College Football Playoff Rankings: How The Committee Should Rank The Top 25

The first College Football Playoff rankings of 2022 will come out Tuesday night, November 1st. How should the committee rank the top 25?

College Football Playoff Rankings: How The Top 25 Should Be Done, November 2

The College Football Playoff committee will release its first round of rankings on Tuesday night.

It’ll spend the day debating the merits of each of the 25 spots, there will be a few arguments, and the spread of delightful meats, cheeses, and other snacks will be adequate.

I know, because I’ve been through the process in Grapevine, Texas. I know how this works, and I know how this should all go.

And I know that this group could use a little bit of help.

These rankings are meticulous. The committee will debate the merits of the teams that should be in the No. 25 slot, come to an agreement, and then go to 24, then 23, and so on. There’s a proprietary stat system to help the cause, strength of schedule matters, and after all the data and all the facts, this group will still mostly go by the old eye test.

Remember …

1. This is just an exercise. It’s practice, and not really. The College Football Playoff committee is doing this to get up to speed, generate national interest, and provide ESPN some sweet programming candy for those who need a break from the World Series. However, it’s like practicing for a Par 3 hole for some tournament without knowing the distance or configuration needed because …

2. If precedent holds, go unbeaten or 12-1, win your Power 5 championship, and you’re in. The only time that didn’t get you into the CFP was in 2018 when 12-1 Ohio State was left out for 12-0 Notre Dame. No way, no how, no chance an unbeaten Power Five team is left out, so Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan, TCU, and Clemson win out and you’re in.

3. There aren’t any rules. The committee can pick anyone it wants to. And …

4. RELAX after these first rankings, and the second version, and the third. All that matters is that final top 25 that comes out after the conference championships.

For now, the goal here is to break down how the committee needs to put together this first batch of rankings. I’ll be fair and go by what they like, which means big wins matter more than losses, and there won’t be enough credit given to a good loss over a strong team.

So here’s how the College Football Playoff committee should put together the top 25 rankings.

College Football Playoff: Helping The Committee With The Top 25
Top 4 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 21-25
Bowl Projections | CFN Rankings 1-131 | Rankings by Conference
AP Poll | Coaches Poll | Predicting CFP Top 25
Bowl Bubble: Bowl eligible teams, who needs a win? 

25. UCF Knights (6-2)

The Case For This Spot: The Knights took control of the race to get the New Year’s Six bowl slot as the top Group of Five champion with a great win over Cincinnati. Rolling by Georgia Tech helps, and the loss to Louisville isn’t that bad. The East Carolina loss will bring down the ranking.

Win That Matters: UCF 25, Cincinnati 21

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: East Carolina 34, UCF 13

Up Next: at Memphis

24. Liberty Flames (7-1)

The Case For This Spot: The only loss was in a 37-36 fight at Wake Forest. There isn’t a win over a Power Five program, and there aren’t many great victories over anyone who’ll do much on the bowl scene, but 7-1 at this point is 7-1.

Win That Matters: Liberty 41, BYU 14

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Liberty 21, Gardner-Webb 20

Up Next: at Arkansas

23. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-2)

The Case For This Spot: The great battle in the 51-45 win over Clemson will do the job for the committee’s eye test, but the turnover-fest loss to Louisville last week was a killer. Beating Florida State matters, and giving Liberty its only loss is a big deal.

Win That Matters: Wake Forest 31, Florida State 21

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Louisville 48, Wake Forest 21

Up Next: at NC State

22. NC State Wolfpack (6-2)

The Case For This Spot: The losses to Clemson and Syracuse were acceptable in the ACC big picture, and the wins over Florida State and Texas Tech will be just enough to put the Pack safely in the top 25. However, there are too many close call wins over mediocre teams.

Win That Matters: NC State 19, Florida State 17

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Syracuse 24, NC State 9

Up Next: Wake Forest

21. Syracuse Orange (6-2)

The Case For This Spot: The Orange might struggle to push for the top 20 with a slew of injuries – that matters to the committee – but a blowout win over Louisville and victories over NC State and Purdue were strong. The close fight against Clemson will be a boost.

Win That Matters: Syracuse 24, NC State 9

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Notre Dame 41, Syracuse 24

Up Next: at Pitt

College Football Playoff: Helping The Committee With The Top 25
Top 4 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 21-25
Bowl Projections | CFN Rankings 1-131 | Rankings by Conference
AP Poll | Coaches Poll | Predicting CFP Top 25
Bowl Bubble: Bowl eligible teams, who needs a win? 

NEXT: College Football Playoff Rankings: How The Top 25 Should Be Done, Top 20

College Football Playoff Rankings: How The Top 25 Should Be Done, Top 20

20. Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-2)

The Case For This Spot: The 11-point win at Baylor and victories over Texas Tech and Texas will be enough to make the top 20. The close-call 43-40 loss to TCU will be a plus, but the 48-0 loss to Kansas State put a hard ceiling on how high the ranking should be.

