Winners and Losers: What the first College Football Playoff rankings should look like
After Week 9, the College Football Playoff committee has plenty to discuss.
Tuesday, the committee will unveil the first of six early Top 25 rankings leading up to the big reveal on Dec. 3 where we finally find out which four teams will vie for the national title. When establishing its rankings, the committee considers a team’s complete body of work, including strength of schedule and head-to-head competition.
After two more unbeatens — No. 2 Penn State and No. 4 TCU — fell on Saturday, the field is wide open, but we have our opinions on how we believe Tuesday’s rankings will shake out.
Below is our top 10 if we were the ones compiling the rankings, coupled with our projection where the teams will actually be ranked on Tuesday.
Record: 7-1 (4-1 Big 12)
Saturday’s result: 14-7 loss to Iowa State
Best win: Oklahoma State
Projected CFP ranking: 10
Explanation: Like Penn State, TCU registered its first loss of the year on Saturday, dropping a 14-7 decision at Iowa State. The Cyclones have proven to be a good team, but it’s still a loss that will cause some damage — especially when your offense fails to score a single point. There will surely be plenty of Big 12 chaos on the horizon.
Record: 7-1 (4-1 Big 12)
Saturday’s result: 49-27 win over Texas Tech
Best win: Ohio State
Projected CFP ranking: 9
Explanation: That win over Ohio State is going to hold weight as the year progresses, and that loss to Iowa State is nowhere as bad as it looked when it happened, but Oklahoma’s defense is holding it back. The Sooners have barely beaten some bad teams. The 49-41 win over winless Baylor especially sticks out. With Oklahoma State and TCU around the corner, there is a lot of room for OU to climb.
Record: 7-0 (5-0 ACC)
Saturday’s result: 24-19 win over North Carolina
Best win: Georgia Tech
Projected CFP ranking: 7
Explanation: Miami had blowout wins in its first three games, but has won by single digits in every game since. To us, Wisconsin looks like the better team, but we think the committee will give Miami a slight edge because of wins over Toledo, Georgia Tech and Syracuse (which beat Clemson). We’ll find out if the Hurricanes are for real the next two weeks when they host Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.
Record: 8-0 (5-0 Big Ten)
Saturday’s result: 24-10 win over Illinois
Best win: Florida Atlantic
Projected CFP ranking: 8
Explanation: Wisconsin has handled its business thus far, but the Big Ten West is far inferior to the East. Get used to hearing about the Badgers’ weak schedule, especially because they avoid both Ohio State and Penn State. So far, UW’s best win is over Florida Atlantic, which traveled to Madison with Hurricane Irma pummeling the Sunshine State. Since then, the Badgers have been unimpressive in several of their wins: Northwestern (33-24), Purdue (17-9) and Illinois on Saturday. That won’t help their cause.
6. PENN STATE
Record: 7-1 (4-1 Big Ten)
Saturday’s result: 39-38 loss to No. 6 Ohio State
Best win: Michigan
Projected CFP ranking: 6
Explanation: Penn State’s loss to Ohio State on Saturday was a brutal one. The Nittany Lions had the inside track to the CFP, but now are on the outside looking in without a clear path to the Big Ten title game. PSU proved it is one of the best teams in the country with the way it jumped out to Saturday’s lead and destroyed Michigan, but the loss really, really hurts.
Record: 7-1 (5-1 ACC)
Saturday’s result: 24-10 win over Georgia Tech
Best win: Virginia Tech
Projected CFP ranking: 5
Explanation: Despite Clemson’s loss to an average Syracuse team, the defending national champions just edge Penn State because of their quantity of quality victories. You could argue wins over Auburn, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and even Wake Forest for Clemson are all more impressive than Penn State’s best win: Michigan.
4. NOTRE DAME
Saturday’s result: 35-14 win over No. 14 NC State
Best win: USC
Projected CFP ranking: 3
Explanation: Notre Dame is going to get high praise from the committee for its schedule. The Irish have only one loss, and it was a 20-19 decision to Georgia. Beyond that, the Irish has convincing wins over Michigan State, USC and NC State, all of whom have been ranked in the Top 20 at some point this year.
