What to know before first College Football Playoff rankings are unveiled Tuesday

Dr. Saturday
What to know before first College Football Playoff rankings are unveiled Tuesday
What to know before first College Football Playoff rankings are unveiled Tuesday

With nine weeks of the 2014 college football season in the books, the College Football Playoff selection committee will release the first of its weekly rankings Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

The rankings are the first of six weekly Top 25 rankings the committee will release every Tuesday for the next six weeks before the four participants for the inaugural College Football Playoff are decided.

So how does it all work? We’re here to break it down.

Scroll to continue with content


With Archie Manning taking a leave of absence due to health issues, the selection committee has 12 members: Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long (committee chair), Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, Mike Gould, former Superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, USC athletic director Pat Haden, former NCAA Executive Vice President Tom Jernstedt, West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne, Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich, former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese, former USA Today reporter Steve Wieberg and former Stanford, Notre Dame and Washington head coach Tyrone Willingham.

The members of the selection committee meet weekly in person on Mondays and Tuesdays to create the rankings and have been meeting since November 2013. The committee members consult video and statistics while emphasizing win-loss record, strength of schedule, conference championships and head-to-head results, among other things.

Specific members have been established as the “point persons” to study particular teams in particular conferences, plus the independent teams. The idea is that the point persons can offer detailed information about each team to the rest of the committee.

  • American – Mike Gould and Pat Haden

  • Atlantic Coast – Tom Jernstedt and Steve Wieberg

  • Big Ten – Pat Haden and Condoleezza Rice

  • Big 12 – Barry Alvarez and Mike Tranghese

  • Conference-USA – Tom Osborne and Condoleezza Rice

  • Mid-American – Barry Alvarez and Tyrone Willingham

  • Mountain West – Oliver Luck and Mike Tranghese

  • Pac-12 – Mike Gould and Tom Osborne

  • Southeastern – Oliver Luck and Steve Wieberg

  • Sun Belt – Dan Radakovich and Tyrone Willingham

  • Independents – Dan Radakovich and Steve Wieberg



Here’s where the fun begins. Per the CFP official voting process, each individual committee member will assemble a list of the country’s best 25 teams in no particular order. If three or more members of the committee list a team, that particular team remains under consideration.

Next, each committee member will list his or her top six teams, again in no particular order. The six teams that receive the most votes then “will comprise the pool for the first ranking step.”

In the first ranking step, each member ranks those six teams one through six, with one being the best and six being the worst. A first place vote is worth one point, a second place vote is worth two points, and a third place vote is worth three points, and so on. The three teams that receive the fewest points will become the top three seeds, one through three. The three remaining teams that were not seeded will be held over for the next step of the ranking process.

With the top three seeded teams out of the picture for now, each committee member will then be asked to list the next six best remaining teams in no order. At that point, the three teams with the most votes from that group will be added (creating seeds four through six) to the three teams that were already seeded.

That team that emerged from this process at No. 4 will be the final team included in the College Football Playoff.

That process will then be repeated “until 25 teams have been seeded.” Sounds complicated, right?


The recusal policy for committee members who are associated with particular schools (read: paid by) is also worth considering. A member with that affiliation cannot participate in a vote that involves that school – regarding both selection and seeding.

The following members are recused from votes involving these schools:

  • Barry Alvarez – Wisconsin

  • Mike Gould – Air Force

  • Pat Haden – USC

  • Jeff Long – Arkansas

  • Oliver Luck – West Virginia

  • Tom Osborne – Nebraska

  • Dan Radakovich – Clemson

  • Condoleezza Rice – Stanford



The coaches and AP polls will continue to be released, but they are not supposed to have any influence on the committee members. In fact, the selection committee protocol says members are “required to discredit polls wherein initial rankings are established before competition has occurred.”

Let the controversy begin.

- - - - - - -

Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

What to Read Next