Way-too-early College Football Playoff Picture: Key Dates, Top Contenders entering Week 7

Week 7 promises some marquee matchups in Seattle and South Bend as the top teams of the surprisingly-stout Pac-12 get their first real tests of the season. No. 8 Oregon is on the road at No. 7 Washington, while No. 10 USC takes on No. 21 Notre Dame. Oregon, USC, and Washington all have playoff hopes as well as Heisman hopes in their quarterbacks. This week should offer some more clarification on where teams might stand at the end of the season, when four teams are selected to advance to the College Football Playoff. Keep reading for an overview of playoff structure, ranking timing and key dates to know, as well as how the playoff picture stands entering Week 7.

When do College Football Playoff rankings come out?

The first CFP rankings of the 2023 season will be released on Tuesday, October 31, after Week 9 of play. From then on, new CFP rankings will come out every Tuesday for the remainder of the regular season.

Rankings are determined each week by the College Football Playoff committee, a 13-member group that includes people with experience as coaches, student-athletes, college administrators, journalists, and athletic directors.

The CFP rankings – which go up to #25 – are based on the committee’s assessment of each team. The committee looks at head-to-head results, strength of schedule, and conference titles, among other factors.

How many teams make the College Football Playoff?

Four teams will qualify for the College Football Playoff in the 2023 season. The four teams will be selected by the College Football Playoff committee and announced on December 3, the Sunday after all conference championship games have been played.

In 2024, the playoff will expand to 12 teams, with [some] less subjective selection procedures. For now, the top four teams in the final CFP rankings make the playoff.

When is the College Football Playoff?

Two semifinals will be played on New Year’s Day (Monday, Jan. 1) – the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA, and the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, LA.

The national championship game takes place a week later on Monday, January 8, in Houston.

College Football Playoff Picture Entering Week 7

The playoff picture started to become clearer last week, but entering Week 7, there are plenty of teams that still control their own destiny. As conference play heats up in the coming weeks, it’s crucial for teams to remain in the race for their own conference titles if they want to remain in the playoff conversation.

Without the CFP rankings for the first eight weeks of the season, the AP rankings are the best guide to how things may shake out down the road. The current AP rankings list the top four as follows:

1. Georgia
2. Michigan
3. Ohio State
4. Florida State

These teams are followed by Oklahoma at No. 5 and Penn State at No. 6.

Top-ranked Georgia, the reigning back-to-back national champions, finally showed some teeth last week in a 51-13 blowout of then-number-20 Kentucky. There were doubts in the early part of the season as Georgia had several slow starts and then struggled to put away unranked Auburn, but the Bulldogs looked more like we expected putting away the Wildcats in Week 6. Georgia is on the road this week at Vanderbilt, a team the Dawgs have outscored 117-0 in the last two seasons, so it’s expected Georgia holds onto the top spot following this week.

Who will make it to the College Football Playoff?

The Daily Line crew breaks it down on who's making it and who's fading in the College Football Playoff Run.

Like Georgia, Michigan has made the CFP the last two years (losing in the semifinals each time). The Wolverines appear to be one of – if not the – most complete teams in college football, but they have yet to face a tough (or even ranked) opponent. That said, their 52-10 road win over Minnesota at night last week was an impressive showing. It’s unlikely Michigan is truly challenged until Week 11, when the team travels to take on current No. 6 Penn State. The Wolverines host the 2-3 Hoosiers of Indiana in Ann Arbor today.

The top four saw a shake-up last week as Oklahoma took down Texas in the Red River Rivalry. The Longhorns had been ranked third entering last week with the Sooners at 12; now, Texas sits at number nine while Oklahoma is right outside the top four at No. 5.

When Texas dropped, Ohio State and Florida State each moved up one place to three and four, respectively. Both teams have one signature win so far this season – Ohio State’s last-second victory over Notre Dame in Week 4, and Florida State’s Week 1 handling of LSU. Both teams also have challenges remaining this season: Florida State has tough tests in #17 Duke and #25 Miami, plus in-state rival Florida in Week 13, and Ohio State has yet to face No. 6 Penn State and No. 2 Michigan (the Wolverines have beaten the Buckeyes two years in a row).

While only three conferences are represented in the current top four, don’t expect it to stay that way. Oklahoma would have a great case if they win out, and the Michigan-Ohio State head-to-head will knock one of those teams out. But perhaps more importantly, it’s expected that the top team in the Pac-12 will make the playoff this year, as that conference has been the strongest of all Power Five conferences this year.

The top Pac-12 teams face their toughest tests yet this week, with No. 8 Oregon on the road at No. 7 Washington and No. 10 USC on the road at No. 21 Notre Dame in a historic rivalry. Those are the biggest games on the college football slate this week, and they’ll provide some clarity on who the most likely Pac-12 playoff representative would be. The Pac-12 hasn’t sent a team to the CFP since 2016, when Washington went and lost in the semifinal to Alabama.