Win That Matters: Oklahoma State 41, Texas 34

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Kansas State 48, Oklahoma State 0

Up Next: at Kansas

19. Oregon State Beavers (6-2)

The Case For This Spot: The Beavers are under the radar nationally, but the committee should be give them top 20 credit. It took a last moment play for USC to beat Oregon State on the road, the wins over Boise State and Fresno State look great now, and taking down Washington State and Stanford are quietly solid.

Win That Matters: Oregon State 24, Washington State 10

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Utah 42, Oregon State 16

Up Next: at Washington

18. North Carolina Tar Heels (7-1)

The Case For This Spot: The Tar Heels might not play a lot of defense, but the committee will love QB Drake Maye, and the loss to Notre Dame was a decent fight. However, This might not be as high as some might like – there isn’t a strong win among the seven.

Win That Matters: North Carolina 42, Pitt 24

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Notre Dame 45, North Carolina 32

Up Next: Pitt

17. Kansas State Wildcats (6-2)

The Case For This Spot: The 48-0 win over Oklahoma State was a huge moment for the program, and the wins over Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Missouri, and Iowa State were terrific. The overall strength of schedule is great, but the home loss to Tulane play a role.

Win That Matters: Kansas State 48, Oklahoma State 0

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Tulane 17, Kansas State 10

Up Next: Texas

16. Tulane Green Wave (7-1)

The Case For This Spot: This will be one of the bigger debates in the room. This spot for Tulane is a suggestion, but in reality it’ll likely be around 23ish or so. The problem is the home loss to Southern Miss which should be a drag, but beating East Carolina 24-9 looks strong now, and taking down Houston and Memphis aren’t bad. It’s the road win over Kansas State that should get the Green Wave up this high – at least in theory.

Win That Matters: Tulane 17, Kansas State 10

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Southern Miss 27, Tulane 24

Up Next: at Tulsa

College Football Playoff: Helping The Committee With The Top 25
Top 4 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 21-25
Bowl Projections | CFN Rankings 1-131 | Rankings by Conference
AP Poll | Coaches Poll | Predicting CFP Top 25
Bowl Bubble: Bowl eligible teams, who needs a win? 

NEXT: College Football Playoff Rankings: How The Top 25 Should Be Done, Top 15

College Football Playoff Rankings: How The Top 25 Should Be Done, Top 15

15. Illinois Fighting Illini (7-1)

The Case For This Spot: The Illini have been dominant. The defense has stuffed everyone – no one has scored more than 14 against it other than the loss to Indiana – and overall the team is just one early season drive away from being unbeaten. Illinois took out Wisconsin – and change the course of the program – and stuffed Iowa and Minnesota.

Win That Matters: Illinois 34, Wisconsin 10

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Indiana 23, Illinois 20

Up Next: Michigan State

14. Utah Utes (6-2)

The Case For This Spot: The Utes were one interception against Florida away from being right back in the College Football Playoff mix, but losing at UCLA was acceptable and handing USC its only loss will be enough for a top 15 spot. Beating Oregon State and Washington State was good, too.

Win That Matters: Utah 43, USC 42

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Florida 29, Utah 26

Up Next: Arizona

13. LSU Tigers (6-2)

The Case For This Spot: Getting rocked by Tennessee isn’t anything to get into a twist over, and the season opener against Florida State can be blown off a bit – that looked and played like a team that could’ve used a tune-up. The 45-20 win over Ole Miss – to go along with wins over Florida, Mississippi State, and Auburn – will be enough for a top 15 spot.

Win That Matters: LSU 45, Ole Miss 20

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Florida State 24, LSU 23

Up Next: Alabama

12.  Penn State Nittany Lions (6-2)

The Case For This Spot: The College Football Playoff committee almost never gives a team a break for losing to great teams, but that’s what needs to happen. Losing at Michigan and to Ohio State should be forgiven. Beating Purdue and Auburn on the road was good, and blowing out Minnesota was great.

Win That Matters: Penn State 41, Auburn 12

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Michigan 41, Penn State 17

Up Next: at Indiana

11. USC Trojans (7-1)

The Case For This Spot: The problem is the lack of amazing wins. The offense has been breathtaking at times, but it’s been a struggle on defense and there’s no WOW win for the committee to love. Beating Oregon State, Fresno State, and Washington State was nice, but that’s not enough … yet.

Win That Matters: USC 17, Oregon State 14

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Utah 43, USC 42

Up Next: Cal

College Football Playoff: Helping The Committee With The Top 25
Top 4 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 21-25
Bowl Projections | CFN Rankings 1-131 | Rankings by Conference
AP Poll | Coaches Poll | Predicting CFP Top 25
Bowl Bubble: Bowl eligible teams, who needs a win? 

NEXT: College Football Playoff Rankings: How The Top 25 Should Be Done, Top 10

College Football Playoff Rankings: How The Top 25 Should Be Done, Top 10

10. Ole Miss Tigers (8-1)

The Case For This Spot: To paraphrase what Lane Kiffin asked right after the win over Texas A&M, is Ole Miss 8-1? That’s a good run for an SEC West team no matter what. With wins over the Aggies, Kentucky, and against a Troy team that’s looking dominant defensively, that should be just enough to overcome a blowout loss to LSU to get into the top ten.

