’ll start at the top, where Georgia is peering down at the rest of the pack. Yes, including No. 2 Alabama. That may have been a bit startling if you were watching the live CFP rankings show — especially if you’ve been following the AP Top 25 closely. Alabama hasn’t budged from the top spot all year.
That said, it makes sense. The Bulldogs have better wins — the Tide tried to schedule a marquee nonconference game, but Florida State has been the most disappointing team in the country. That win doesn’t carry nearly as much weight as Georgia’s road victory over No. 3 Notre Dame (we’ll get to them next). Simply put, the committee doesn’t operate under the same confines as AP voters – meaning, you usually have to lose, or look extremely underwhelming against bad teams, in order to fall. Not the case here. Better resume means higher ranking, regardless of prior positioning.
It’s interesting to see Georgia ahead of Alabama, but it doesn’t really matter. Here’s what does matter. The fact that these SEC teams, which will likely meet in the SEC championship game, are the top two teams… in some order.
Two teams from the same conference have never made the College Football Playoff in the same year. That could finally change, considering the committee’s emphasis on signature wins over bad losses (Wisconsin and Miami fans nod their heads). If Alabama and Georgia make the SEC title game, and it’s competitive, it seems hard to justify leaving either school out.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night: Notre Dame checks in at No. 3. The Fighting Irish are ranked fifth in the AP Poll. A few things helped ND here, but the committee’s high opinion of Georgia is paramount. It was willing to rank the Bulldogs ahead of Alabama, so obviously, a one-point loss to UGA isn’t terribly damaging. And Notre Dame has looked awesome outside of that game, trouncing the likes of Michigan State, USC and everyone else. The Fighting Irish have played a tough schedule and have dominated anyway.
Of course, their work is far from over. Dates with Miami and Stanford loom. But Notre Dame is in the driver’s seat. Remember when this team went 4-8 last year? What a turnaround.
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Another school that checked in higher than some expected is No. 5 Oklahoma. Iowa State’s huge win over TCU on Saturday helped the Sooners in two ways – first, the Horned Frogs’ loss gave OU the most impressive resume in the Big 12. Second, the fact that the loss came to Iowa State was huge. At the time, Oklahoma’s loss to the Cyclones looked dreadful. Not so dreadful anymore. Iowa State is ranked 15th in the CFP Poll.
Considering Oklahoma has the ultimate trump card — a nonconference win over Ohio State — one loss to the No. 15 team in the country doesn’t look so bad. If Oklahoma makes the Playoff, it will be (in part) because Iowa State plays well the rest of the way. If that happens, Sooner fans may finally forgive Matt Campbell.
Two undefeated teams occupy spots nine and 10: Wisconsin and Miami. That was tough to watch if you’re a Badger fan, but it’s not a shock. Might not be its fault, but Wisconsin just doesn’t have the wins some of its counterparts do. The good news? If they run the table, the Badgers will get a crack at Ohio State or Penn State in the Big Ten title game. It’s hard to envision an undefeated Power 5 champion being left out. Then again, the College Football Playoff era is young. We’re in for a whole lot of firsts.
Miami is in a similar boat. The Hurricanes are undefeated, which is the goal, but they haven’t looked particularly impressive in recent weeks and lack a signature win. They have a chance to get one this weekend, though, when they take on Virginia Tech at home. Show out, and they could change the narrative. But for now, it’s clear that the committee cares more about quality wins than middle-of-the-road losses. Clemson is in the top four despite losing to Syracuse. That’s because they’ve beaten Auburn and several of other quality teams.
It’s been such a fun season. Other sports may experience midseason doldrums. Not college football.
Powerhouses sit atop the rankings, but there are feisty underdogs that lurk as threats. There’s so much more drama to come – it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when.