7 takeaways from the initial College Football Playoff Rankings of 2021

·6 min read

The most important thing the Oklahoma Sooners can do is to focus on their next game against Baylor after the bye. If the Sooners go into Waco and are able to knock off the No. 13 Baylor Bears, it will go a long way to shifting the narrative on the 2021 Oklahoma Sooners.

The initial College Football Playoff rankings left a lot to be desired and not just with the Oklahoma Sooners. There were several surprises. And then there were decisions made by the committee that shouldn’t have been surprising.

It’s not a perfect system, but it’s better than the BCS was. Still, an expansion of the College Football Playoff means a better opportunity to get it right, at least at the top.

As the season rolls along, there will be changes to the rankings, but to get started, here are 7 takeaways from the first set of College Football Playoff rankings.

Committee Loves the SEC Love

The Oklahoma Sooners behind two SEC teams who are in the top four creates an interesting scenario. Both No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Alabama could find their way into the College Football Playoff if the Crimson Tide could knock off the unanimous number one team in the nation.

If that were to happen, it would create a cascading effect throughout the rest of the rankings, leaving only two more spots to be filled by Oklahoma or the five teams currently ranked in front of them.

The Oklahoma Sooners want Georgia to remain an undefeated SEC Champion, even if that might mean playing the Bulldogs in the semifinal if it gets that far.

But they Love the Big 10 More

The Big 10 East has three teams in the top seven of the College Football Playoff rankings. Michigan State at three, Ohio State at five, and Michigan at seven.

Ohio State will play both Michigan State and Ohio State in November, and how those games go could impact the Oklahoma Sooners’ chances of making the College Football Playoff.

With these initial rankings, the Committee has shown how they feel about the Big 10.

If Ohio State were to beat both Michigan State and Michigan, there’d be two one-loss teams from the current top five of the rankings that Oklahoma would have to jump. Michigan State’s loss would be to the No. 5 team in the rankings. Would that loss be enough to slide them down further than the Sooners?

I have my doubts. Ohio State’s loss to Oregon wasn’t enough to bump them down, and neither was Michigan’s to Michigan State.

The best scenario for the Sooners is that Michigan State remains undefeated and wins the Big 10, eliminating the chance for Big 10 chaos to get in the way of an Oklahoma playoff berth.

Sorry Cincinnati

According to the committee, that win over Notre Dame was not enough to vault the Cincinnati Bearcats into the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings. In essence, they sent a message to the Group of Five: You’re not welcome.

The Bearcats have done everything asked and everything they could do at this point to break into the Power Five power grab by beating pretty much everyone on their schedule handily, including that win over a then top 10 Notre Dame squad.

One would like to believe that the College Football Playoff is open to everyone, but ranking the Bearcats sixth makes that more and more difficult to believe.

Oregon throws a Wrench in it

The Oregon Ducks were arguably the biggest surprise in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings. They have a great win over Ohio State, but they also have a loss to an unranked Stanford team.

The problem for the Oklahoma Sooners is this. If both teams win out, the playoff committee will have to justify Oklahoma jumping up and over the Ducks.

Oregon doesn’t have a ranked team left on the schedule, but to put them in the top four out of the gate certainly means something.

Will the Sooners and the Ducks pass each other in a College Football Playoff rankings migration?

No Margin of Error for the Big 12

A one-loss Big 12 team won’t be in the College Football Playoff. The committee made that abundantly clear when they ranked four one-loss teams ahead of the Big 12’s leader in the standings, the Oklahoma Sooners.

For the Sooners it’s simple. Win and they’re in. For Baylor and Oklahoma State, they’re going to need a lot of help at the top to have a chance and even then it may still not matter. That’s the unfortunate reality of where the playoff system stands in 2021.

A conference championship doesn’t guarantee anything. If Alabama beats Georgia, potentially two of the remaining Power Five conference champions will be left out. Wake Forest is making an undefeated run in the ACC. Oklahoma in the Big 12. Oregon has a loss but is currently in the driver’s seat in the Pac-12. In the Big 10, a lot will come down to what Michigan State does against Ohio State.

What does it all mean for Oklahoma?

At this point, I don’t see anything as a guarantee. Even if the Oklahoma Sooners win out, I can see a scenario play out that leaves the Oklahoma Sooners on the outside looking in.

  • Alabama beats Georgia, and both schools get in the playoff.

  • Ohio State beats Michigan State, bolstering both the Buckeyes and the Oregon Ducks’ resumes in the process. At the same time, it leaves the Big 10 in a similar situation as the SEC. Would the College Football Playoff committee see it that way?

With three Big 10 teams in the top seven of the initial rankings, they’ve already told us how they see the Big 10. Even if the Oklahoma Sooners win out, will they jump teams ranked ahead of them like Michigan State, Ohio State, and Oregon?

Oklahoma will have an opportunity to bolster their resume as long as Baylor and Oklahoma State stay ranked as top 15 teams down the stretch. If one or both of them drop out of the top 15, it could hurt Oklahoma’s chances of getting into the playoff even if they go undefeated and win the Big 12.

It's not over yet

There’s a lot that will still transpire at the top of the College Football Playoff rankings, and the Sooners seemingly control its destiny. At the same time, there are always upsets that can change the landscape of college football.

Do what they’re supposed to do against Baylor, Iowa State, and Oklahoma State, and it should be more than enough to get them in. However, simply winning might not be enough. They might have to do what they did to Texas Tech in those games to change the narrative on the 2021 Oklahoma Sooners.

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