Texas A&M marked the first surprise of the College Football Playoff rankings as it landed at No. 4 in the initial rankings.
The Aggies, who have a loss to No. 1 Alabama, supplanted an undefeated Washington team, which has been ranked among the top four in the AP poll for the past few weeks. The No. 5 Huskies are the only undefeated Power Five program not ranked in the top four.
This is the third consecutive season at least two SEC teams have been ranked in the initial College Football Playoff top four.
“Simply stating, the committee, in our mind, believes that Texas A&M has played a stronger schedule at this point in time of the season over Washington,” College Football Playoff committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said. “Texas A&M has got four wins against teams that are better records than .500 compared to Washington only having two wins against teams that have .500 or better records.”
Clemson ranked No. 2 followed by No. 3 Michigan and Ohio State secured the No. 6 spot. Both Ohio State and Washington have opportunities to get into the top four, but the Huskies likely would have to go undefeated, and the Buckeyes, who already have a loss to No. 12 Penn State, would need to win out, which would include a win over the Wolverines.
Louisville, who many thought would have a shot at the top four, came in at No. 7. That essentially means the Cardinals need a lot of help to get into the CFP, especially with a weaker slate remaining. Moreover, Clemson holds the ACC’s best hope for a playoff spot. If it loses, the conference could miss out on the playoff altogether.
But let’s take these rankings with a grain of salt. In the brief history of the College Football Playoff rankings, the initial set of rankings has never depicted the teams that actually made the playoff.
There are still five weeks remaining, which includes conference championship games, and any of those contests could quickly change the complexion of the playoff race as they have in past years.
Other interesting rankings include Penn State coming in at No. 12, which is eight spots higher than the Nittany Lions are ranked in the AP Poll.
“Penn State has played a strong schedule,” Hocutt said. “Obviously, the great win over Ohio State. Four of their six wins have been against teams with a winning record. So Penn State, in the eyes of the committee, our discussion over the last two days, we’ve taken a lot of looks at the schedule that they’ve played and been very impressed with their improvement, but also their quality of wins.”
In the race for the Group of Five spot in a New Year’s Six Bowl, Western Michigan is ranked No. 23, but Boise State, which is coming off a loss to Wyoming, is nipping at the WMU Broncos’ heels at No. 24. But remember, in order to represent the Group of Five in a New Year’s Six Bowl, the highest-ranked team must also be a conference champion.
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