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3 things we learned from the first-ever College Football Playoff rankings

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The initial rankings give us an idea of how the selection committee will reward and punish teams.

The first College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday evening, setting the official pecking order for this year's national title race. The top two were expected, but after that there were a few surprises. Since we're all adjusting to a new format and how weekly rankings will shape up, let's consider what we learned from the committee's first top 25.

1. Scheduling tough OOC matters

One of the surprises in the first rankings is Auburn coming in at No. 3. Had the Tigers been ranked as high as No. 4, it would have been expected, but compared to the AP Top 25 and Coaches Poll voters, the committee is giving Gus Malzahn's team more credit.

There are two big reasons for the Tigers' ranking, the first of which is their win at Kansas State. The Wildcats are slotted at No. 9 in the initial rankings, and committee members seem to like the fact that Auburn went on the road to face a top-tier non-conference opponent. The argument can be made that the victory in Manhattan is the best OOC win this season, and Auburn is being rewarded handsomely for it.

On the other side of the coin, there's Baylor. The Bears have a prolific offense, a win over No. 7 TCU and a lone loss at No. 20 West Virginia. And yet, the Bears are ranked 13th. Why? Their out-of-conference competition: SMU, Northwestern State, and Buffalo. That's two low-end non-power teams and an FCS team, with a combined record of 7-16. It's a lineup that's killing the Bears right now.

Compare them to TCU, a similar conference foe. Baylor won that matchup, but the Horned Frogs have a win over Minnesota, a 6-2 team out of the Big Ten, and they're six spots ahead of the Bears.

Notre Dame at No. 10 is an example of why scheduling tough teams is nice, but beating them is even nicer. The Fighting Irish ranked sixth in the AP poll, but the selection committee isn't impressed that their best performance is a loss. As Brian Fremeau points out, Notre Dame is the highest-ranked team without a top-25 win. After the Irish fell in a nail-biter at Florida State, much of the college football world proclaimed the Irish were bona fide Playoff contenders. The committee would like to see them win a big game -- not just play in one -- before rewarding them.

2. There are two very different kinds of losses

Going back to Auburn, the other major reason the Tigers are the top-ranked one-loss team is that one loss: on the road to No. 1 Mississippi State. Based on rankings alone, there's no better loss available, so they picked a good one to have. If they run the table and finish 11-1, even without getting to the SEC Championship Game, they're still in the picture. A lot of that would have to do with a pile of impressive wins, but when comparing apples to apples with other one-loss teams, Auburn's defeat wouldn't look so bad.

Looking for a one-loss team that's really paying for its stumble? Look no further than No. 16 Ohio State. Every week, falling at home to Virginia Tech appears worse and worse. Since winning at the Horseshoe, the Hokies have gone 2-4 with losses to East Carolina, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, and Miami.

3. The committee looks at the big picture, not what just happened

Remember Saturday night, just three days ago? Ole Miss took its unbeaten record on the road to LSU and saw its dreams go to die in Death Valley. The Rebels, coming off their first loss of the year, promptly tumbled down the rankings from No. 3 to No. 7 in the AP poll and No. 9 in the Coaches. It was expected. You lose a game, you drop a few spots.

The selection committee doesn't think that way.

The committee is looking at the complete resume, and a road loss to a top-20 team coupled with a a home win over No. 6 Alabama is keeping the Rebs in good position. They're ahead of the Tide, even though that's not the case in the AP poll. None of this really matters right now -- in-season rankings are just for looking nice next to your team's name on the scoreboard -- but the "it really is about the whole picture" philosophy could be a big deal at the end of the year.

Let's say 12-0 Mississippi State plays 11-1 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, and the red-and-black Bulldogs win. Georgia would certainly be in the Playoff, but in the old system, the knee-jerk reaction might have been strong enough to drop Mississippi State out. But if the committee were to look at State's overall resume and ignore when the loss occurred, the maroon Bulldogs could still finish in the top four.

Unless if the committee were to punish MSU for failing to win its conference. How much conference championships matter is the next big question to answer.