Win That Matters: Ole Miss 22, Kentucky 19

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: LSU 45, Ole Miss 20

Up Next: at Alabama

9. UCLA Bruins (7-1)

The Case For This Spot: There will be some who’ll pound their fists on the table for UCLA to be higher. The Bruins losing at Oregon is acceptable, and hanging Utah a ten-point loss to go along with the way the O looks might be enough to push for the top seven. However, there isn’t an amazing win outside of taking down the Utes.

Win That Matters: UCLA 42, Utah 32

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: UCLA 32, South Alabama 31

Up Next: at Arizona State

8. Alabama Crimson Tide (7-1)

The Case For This Spot: You’re not supposed to bring up other polls or rankings in the room, but … Alabama doesn’t have a victory over a currently ranked team. The committee traditionally gives the Tide EVERY benefit of every doubt – they’ll be close to the top five than this – but the shaky wins over Texas and Texas A&M will matter. While the loss at Tennessee was epic, it exposed the D that much more.

Win That Matters: Alabama 20, Texas 19

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Alabama 24, Texas 20

Up Next: at LSU

7. Oregon Ducks (7-1)

The Case For This Spot: Some in the room will get over the 49-3 loss to Georgia – reasoning it away as the season-opener with the team improving since then – and some might see it as a possible deal-breaker late in the process. Whatever. There was a late score by Washington State, but the Ducks have beaten everyone else by double-digits. That includes a win over UCLA that’s far, far better than anything Alabama – or Ohio State, for that matter – has done.

Win That Matters: Oregon 45, UCLA 30

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Georgia 49, Oregon 3

Up Next: at Colorado

5. Clemson Tigers (8-0)

The Case For This Spot: NC State, at Florida State, Syracuse, at Wake Forest. There might not be a killer win in the bunch, and it hasn’t always been smooth, but there are a whole lot more decent wins – including some fights on the road – than most teams in the top ten have.

Win That Matters: Clemson 51, Wake Forest 45

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Clemson 27, Syracuse 21

Up Next: at Notre Dame

5. TCU Horned Frogs (8-0)

The Case For This Spot: The Horned Frogs keep answering the call. They got by Oklahoma with an amazing offensive performance. They took out Kansas on the road, slipped by Oklahoma State, beat Kansas State by ten, and came up with a better win over West Virginia than it looked.

Win That Matters: TCU 38, Kansas 28

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: TCU 42, SMU 34

Up Next: Texas Tech

College Football Playoff: Helping The Committee With The Top 25
Top 4 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 21-25
Bowl Projections | CFN Rankings 1-131 | Rankings by Conference
AP Poll | Coaches Poll | Predicting CFP Top 25
Bowl Bubble: Bowl eligible teams, who needs a win? 

NEXT: College Football Playoff Rankings: How The Top 25 Should Be Done. The Top 4

College Football Playoff Rankings: How The Top 25 Should Be Done, Top 4

4. Michigan Wolverines (8-0)

The Case For This Spot: Methodical. Even when the team screws up and doesn’t play all that well, the way the machine has worked has been amazing. Every win except the Maryland game was by double-digits, with the line play on both sides taking over in the second half.

Win That Matters: Michigan 41, Penn State 17

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Michigan 34, Maryland 27

Up Next: at Rutgers

3. Ohio State Buckeyes (8-0)

The Case For This Spot: The committee will eye test this team to the altar, and there are enough decent wins to make up for the lack of one killer victory. Beating Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and Iowa were all fine, but more importantly, there hasn’t been a hint of drama including against Penn State once the O got rolling in the second half – come on, you knew that was coming. No one has come closer than 11 points.

Win That Matters: Ohio State 44, Penn State 31

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Ohio State 21, Notre Dame 10

Up Next: at Northwestern

2. Georgia Bulldogs (8-0)

The Case For This Spot: It was the frightening ease in the 49-3 win over Oregon that set the tone. A tough performance against Missouri and mediocre day against Kent State will be just enough to split hairs and put the Bulldogs outside of the top spot, but it won’t matter. Take care of business on Saturday against that team from Knoxville and the top seed in the tournament will be the Dawgs’ as long as they keep winning.

Win That Matters: Georgia 49, Oregon 3

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Georgia 26, Missouri 22

Up Next: Tennessee

1. Tennessee (8-0)

The Case For This Spot: To know the College Football Playoff committee is to understand just how much it loves itself some Alabama. Throw out all the rules and precedents when it comes to the committee’s “because it’s Alabama” clause. Tennessee beat Alabama – and ripped through Kentucky and LSU – to be enough to give the team the top spot in the first round of College Football Playoff rankings. Now it has to beat Georgia in Athens to keep it.

Win That Matters: Tennessee 52, Alabama 49

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Tennessee 34, Pitt 27

Up Next: at Georgia

College Football Playoff: Helping The Committee With The Top 25
Top 4 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 21-25
Bowl Projections | CFN Rankings 1-131 | Rankings by Conference
AP Poll | Coaches Poll | Predicting CFP Top 25
Bowl Bubble: Bowl eligible teams, who needs a win? 

Story originally appeared on College Football News