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Andy Wittry | | November 2, 2021

College Football Playoff rankings predictions: What the CFP top 25 might look like in Week 10

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The first College Football Playoff rankings for the 2021 season will be revealed today at 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Nov. 2 on ESPN. This means all games played through Week 9 will be used for consideration. The rankings are determined by an 11-member selection committee.

Selection day for this season's playoff is Sunday, Dec. 5.

Based on an analysis of this season's results, plus past CFP rankings, I predicted what the first CFP rankings for the 2021 season will look like. These are predictions of what the College Football Playoff selection committee will do. They are not my personal rankings.

College Football Playoff rankings predictions: Top 25 for Week 10




1 Georgia 8-0
2 Michigan State 8-0
3 Alabama 7-1
4 Oklahoma 9-0
5 Cincinnati 8-0
6 Oregon 7-1
7 Ohio State 7-1
8 Wake Forest 8-0
9 Notre Dame 7-1
10 Michigan 7-1
11 Oklahoma State 7-1
12 Baylor 7-1
13 Auburn 6-2
14 Ole Miss 6-2
15 Texas A&M 6-2
16 Iowa 6-2
17 Kentucky 6-2
18 Pittsburgh 6-2
19 NC State 6-2
20 Minnesota 6-2
21 Houston 7-1
22 Penn State 5-3
23 Wisconsin 5-3
24 BYU 7-2
25 UTSA 8-0

Don't be surprised if an undefeated team is ranked lower than you expected

On average during the CFP era, the lowest-ranked undefeated team from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 or SEC that was ranked in the first CFP rankings of the season had a ranking of No. 10. Even if you ignore the 2020 season, when 3-0 USC was ranked No. 18, the average ranking for that group is 8.7.

In 2015, Oklahoma State was 8-0 through nine weeks but the Cowboys were ranked No. 14, which was behind four one-loss teams. In 2019, Minnesota started 8-0 but the Gophers made their debut in the CFP rankings that season at No. 17, behind four one-loss teams and six two-loss teams. Their first four wins over South Dakota State, Fresno State, Georgia Southern and Purdue were each by one possession and they didn't play a ranked opponent until their ninth game of the season.

If UTSA, which is 8-0 and one of the six remaining undefeated teams in the country, is ranked at all, it'll likely be ranked in the 20s. And the other five undefeated teams — Georgia, Cincinnati, Oklahoma, Michigan State and Wake Forest — won't necessarily be ranked No. 1 through No. 5, in some order.

Don't necessarily expect a two-loss team to be in the top 10

On average, the highest ranking of a two-loss team in the first CFP rankings of the season is 12.4. The highest ranking for a two-loss team last season was Georgia at No. 9, which was a unique season due to the differences in games played across the country. Wisconsin started at No. 8 in 2016 and Florida debuted at No. 10 in 2019, when each school had two losses, but Oklahoma was the highest-ranked two-loss team in Week 10 of the 2014 season at No. 18 and Michigan was the following season at No. 17.

A two-loss team has never made the College Football Playoff, and at this point in the season, two-loss teams are still a relative rarity in the top 10.

What will the committee do with three-loss teams?

It's worth noting that each season is unique, so it's not as if every takeaway or apparent from one season can be applied to the next. But with that being said, in the first seven years of the CFP era, there have only been three seasons in which at least one three-loss team appeared in the committee's first rankings of the season. That means that in four of the last seven seasons, the first CFP top-25 rankings only featured teams that had two losses or fewer.

In 2016 and 2019, there was just one three-loss team in the first CFP rankings — No. 22 Florida State (5-3) and No. 23 Oklahoma State (6-3), respectively. The 2018 college football season was arguably the outlier as there was a trio of three-loss teams in the first CFP rankings of the season: No. 18 Mississippi State (5-3), No. 20 Texas A&M (5-3) and No. 24 Iowa State (4-3). The Bulldogs and Aggies were even ranked ahead of a Fresno State team that was 7-1 at that point in the season.

In my CFP rankings projections above, I have two three-loss teams, which has only happened once, as noted above. But each team is ranked in the 20s, as history suggests a team with three losses through Week 9 would be. Penn State and Wisconsin both have multiple wins over teams that are in my CFP rankings predictions and multiple losses to other teams in the top-25 predictions.

Schools from outside the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC and independents

On average during the CFP era, in the first CFP rankings of the season, there has been roughly 2.9 schools in the top 25 that have been a member of a conference other than the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 or SEC. In four of the first seven seasons of the CFP era, there have only been one or two such schools in the debut CFP rankings.

However, there were five such schools in the first CFP rankings in 2019 and four in 2020, so there has been an uptick in recent years. In my CFP rankings predictions above, I have three, Cincinnati, Houston and UTSA.

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