Predicting the first College Football Playoff rankings for 2021

·7 min read

The best time in college football is finally here, as the College Football Playoff committee is going to sit down and rank the top teams in the nation.

While Texas likely could have been in this discussion several weeks ago, they went on to lose three consecutive games against ranked opponents. Had they won those, it would have given them one of the strongest resumes in the nation.

Even with Texas being eliminated from just about everything except a bowl game at this point, there are multiple Big 12 teams that are actually in contention for the playoff. The committee does not announce their choice’s until Tuesday evening, so I took the liberty of predicting how the teams will stack up in their initial rankings.

The playoff committee has their own set of factors that determine these rankings, so I will best try to emulate that. If these were my personal rankings, they would look a bit different.

Does Oklahoma crack the top four?

Penn State (5-3)

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While two of their losses have been to really good teams, and the loss suffered against Iowa they were without Sean Clifford, they still lost to Illinois with him. They will likely take this spot from a solid Group of Five team like Fresno State.

Pitt (6-2)

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Coming off a loss to dreadful Miami does not help their case, as they might find themselves lower than this. They have not played a ranked team all season, and likely will finish out the regular season without playing one. They have been solid, but strength of schedule is hurting them.

Coastal Carolina (7-1)

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They fell in their biggest game of the season against App State, but have handily beaten everyone else. I imagine the committee will rank them, but their strength of schedule will keep them in the 20s.

SMU (7-1)

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They just suffered their first loss of the season after starting 7-0, but it was very much a respectable loss against Houston. The game came down to the wire, and SMU was on the wrong end. They will still be respected for the wins they had put together prior.

Houston (7-1)

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They lost their very first game of the season against Texas Tech, but have won every game since, including an impressive win over SMU.

UTSA (8-0)

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The Road Runners are in the midst of a historic season, and this would likely be the highest they are ranked initially. I could also very well see them bump a team out and slide to about No. 23.

Minnesota (6-2)

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After an early loss to Ohio State, and a slip up against Bowling Green, Minnesota has been very good the rest of the way. They have lost multiple key players to injury, which will likely be factored in.

BYU (7-2)

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Although they are not in the Pac-12, they are likely the best team in that conference, as they are currently 4-0 against Pac-12 teams, with two ranked wins over Utah and Arizona State. They also recently beat a tough Virginia team by double-digits, which should bode well.

Kentucky (6-2)

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The Wildcats could very well be lower, but outside of their two losses, one of which being to the most complete team in the nation in Georgia, they have been good. The Mississippi State loss won’t hurt them as bad as recent losses have hurt some other teams.

Iowa (6-2)

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Although they are trending downwards, they still have wins over a ranked Penn State and Iowa State.

Ole Miss (6-2)

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They have two respectable losses to Auburn and Alabama, and the committee will certainly give them the SEC strength of schedule pass.

Auburn (6-2)

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They have been inconsistent, but are getting hot at the right time with wins over two ranked teams in Arkansas and Ole Miss.

Texas A&M (6-2)

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Out of this group of three SEC schools, Texas A&M has the best win with their huge victory over Alabama.

Oklahoma State (7-1)

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While they haven’t always looked impressive, their lone loss is to a good-at-times Iowa State team. They also beat Baylor head-to-head, which was a crucial win for them.

Baylor (7-1)

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While they did lose a game to Oklahoma State, they have looked and played better. They also hold two wins over ranked teams.

Notre Dame (7-1)

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They lost their biggest test of the season against Cincinnati, and it was not as close as the score shows. Although they do hold a win over a ranked team, the win is over Wisconsin who I’m not even sure will be ranked this week.

Wake Forrest (8-0)

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They do not really have a signature win, so the committee may even be hesitant to rank them higher than 10. They are undefeated though, which should help their case, but until they play a ranked team they will probably be disrespected in the rankings.

Michigan (7-1)

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They absolutely fumbled the bag the way they managed the clock against Michigan State, but that being their only loss, and how close it was, should help.

Ohio State (7-1)

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While they have been on an absolute tear, their one ranked win is over Penn State. It is still a good win, but we will see how much the committee values it. They could be flipped with Oregon and I would not be shocked.

Oregon (7-1)

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Their head-to-head matchup against Ohio State is their best win, and they did so without their best player. The only thing that can cause the committee to rank them lower than Ohio State, is the how good the Buckeyes have looked as of late.

Oklahoma (9-0)

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The Sooners have won all their games including a great come from behind win against Texas, but they have just one ranked win, and have had performances like the Tulane and Kansas game that can have them starting on the outside looking in.

Cincinnati (8-0)

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The committee rarely respects Group of Five teams, and I doubt they start now. Cincinnati has to blow everyone out on their schedule, and close-ish games against Navy and Tulane will hurt them. They do have two big wins, though. One over Indiana, who at the time was supposed to be good, and the huge win over a ranked Notre Dame.

Alabama (7-1)

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Alabama can be in any of the final three spots in the top four, besides the top. It all depends on how the committee views them. History shouldn’t factor in, but the pedigree of Alabama may see them ranked higher. It helps them that Texas A&M has continued to win.

Michigan State (8-0)

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Their win over Michigan came at the absolute best time, as it will be very fresh in the minds of the committee. A win over a top-10 opponent a couple days before selection day is major. I wouldn’t be surprised if the committee drops them to No. 3 and puts Alabama here either.

Georgia (8-0)

Joshua L. Jones, Athens Banner-Herald

Without a doubt the best team in the nation, the only thing that can prevent them from being at the top is absolutely nothing.

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