Well, we finally got a loser among the top eight teams. Of course, that was inevitable because the two Big Ten powerhouses played one another. Ohio State lost at Michigan, but the Buckeyes were one of only three ranked teams to fall this week.
Everything will get settled Saturday. It has been a while since so much has been at stake in these conference championship games and that they come with the feeling that anything can happen ... or maybe the chalkiest season in recent memory will finish that way.
Of course, this is a warmup act for the warmup act, which are all of the CFP Rankings releases before the final one. Remember, these rankings do not act like a traditional 25 poll where, as long as a team keeps winning, it is unlikely to get passed. Each set of CFP Rankings gets tossed after it is announced with teams reevaluated from scratch every week.
Before we get to the predicted rankings themselves, here's a refresher listing some of key points the committee members consider when deciding a team's ranking beyond their on-field record:
- Strength of schedule
- Conference championships (once decided)
- Results vs. common opponents
- Results vs. ranked opponents
Thankfully, the committee's definition of "ranked opponents" is different than what you're used to seeing. The rankings they use are the prior week's CFP Rankings. They do not consider where teams are ranked in the CFP, AP Top 25, etc. when the games are played. Using game-time rankings is the most worthless way to determine "ranked opponents;" in fact, the committee specifically forbids the use of any poll that has a preseason starting point.
Notice that "game control" is not listed among the criteria. It never has been considered despite the term (or similar concepts) coming out of the mouth of past committee chairmen. (The CFP does not have a way to measure "game control" -- I've seen the data the committee uses -- but let's not kid ourselves: They do talk about it.) And really, who cares how you get to the win as long as you get there?
With all that in mind, here is how I believe the CFP Rankings will look tonight. Remember: This is not necessarily how I would vote if I were on the committee. I am merely predicting what they will do this evening.
Note: This projection is based only on results to this point. It does not reflect the final forecast for the playoff. The complete bowl playoff and bowl projections through the end of the season can be found here.
College Football Playoff Rankings prediction
|The Bulldogs held off Georgia Tech despite missing three of their top five receivers, including All-American TE Brock Bowers. Alabama is the last hurdle between Georgia and a second consecutive No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff. Last week: 1
|Michigan continued its hot streak against Ohio State, knocking off the Buckeyes for the third straight year. Maybe they don't need Jim Harbaugh after all? Either way, he's back for the Big Ten Championship Game against Iowa. The Wolverines are looking for a third straight playoff appearance. Last week: 3
|Washington left it open late against Washington State. A last-second field goal by former walk-on kicker Grady Gross sealed a 24-21 win. The Huskies will face Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game with a spot in the CFP awaiting the winner. The Huskies' only appearance in the CFP came in 2016. Last week: 4
|The Seminoles erased a 12-point first-half deficit with a strong second half in a 24-15 win at Florida. Louisville's loss this week takes a little luster off the ACC Championship Game and makes it harder for FSU to be ranked any higher than the last of the undefeated teams at the end. Still, that is a spot in the playoff. Last week: 5
|The Buckeyes again came up short against Michigan, and again, Ryan Day is taking a lot of heat from his faithful. This figures to be the highest that Ohio State can finish in the rankings barring something really dramatic. It is the only team in the top eight that is done playing. Last week: 2
|You could make a case that Oregon is playing better than anyone over the latter part of the season. At least this week, they were the only team among the contenders that had an easy time with its biggest rival. The win 31-7 over Oregon State is the Ducks' first against a team in the rankings this season. They look to avenge their only loss of the season in the Pac-12 Championship Game against Washington. Last week: 6
|The Longhorns destroyed Texas Tech and look ready to take on Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship Game. It is unfortunate that Texas does not get a chance to avenge its only loss to higher-ranked Oklahoma, but it can still get to the CFP with a win and some help. Last week: 7
|Alabama needed an act of divine intervention to come away from Auburn with a win in the Iron Bowl. I guess that makes up for the Kick Six. The Crimson Tide will try to ruin Georgia's season and perhaps put themselves in the playoff with a win the SEC Championship Game. Last week: 8
|The Tigers are the highest-ranked team with no shot at the CFP. They finished their regular season with a 48-14 win at Arkansas and will be headed to their first New Year's Six bowl. Last week: 9
|Penn State throttled Michigan State 42-0, putting an end to a miserable season for the Spartans. The Nittany Lions are likely headed for the New Year's Six. Last week: 11
|The Rebels won the Egg Bowl over Mississippi State to end the regular season. They are the highest-ranked team that will miss out on the New Year's Six. Last week: 12
|The Sooners finished the season with a 69-45 win over TCU. Their basketball teams may not score that many points against each other. OU is the highest-ranked Big 12 team behind Texas but missed out on the conference title game. Last week: 13
|The Tigers finished the season in typical fashion -- with a high-scoring win. They beat Texas A&M, 42-30. LSU was the top-rated team in relative total offense and scoring offense by a wide margin this season. Last week: 14
|The bad news is that the Cardinals lost to Kentucky at home, killing their slim playoff hopes. The good news? Barring something real strange, they are going to the Orange Bowl, win or lose in the ACC title game. Last week: 10
|Arizona finished the season strong, winning six straight games, including a 59-23 victory in the finale at Arizona State. The Wildcats look ready to compete in the Big 12 when they join next season. Last week: 15
|Iowa and Nebraska were tied 10-10 at the half but somehow still managed to come in under the 26-point total in a 13-10 Hawkeyes win. Iowa is off to the Citrus Bowl unless it beats Michigan. Last week: 17
|The Fighting Irish put a bow on a nine-win season by whipping Stanford. They finish with one win over a team in the rankings. That was the victory at NC State back on Sept. 9. Last week: 18
|Oregon was the first team to beat the Beavers by more than three points in a 31-7 victory. An uncertain future awaits Oregon State without a conference home and currently without a coach. Last week: 16
|The Cowboys needed two overtimes at home, but they knocked off BYU to advance to the Big 12 Championship Game against Texas. A win puts them in the New Year's Six. Last week: 20
|The Volunteers hammered Vanderbilt like you would expect. They should be in one of the better SEC bowl games. Last week: 21
|NC State picked up its first ranked win of the season off the field, not on it. The Wolfpack beat North Carolina, but the ranked win came about when the CFP Selection Committee put Clemson in the rankings last week. Last week: 22
|Tulane picked up arguably its best win of the season over UTSA and will host SMU in the AAC Championship Game. A win over the Mustangs will put the Green Wave in the Fiesta Bowl. Last week: 23
|The Tigers celebrated their first appearance in the rankings this season with a 16-7 win at South Carolina. People think these big rivalry games are easy, but check out the scores of some of these games just involving the ranked teams. Last week: 24
|The Flames put the cap on an undefeated regular season with a win at UTEP. Now, they host New Mexico State for the Conference USA title. If Tulane loses, a shot at the Fiesta Bowl is possible. Last week: 25
|Utah ended its season on a positive note with a win over Colorado. The Utes had lost three of the previous four games. Last week: NR