2017’s first Playoff committee top 25 is here, answering a few big questions for now.
Which of the SEC’s two unbeatens does the committee prefer at the moment (it’s clear which entered with the better resume; see below)? How did it break down the Clemson/Notre Dame/Ohio State/Oklahoma/etc. cluster? Does UCF have a shot at anything more than just the kids’-table New Year’s Six bowl? Which contender has the longest road?
It’s still very early, and these will fluctuate quite a bit before Selection Sunday. Explanations on some things about this week and the committee’s general process are below these rankings.
Updated 2017 College Football Playoff rankings
|1||Georgia, 8-0||South Carolina, -24|
|2||Alabama, 8-0||LSU, -21|
|3||Notre Dame, 7-1||Wake Forest, -14|
|4||Clemson, 7-1||at NC State, -7|
|5||Oklahoma, 7-1||at Oklahoma State, +3|
|6||Ohio State, 7-1||at Iowa, -17|
|7||Penn State, 7-1||at Michigan State, -7.5|
|8||TCU, 7-1||Texas, -7|
|9||Wisconsin, 8-0||at Indiana, -10|
|10||Miami, 7-0||Virginia Tech, +2.5|
|11||Oklahoma State, 7-1||Oklahoma, -3|
|12||Washington, 7-1||Oregon, -24|
|13||Virginia Tech, 7-1||at Miami, -2.5|
|14||Auburn, 6-2||at Texas A&M, -15|
|15||Iowa State, 6-2||at West Virginia, +2.5|
|16||Mississippi State, 6-2||UMass, -28|
|17||USC, 7-2||Arizona, -7.5|
|18||UCF, 7-0||at SMU, -14|
|19||LSU, 6-2||at Alabama, +21|
|20||NC State, 6-2||Clemson, +7|
|21||Stanford, 6-2||at Washington State, +2|
|22||Arizona, 6-2||at USC, +7.5|
|23||Memphis, 7-1||at Tulsa, -12|
|24||Michigan State, 6-2||Penn State, +7.5|
|25||Washington State, 7-2||Stanford, -2|
(If that table’s not loading for you, the same rankings are also over here.)
No major surprises this week. UGA’s the only real choice for No. 1 right now.
Out of the five undefeated teams, Georgia has the two best wins: at Notre Dame and a blowout of No. 16 Mississippi State. Otherwise, it’s splattered teams with a ruthless defense and with the absolute basics on offense.
Alabama’s best win, unranked Texas A&M, just got rocked at home by that MSU team Georgia owned. Miami tries pretty hard each week to lose. Wisconsin’s played nobody in particular. UCF might have a better case than the Canes or Badgers at the moment, but the committee’s never ranked a non-power higher than No. 13.
(Bama’s business picks up soon, with a run of LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn, and probably Georgia. Likewise, Miami and Wisconsin just need to keep doing the most important thing: not losing.)
Everybody else has a loss.
This is UGA’s first-ever trip inside the Playoff top four.
Based on that, here’s what your New Year’s Six would look like right now.
These three are automatic in this rotation.
- Sugar Bowl semifinal: No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Clemson
- Rose Bowl semifinal: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Notre Dame
- Orange Bowl: No. 10 Miami (ACC autobid) vs. No. 6 Ohio State (Big Ten/SEC/Notre Dame autobid)
The other three are at-large bowls, so here are guesses on how they’d match up.
- Cotton Bowl: No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 7 Penn State
- Fiesta Bowl: No. 8 TCU vs. No. 12 Washington
- Peach Bowl: No. 9 Wisconsin (all Power 5 champs are guaranteed spots) vs. No. 18 UCF (mid-major autobid)
Regardless of the initial rankings, there are nine lanes left for contenders.
This, then, is your pool of title contenders, no matter who ranks among the early top four:
Ohio State or Wisconsin
Clemson, Virginia Tech, or Miami
Oklahoma State, TCU, or Oklahoma
This is going to be fun.
The committee goes by two things: schedule strength and eyeballin’. The first one’s easy to calculate.
Based on three years, here are the schedule benchmarks for Playoff contention:
- Finish with one or fewer losses (100 percent of Playoff teams have done this).
- Beat at least three teams ranked in the committee’s Dec. 3 top 25 (100 percent).
- Win a Power 5 conference (92 percent).
- Beat at least six teams that have .500-plus records on Dec. 3 (100 percent).
Going above and beyond is advisable, though your schedule might not cooperate.
The eyeballin’ part is hard to predict.
What do a bunch of athletic directors know about quality football that the rest of us don’t? Who knows!
This is the stuff committee rep Kirby Hocutt (used to be Jeff Long) will get made fun of for trying to explain in 90 seconds on ESPN during the rankings show. Game control! Body clocks!
The committee does use stats during its deliberations. To try and grade team strength beyond just my own opinions, I first turn to Bill Connelly’s S&P+. Committee metrics are a bit cruder, such as an offense’s performance compared to what its opponents usually allow, but probably suggest similar teams. We have no way of knowing for sure, lol.
There’s still a long way to go.
After Halloween’s rankings release, we’ll still have four full weekends and Conference Championship Week. If you’re a Power 5 team with only one loss, you’re not out yet.
- In the first three years’ initial rankings, a non-Alabama SEC team started in the top four. 2014 Auburn, 2015 LSU, and 2016 Texas A&M finished in the teens or worse. Alabama was the only SEC team to make each Playoff.
- However, each of those years had a team start in the teens and finish in the Playoff (2014 Ohio State, 2015 Oklahoma) or just outside of it at No. 5 (2016 Penn State).