3. OHIO STATE
Record: 7-1 (5-0 Big Ten)
Saturday’s result: 39-38 win over No. 2 Penn State
Best win: Penn State
Projected CFP ranking: 4
Explanation: Ohio State fell behind Penn State by 10+ points three different times on Saturday, but came back to shock the formerly-unbeaten Nittany Lions 39-38. That win holds a lot of weight and will continue to do so as the season progresses. OSU is stellar on defense and has its offense playing at a high level after the Week 2 loss to Oklahoma.
Record: 8-0 (5-0 SEC)
Saturday’s result: Bye
Best win: Texas A&M
Projected CFP ranking (as selected by committee): 2
Explanation: In our eyes, Alabama has been the most dominant team in the nation, but the overall resume falls just short of Georgia. The Tide’s average margin of victory is 33.25 points, but their strength of schedule doesn’t quite compare to the Bulldogs. The season-opening win over Florida State (then ranked No. 3, now 2-5 on the year) no longer holds much weight. Outside that, Bama’s best win is a road win over Texas A&M, which was beat up by Mississippi State on Saturday night.
Record: 8-0 (5-0 SEC)
Saturday’s result: 42-7 win over Florida
Best win: Notre Dame
Projected CFP ranking: 1
Explanation: Georgia’s strength of schedule is what ultimately puts it in the top spot through nine weeks. UGA’s win at Notre Dame in Week 2 has proven to be one of the most important wins of the year as the Irish haven’t lost since. The Bulldogs also trounced a then-ranked Mississippi State team and has blowouts over every other SEC team they have played: Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Missouri and Florida.
Also considered (listed in alphabetical order): Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, Washington, UCF
J.T. Barrett: The Ohio State quarterback’s monster performance late in the Buckeyes’ 39-38 victory over previously undefeated Penn State might just be the best he’s ever played. The senior was a perfect 13-for-13 passing in the fourth quarter with 170 yards and three touchdowns. Plus he passed Drew Brees to become the Big Ten’s all-time leader in touchdown passes with 91 for his career. That alone makes him a winner.
Arizona: The Wildcats are rolling. Arizona demolished No. 15 Washington State 58-37 as quarterback Khalil Tate had a big day once again. Tate ran for 146 yards on 13 carries and threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns while completing 10 of 17 passes.
Thanks to Tate’s incredible play, Arizona is now 6-2 and will be ranked in the top 25 on Sunday. Washington State, meanwhile, is also 6-2 and its dreams of the College Football Playoff are officially toast.
Coach Mike Leach benched quarterback Luke Falk in the first half and backup Tyler Hilinski threw four touchdowns. But he also threw four interceptions. Those were costly turnovers as Arizona scored 35 points in the second half.
The Wildcats travel to USC next week for a battle for first place in the Pac-12 South. Who saw that coming?
FIU: Florida International University improved to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in Conference USA on Saturday and is one win away from a bowl after beating C-USA-favorite Marshall 41-30. Yes, former North Carolina coach Butch Davis has a chance to go bowling.
Marshall (6-2, 3-1) was on a five-game win streak and was 3-0 at home. The Thundering Herd’s only loss entering the game was a 37-20 defeat to N.C. State.
When you are 5-2 and one game away from bowl eligibility. pic.twitter.com/VKqo5SVu1B
— FIU (@FIU) October 28, 2017
FAU: Lane Kiffin’s new gig is going well. The Owls are undefeated in C-USA and thoroughly demolished Western Kentucky 42-28 with 22 points in the fourth quarter after trailing 28-20. That’s a four-game winning streak now for FAU with matchup against 6-2 Marshall looming next week. Expect all kinds of shade being thrown around if and when Kiffin is in a bowl game while Tennessee is likely looking for a new coach.
UMass: After starting the season 0-6, Massachusetts has turned the corner and now has a two-game win streak thanks to a win over Appalachian State on Saturday. Kicker Logan Laurent hit a 36-yard field goal to win it in overtime after he hit a 45-yard field goal with five seconds remaining in regulation.
After Laurent hit his game-winning field goal, he nailed a backflip to cap off the night. UMass improved to 2-6, while App State fell to 5-3. Last week, UMass defeated GA Southern 55-20.
