The fifth College Football Playoff rankings for the 2021 season will be revealed around 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Nov. 30 on ESPN. This means all games played through Week 13 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 fifth 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 for Week 14
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Who will be in the top four?
After Michigan's 15-point win over Ohio State — the Wolverines' first win in the series in a decade — the Buckeyes will fall from their perch at No. 2 in the CFP rankings and almost certainly out of the top four; I predict they'll be outside of the "top six" graphic on the CFP rankings reveal show on Tuesday night and check in at No. 7.
The selection committee could go in a few different directions with how it ranks Alabama, Cincinnati and Michigan in the No. 2 through No. 4 spots, with Ohio State falling out of the top four. Michigan now owns one of the best wins of the regular season, so the Wolverines could have a case to climb all the way from No. 5 to No. 2. I think they'll make such a move in the rankings.
But their second-best win, a victory over Wisconsin, will now also take a hit after Wisconsin fell to Minnesota on Saturday to fall to 8-4 on the season.
I think Wisconsin will be ranked in the 20s on Tuesday.
Even though Alabama needed four overtime periods to escape an Auburn team that finished the regular season 6-6, the selection committee has clearly been impressed by the Crimson Tide this season (as seen by its debut at No. 2 in the CFP rankings in Week 10) and Alabama could potentially return to the No. 2 ranking.
Then there's Cincinnati, the only other undefeated team in the FBS besides No. 1 Georgia. Each has a case to be ranked No. 2 and frankly, Tuesday night's rankings will in many ways be placeholders because the results of conference championship games will determine where teams finish in the CFP rankings.
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Where will Cincinnati be ranked?
I think Cincinnati will once again check in at No. 4. The Bearcats did what was required of them last Friday in order to keep their playoff hopes alive as they went on the road and beat East Carolina by three scores, but given that Alabama won, regardless of the circumstances, and the fact that Michigan, which was ranked one spot behind Cincinnati, picked up one of the best wins of the entire season, both schools will likely be ranked ahead of Cincinnati.
Now, the good news for Cincinnati is that No. 1 Georgia and Alabama — whether it ends up being No. 2 or No. 3 Alabama — will play in the SEC Championship and the Bulldogs will be the team to beat. If the Dawgs can protect their undefeated record and finally beat Alabama during Kirby Smart's tenure, then the Tide will have two losses and no conference championship. No two-loss team has made the playoff and an Alabama loss could give Cincinnati extra wiggle room in the CFP rankings, even if Oklahoma State beats Baylor in the Big 12 Championship to make a late push for the top four.
Cincinnati has the opportunity for another marquee win in the AAC Championship against a top-25 Houston team. Also, with a Notre Dame team ranked one spot behind Cincinnati (a team Cincinnati already beat handily on the road) unable to potentially boost its resume since it won't play in a conference championship game, a victory over Houston might be all that it takes for the Bearcats to clinch a playoff bid.
While carrying top-four ranking into the week of the conference championship games can still be a precarious situation (just ask 2014 TCU, which dropped from No. 3 to No. 6 despite winning its regular-season finale while others, namely Ohio State, won a conference championship that week), Cincinnati is in a good spot.
Keep an eye on the teams ranked in the 20s
CFP committee chair Gary Barta will often reference the importance of ranking 25 teams and "top-25 wins" is often a talking point in regards to which teams are or aren't ranked in the top four. While teams ranked in the 20s on Tuesday will obviously have no shot at making the playoff, they could impact the logic of which teams do make the playoff.
So keep an eye on 8-4 teams from the Big Ten (Minnesota and Wisconsin) and SEC (Arkansas and Texas A&M) and whether they crack the top 25 or stay in the top 25. We can safely assume that Arkansas will be ranked, as it is the only one of those four teams that was ranked last week and then won over the weekend.
Wisconsin and Texas A&M were both ranked in the back end of the top 15, then lost. Wisconsin's loss was to Minnesota, which finished the regular season with an 8-4 record. That being said, the Gophers could potentially return to the top 25 after being ranked earlier this season.
Texas A&M is responsible for Alabama's only loss. Wisconsin represents Michigan's second-best win.
I think both schools will remain in the top 25, albeit in the 20s.
Those teams and their prospective rankings matter indirectly, so keep an eye on where those Big Ten West and SEC West teams fall on Tuesday night.