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Predicting Week 12’s College Football Playoff rankings shuffle, where the new No. 1 is about the only obvious part

New rankings are now out in full over here.

Alabama v Mississippi State Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images

The College Football Playoff committee’s third rankings of 2017 are guaranteed to have a new No. 1 team, after Georgia lost to Auburn, and a fresh debate about the whole top five, after it remained stagnant the week prior.

We likely already know No. 1, but who’s No. 2? I think it comes down to either Miami or Oklahoma, but let’s take a stab at guessing the whole top 25.

These won’t be totally right, and some are in small groups rather than broken out individually, but here’s what I can promise you: I’m explaining these rankings in at least 100 percent more detail than the actual committee will. Amateur rankings, somewhat justified!

1. Alabama (10-0, 2 last week)

The Tide likely have two top-20 wins (more in number than Wisconsin and probably Miami, too), a top-50 strength of schedule in plenty of ratings (unlike Wisconsin), and otherwise haven’t been challenged (which Miami can’t claim).

Does Bama have long-term worries? Absolutely, such as all sorts of backup linebackers having to go to Auburn in two weeks, after a gimme against Mercer. But this Tuesday (and thus next Tuesday as well), the committee will keep it simple.

2. Oklahoma (9-1, 5)

The Sooners have wins over three teams almost certain to rank in the top 13. Can’t touch that part.

Don’t like their many close wins? Miami’s got a lot of those, too. Don’t like their loss to Iowa State? There’s your best case for Miami at No. 2. Don’t like their all-offense/minimal-defense style? The senior-heavy, old-school committee doesn’t either, another reason the Canes could be No. 2.

3. Miami (9-0, 7)

Destroying Notre Dame erased so many arguments against the Canes. Toledo and Virginia Tech losing hurt their previous two best wins, though. This doesn’t matter a lot. Miami’s win-and-in.

4. Clemson (9-1, 4)

Clemson’s resume fluctuated all over the place in Week 11 — with VT losing, Syracuse (CU’s loss) getting blasted by Wake Forest, NC State likely staying ranked, and Auburn humiliating Georgia — but improved overall.

5. Wisconsin (10-0, 8)

UW’s win-and-in, but adding a win over a likely 8-4 Michigan while everyone else enjoys National Cupcake Week would still narrow the Badgers’ SOS gap.

6. Auburn (8-2, 10)

Has a two-loss team ever been this high, this early? Close: Wisconsin was No. 7 at this point last year. That team also had two close losses to top-20 teams and some solid wins, but it did not have a total beatdown of the Week 11 No. 1 on its resume.

7. Georgia (9-1, 1)

Can’t fall too far, with that win over Notre Dame and only one loss, but kind of have to fall past Auburn. (The committee doesn’t base everything on head-to-head, but when two teams have otherwise close bodies of work, it’s an easy tiebreaker.)

8. Notre Dame (8-2, 3)

Probably can’t fall past Ohio State, via only being blown out once and not twice, or USC, via head-to-head.

9 Ohio State (8-2, 13)

As has been true for four straight years of the Playoff, your opinion on where to rank the Buckeyes is the only correct one, because no two people on earth have ever agreed on them.

10. USC (9-2, 11)

Quietly solid. Stanford beating Washington is a nice boost. Both losses were road trips with injuries amid a looooong stretch without a bye week. The committee takes that stuff into account.

11. TCU (8-2, 6)

Can’t slip much farther, thanks to a convincing win at Oklahoma State.

12. Penn State (8-2, 14)


13. Oklahoma State (8-2, 15)


14 through 19. LSU (7-3, 24), Michigan State (7-3, 12), Mississippi State (7-3, 16), UCF (9-0, 18), Washington (8-2, 9), Washington State (9-2, 19)

LSU’s comeback win over Auburn is suddenly one of the country’s most valuable.

One week after the biggest jump in CFP history, Michigan State really could plunge all the way back to the 20s from whence it came.

I’ve given up on UCF creeping much higher than No. 18. Hoping for No. 16 this week. No actual reason for the Knights to be behind several of the teams in this group, other than the committee’s expressed disdain for non-powers.

Washington should fall pretty far. A light schedule is beyond a team’s control (that’s team, not athletic director two or three years prior), but how a team responds to it isn’t.

The 20s: Memphis (8-1, 22), Michigan (8-2, NR), NC State (7-3, 23), Northwestern (7-3, 25), Stanford (7-3, NR), Virginia Tech (7-3, 17)

Stanford’s back, and Michigan likely joins. Iowa and Iowa State hop out to make room.

Put as basically as possible, 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.

If you want a schedule math thing that correlates pretty well to committee rankings, I recommend the transparent CPI, ESPN’s more advanced Strength of Record, and Bill Connelly’s even more advanced Resume S&P+.

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’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.