Here is the UMass kicker doing a backflip after a game winning field goal pic.twitter.com/WTtMWbhIJ7
— Brian Pickett (@BrianPickett) October 28, 2017
John Wolford: Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford threw for 460 yards and accounted for six touchdowns in a 42-32 victory over Louisville on Saturday. Going head-to-head with reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, Wolford reigned supreme as Wake Forest broke a three-game losing streak.
Wolford threw for more than 400 yards for the first time in his career as Wake Forest’s offense racked up 627 yards. Four of his five TD passes went to Greg Dortch, who set a school record with four TD catches. Wake Forest is now 5-3 overall and 2-3 in the ACC. Louisville dropped to 5-4 and 2-4.
.@WakeFB QB John Wolford had himself a GAME. (461 pass yards and 5 touchdowns) pic.twitter.com/DMhUiK5f8f
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) October 28, 2017
Josh Allen: Remember when Wyoming QB Josh Allen was going to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft?
Those days have passed us, but Allen played very well in a 42-3 win over New Mexico. He was 16-28 passing for 234 yards and four touchdowns. Oh, and he also had this insane play. Slippery!
lmao let's get silly pic.twitter.com/hh6hgHolHN
— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) October 29, 2017
Miami and Wisconsin: Even before TCU and Penn State lost on Saturday, it felt like Miami and Wisconsin missed huge opportunities. Both the Hurricanes and Badgers had a chance to make their case for the playoffs with convincing wins and both teams were more or less duds.
Sure, they both won, but that should be a given. Miami played North Carolina. Wisconsin faced Illinois. The reality is the Canes got into a dogfight with a 1-7 team while the Badgers played extremely sluggish all game before finally pulling away on a rushing touchdown from their left tackle. Both teams are still undefeated, but Miami hasn’t exactly looked great the last few weeks while Wisconsin hasn’t really played anyone. Saturday provided a chance for both teams to show they were elite. Neither seized it.
Tennessee: Well this is very Tennessee. Kentucky scored a touchdown with less than 30 seconds left to beat the Volunteers 29-26. Tennessee completed a Hail Mary as time expired, but the completion was short of the end zone.
The most Tennessee finish imaginable: A completed Hail Mary that does not reach the end zone pic.twitter.com/nkMryOkoyI
— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) October 29, 2017
The Vols forced four Kentucky turnovers (committed none), outgained Kentucky by 74 yards and held on to the ball for nearly 40 minutes. And still lost. Because Tennessee.
Texas A&M: Reality strikes just when you think things are going well in College Station.
The Aggies fell to 5-3 and 3-2 in the SEC after a 35-14 shellacking at home to Mississippi State. The win means the Bulldogs have a clear path to the vaunted top spot in the SEC West in the group of teams outside of Alabama, Auburn and LSU. Congratulations, Mississippi State (6-2, 3-2). You could be the best of the rest.
Northwest Missouri State: The nation’s longest college football win streak is over. The defending Division II champion Bearcats lost to rival Pittsburg State 20-10 on Saturday and snapped a 38-game win streak in the process.
Northwest’s last loss also came at the hands of Pitt State — all the way back in 2014. The loss means Northwest falls two short of the Division II record for consecutive wins held by Grand Valley State.
Ole Miss: After the Rebels had a 24-point lead over Arkansas, it appeared would be smooth-sailing for the rest of the day, right? But Ole Miss’ lead slowly started to fizzle as mistakes piled up. Arkansas slowly chipped away at Ole Miss’ lead and the Razorbacks nailed a 34-yard field goal with four seconds remaining to win, 38-37.
A big part of Ole Miss’ undoing were turnovers. The Rebels turned the ball over three times and each directly led to an Arkansas touchdown. Ole Miss dropped to 3-5 overall and 1-4 in the SEC while Arkansas got its first conference win of the season.
This Arkansas vs. Ole Miss game is truly special pic.twitter.com/MlmACz0zYg
— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) October 28, 2017
Eastern Michigan: After the school’s first bowl game since 1987 last year, Eastern Michigan started the 2017 season 2-0. Things haven’t gone well since. The Eagles’ 30-27 loss to Northern Illinois on Thursday was a sixth-straight defeat and the team’s third overtime loss of the season.
EMU — which beat Rutgers on Sept. 9 for its first Power Five win in school history — has lost all six of those games by seven points or fewer. Now at 2-6, EMU needs to end the season on a four-game win streak for another bowl game.
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