For the third consecutive week, the top eight teams in the College Football Playoff Rankings all won. (Actually, this week saw the top 10 all victorious.) Some victories feel better than others, though.
Florida State lost quarterback Jordan Travis for the season with a leg injury early in a throwaway game against North Alabama. You can expect little change this week in the top half of the rankings; however, I am predicting -- for the third straight week -- that Washington will finally jump Florida State as the fourth team in the field.
Of course, this is a warmup act for the warmup act, which are all of the CFP Rankings releases before the final one. Remember, these rankings do not act like a traditional 25 poll where, as long as a team keeps winning, it is unlikely to get passed. Each set of CFP Rankings gets tossed after it is announced with teams reevaluated from scratch every week.
Before we get to the predicted rankings themselves, here's a refresher listing some of key points the committee members consider when deciding a team's ranking beyond their on-field record:
- Strength of schedule
- Conference championships (once decided)
- Results vs. common opponents
- Results vs. ranked opponents
Thankfully, the committee's definition of "ranked opponents" is different than what you're used to seeing. The rankings they use are the prior week's CFP Rankings. They do not consider where teams are ranked in the CFP, AP Top 25, etc. when the games are played. Using game-time rankings is the most worthless way to determine "ranked opponents;" in fact, the committee specifically forbids the use of any poll that has a preseason starting point.
Notice that "game control" is not listed among the criteria. It never has been considered despite the term (or similar concepts) coming out of the mouth of past committee chairmen. (The CFP does not have a way to measure "game control" -- I've seen the data the committee uses -- but let's not kid ourselves: They do talk about it.) And really, who cares how you get to the win as long as you get there?
With all that in mind, here is how I believe the CFP Rankings will look tonight. Remember: This is not necessarily how I would vote if I were on the committee. I am merely predicting what they will do this evening.
Note: This projection is based only on results to this point. It does not reflect the final forecast for the playoff. The complete bowl playoff and bowl projections through the end of the season can be found here.
College Football Playoff Rankings prediction
|The Bulldogs cruised to another blowout this, this time at Tennessee. That is their third straight win over a ranked team, though the Volunteers' spot in the rankings is in jeopardy this week. Georgia is kicking it into gear at the right time. Last week: 1
|The Buckeyes pounded Minnesota in their tune-up for The Game. Ohio State gets a lot of attention for its flashy offensive players like Marvin Harrison, Jr. and Trayveon Henderson, but the Buckeyes are one of the top defensive teams in the nation. Last week: 2
|Michigan finally had to work hard to pull out a win. Perhaps that will serve the Wolverines well this week in the battle with Ohio State. Michigan surrendered 24 points to Maryland, its most this season. If not for a defensive touchdown and two safeties, the Wolverines may have lost. Last week: 3
|Washington now has four wins over ranked opponents, the most of any team, after winning at Oregon State. So, I am once again predicting that the Huskies will jump Florida State for No. 4. Keep in mind that this is just a battle for playoff seeding. They will both make the CFP if they are undefeated. Last week: 5
|It probably doesn't feel like a win at Florida State this week. Tate Rodemaker will take over for the injured Travis at quarterback the rest of the way. This projection is not based on the injury to Travis. After all, I have been predicting it for a few weeks. The committee will not try to guess how good Florida State is with the change in quarterback. They will let the results tell the tale. Last week: 4
|You would think that the Ducks have a pretty strong schedule given the Pac-12 has had a tremendous season, but they only have one win over a ranked team. That came at Utah, which may drop out of the rankings this week. The only other team Oregon has beaten that appeared in the rankings at any time is USC. The Ducks get rival Oregon State this week, so their schedule strength is picking up. Last week: 6
|The Longhorns picked up a second consecutive road win last week at Iowa State. They will try to clinch a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game at home with Texas Tech on Friday . Last week: 7
|Alabama had its SEC Sabbatical Saturday matchup with Chattanooga. It went as well as you would expect. This week's opponent, Auburn, is coming off a home loss to New Mexico State. This may not result in our normal Iron Bowl thriller. Last week: 8
|The Tigers got a scare against Florida but came away with a 33-31 win on a last-second field goal. They will likely secure a spot in a New Year's Six game with a win at Arkansas. Last week: 9
|Louisville is in the ACC Championship Game after beating at Miami. There is a slight chance the Cardinals could jump Missouri for No. 9. Jeff Brohm should probably get some Coach of the Year consideration. The Cardinals are surely the team in the top 10 that the fewest people expected to be here. Last week: 10
|The Nittany Lions throttled Rutgers and currently sit in the last position for a New Year's Six bowl. They will be heavy favorites at Michigan State on Friday, and they cannot afford a slip up. Last week: 12
|The Rebels also took part in SEC Sabbatical Saturday with a yawner of ULM. That game will not help them push for a New Year's Six game. I'm not sure a win over Mississippi State helps, either. They will need help in other places. Last week: 13
|After it looked like the Sooners were lost in the conference title race, they now have a legitimate shot. Also, there is a chance that six teams could tie for second. I'm not a lawyer, but I have on good authority that Oklahoma plays for the Big 12 title if it wins and Oklahoma State and Kansas State lose. I'm rooting for the six-way tie for second scenario. Last week: 14
|The Tigers will play their third straight home contest to end the regular season against Texas A&M. QB Jayden Daniels gets one final shot to impress Heisman Trophy voters. Last week: 15
|Arizona has caught fire having won five games in a row. Most recently, they pounded Utah 42-18, which could knock the Utes from the rankings. Last week: 17
|The Beavers put up a good fight against league leader Washington but came up short. They will have to try take out their frustrations on Oregon now. Last week: 11
|Iowa beat Illinois 15-13 on a touchdown with just over 2 minutes to go. The Hawkeyes will face Nebraska on Friday and then await their opponent for the Big Ten Championship Game. Last week: 16
|The Fighting Irish are in cruise control down the stretch. They hammered Wake Forest and will likely do something similar to Stanford in the season finale. Last week: 19
|Kansas State is also in the hunt for a spot in the Big 12 title game after beating Kansas on Saturday. The Wildcats need to win and get losses from both Oklahoma schools to clinch a spot. Last week: 21
|The Cowboys bounced back from a huge loss at UCF to win at Houston, setting themselves up for a shot at the Big 12 title game. The easiest path for them is similar to that of the other two-conference loss teams in these rankings -- win and hope the others get beat. Last week: 23
|There are three teams tied for first in the AAC at 7-0. SMU does not play the other two. Tulane and UTSA face each other this week with the winner most likely taking on the Mustangs in the AAC title game next week. The Group of Five spot in the New Year's Six goes to the highest-ranked conference champion among those leagues, so Tulane could go from ranked to out of contention entirely with another loss. Last week: 24
|Utah got hammered at Arizona for its third loss in the last four games. Strength of schedule is keeping the Utes afloat here, but I would not be entirely surprised of the committee left them out of this week's rankings. Last week: 22
|The Vols have not been competitive in their most recent losses to Missouri and Georgia. Like with Utah, they could be legitimately left out of this week's top 25. Last week: 18
|The Wolfpack does not have a win over a ranked team, but they have losses to ranked teams Louisville and Notre Dame, along with one at Duke. Their best wins are Clemson and Miami. Last week: NR
|The Flames are the last of the unbeaten Group of Five teams after the loss by James Madison to Appalachian State last week. Their schedule is pretty bad, but that win over New Mexico State looks better every week. Those two will meet again next week for the C-USA crown. Last week: NR