For the first time this season, the College Football Playoff rankings are out. Here’s how they're looking:
The College Football Playoff system is only in its second year, and we still have a lot to learn about how the selection committee operates. Here are a few things we can glean from Tuesday night’s rankings.
Strength of schedule, strength of schedule, strength of schedule. It's important, boys and girls.
TCU and Baylor are both top-five teams in the AP Poll, yet they find themselves on the outside of the first set of College Football Playoff rankings. The Bears are ranked sixth, while the Horned Frogs check in at No. 8. The reason for the discrepancy is obvious – neither team has played anyone particularly noteworthy.
Fortunately for both of these teams – and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, while we’re at it – the Big 12 schedule is about to really heat up in November.
TCU’s remaining slate: at Oklahoma State, vs. Kansas, at Oklahoma and vs. Baylor. Baylor’s slate essentially mirrors that. TCU and Baylor will each have played three formidable opponents by season’s end, and if a Big 12 school makes it out of the November gauntlet undefeated, they’ll almost certainly make the playoff.
Meanwhile, Alabama, who suffered a tough setback to Ole Miss win Week 3, sneaks in as the No. 4 team in the first set of rankings. The Crimson Tide’s key wins thus far: Wisconsin, Georgia, Texas A&M and Tennessee. The committee gave Nick Saban’s squad the benefit of the doubt based on strength of schedule.
For coaches scheduling opponents for future seasons: etch that last sentence into your heads.
The one team immune to the ‘strength of schedule’ bug? Ohio State.
It depends on how you look at things, but Ohio State hasn’t played many more quality foes than TCU or Baylor, yet they find themselves at No. 3 in the rankings. Did last year’s majestic College Football Playoff run have something to do with that? Probably.
But why shouldn’t it? Ohio State has most of its key guys back from last year’s squad that beat Alabama and rampaged over an Oregon team led by Marcus Mariota. The popular narrative is to suggest that the Buckeyes have struggled against lackluster competition this season – that’s true to some extent, but Ohio State has also outscored its last two opponents 87-17 since handing over the offensive reins to J.T. Barrett.
If any team deserves the benefit of the doubt, it’s the Buckeyes.
Even if Stanford wins out, things aren’t looking great for the Pac-12. There have been better times to be alive, as the saying (does not) go. Notre Dame-Stanford has the potential to serve as a play-in game for the No. 4 spot, but if the Big 12 occupies a slot currently held by LSU or Alabama, the Cardinal might draw the short end of the stick regardless.
If Alabama beats LSU this weekend, things will really look bleak for the Pac-12. The Tigers would still be in the mix given Alabama’s high ranking, and outside of the Irish, Stanford doesn’t have a chance to prove itself against an impactful opponent.
On the flip side, folks worried that the committee wouldn’t give the ACC its due respect. They were wrong.
Clemson grabbed the No. 1 seed in these opening rankings, as they have an ideal combination of strength of schedule, eye-test dominance and impressive performances. The 58-0 throttling over Miami stands out. So does the 24-22 win in a monsoon against a Notre Dame squad the committee clearly thinks highly of.
For the Tigers, it all comes down to this Saturday in Death Valley against Florida State. If Dabo Swinney’s troops can emerge victorious, capturing the to the No. 1 seed looks imminent.