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College Football Playoff Rankings: Helping The Committee With The Top 25

College Football News logo College Football News 11/2/2021 Pete Fiutak
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The first College Football Playoff rankings of 2021 will come out Tuesday night, November 2nd. How should the committee rank the top 25?

College Football Playoff: Helping The Committee With The Top 25

Top 4 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20

Predicting the first CFP Top 25

College Football Playoff Chase: Who’s alive?

The College Football Playoff rankings season is finally here.

The committee will get together, there will be snacks, they’ll do what they do – all without the slightest bit of transparency – and then the top 25 will be unveiled.

Finally, these are the rankings that matter … sort of. This is all just a fun exercise until the final College Football Playoff rankings come out right after the conference championships.

I’ve been in the room in Grapevine, Texas, I’ve been through the process, and I’ve worked with this operation and know how this group makes the sausage. For all the criticism, and hollering, and anger from the fan bases, start with this …

The process is meticulous, and everyone is 100% totally sincere in trying to create the best ranking possible.

This isn’t like the other ranking systems that are thrown together on a late Saturday night. The committee debates and discusses each and every one of the spots, starting at 25 all the way down to No. 1. There will be mistakes, and there will be inconsistencies, but at the very least there’s a rationale behind every slot.

No, there is no agenda like some think there is. They legitimately want the four best teams in the College Football Playoff, no matter what.

Now, is this silly that college football bases its playoff system on the whims of a panel of judges? Of course. But for now, this is what we’ve got.

I’m going to tell the College Football Playoff committee what the top 25 should be – by the way, it’s beyond ridiculous that there’s no media member or someone who follows college football for a living on the panel.

Before getting going and before these come out for real, remember …

1. These rankings are just a snapshot. They’re thrown out and done all over again next week.

2. There aren’t any rules. The committee can pick anyone it wants to. And …

3. And I can’t stress this enough, DON’T GET INTO A TWIST over the rankings. Again, wait until the entire season is done. At that point the committee cares about two things – did you win your Power Five conference championship, and did you do it with no more than one loss? That’s the baseline for everything else.

These isn’t the prediction and projection of the first round of College Football Playoff rankings – that’s this. This is me telling the committee what to do – no, this group hasn’t seen all the teams and all the games because they have real lives and jobs that actually matter.

I do, however, try to keep this within the framework of how the commitee rolls. It LOVES big wins, and while it doesn’t punish losses to great teams, it doesn’t give enough credit to Team A for playing Alabama on the same day that Team B played Central Cupcake Tech.

One last thing – the committee uses its own proprietary stat system. Other rankings and other metrics don’t exist in their world.

So if I may be so forward, College Football Playoff committee, this is what your first top 25 should be.

College Football Playoff Rankings: How The Top 25 Should Be Done, November 2

25. Pitt Panthers (6-2)

The Case For This Spot: There actually isn’t anything that great to point to, and the 44-41 loss to Western Michigan is an anchor, but there’s something to be said for being the first team since 2014 Georgia Tech to beat Clemson by double-digits in the regular season.

The Panthers also won at Tennessee, and the wins at Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech are good enough to matter.

Win That Matters: Pitt 27, Clemson 17

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Western Michigan 44, Pitt 41

Up Next: at Duke

24. Houston Cougars (7-1)

The Case For This Spot: Here’s the deal I’ll make with you, College Football Playoff committee. I’ll indulge your love of rewarding teams with one big win – Houston just handed SMU its first loss of the season – if you’ll at least listen to my argument about 17, 19, and 20.

The Cougars lost to Texas Tech by 17 and haven’t beaten anyone other than an SMU team that beat absolutely no one other than a bad TCU.

Win That Matters: Houston 44, SMU 37

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Texas Tech 38, Houston 21

Up Next: at USF

23. Iowa Hawkeyes (6-2)

The Case For This Spot: There’s enough there with wins over Iowa State and Maryland on the road and the home victory over Penn State to put the Hawkeyes somewhere in the top 25.

However, the offense is bad when the defense isn’t taking the ball away, and losing to Purdue and Wisconsin by a combined score of 51-14 over the last two weeks is the sort of trend-down thing the committee doesn’t dig.

Win That Matters: Iowa 23, Penn State 20

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Purdue 24, Iowa 7

Up Next: at Northwestern

22. Wisconsin Badgers (5-3)

The Case For This Spot: The Badger offense has been BRUTAL at times, but the committee is going to give credit to the nation’s No. 1 defense – at least statistically – against, technically, one of the nation’s toughest schedules.

The losses to Notre Dame, Michigan, and Penn State will be slightly forgivable, and the wins over Army, Purdue, and Iowa will trend the team up just enough that it should slip into the top 25.

Win That Matters: Wisconsin 27, Iowa 7

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Penn State 16, Wisconsin 10

Up Next: at Rutgers

21. Fresno State Bulldogs (7-2)

The Case For This Spot: This is my ultra-pretentious How Much Does The College Football Playoff Committee Actually Know test, Part 1

Fresno State lost at Hawaii – which in and of itself is always a quirky road game, finishing about 3 am ET – but it was way banged up before getting a two-week break. The other loss? At Oregon 31-24.

That loss, though, to the Rainbow Warriors with a backup quarterback is enough to put Fresno State a bit lower. However, it just handed San Diego State its first loss of the season, and it beat a fabulous Nevada team the week before that. Throw in the win over UCLA on the road, and this is a sneaky-good top 20ish team.

Win That Matters: Fresno State 30, San Diego State 20

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Hawaii 27, Fresno State 24

Up Next: Boise State

NEXT: College Football Playoff Rankings: How The Top 25 Should Be Done – Top 20

College Football Playoff Rankings: How The Top 25 Should Be Done – Top 20

20. Kentucky Wildcats (6-2)

The Case For This Spot: This will be one of the interesting teams the committee will have to deal with. Technically, there isn’t any one amazing win, but all five of the FBS victories – UK beat UT-Chattanooga for that sixth win – were over teams that are currently 4-4.

However, the two straight losses will be part of the trend-down aspect to where the Wildcats are really ranked – ranked somewhere around 21ish – but the overall body of work is stronger than than it seems.

Win That Matters: Kentucky 20, Florida 13

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Mississippi State 31, Kentucky 17

Up Next: Tennessee

19. Mississippi State Bulldogs (5-3)

The Case For This Spot: This is the How Much Does The College Football Playoff Committee Actually Know test, Part 2.

Win That Matters: Yeah, Mississippi State is 5-3 – and a loss is a loss is a loss, especially to a bad team – but the loss to Memphis came on a weird punt return that shouldn’t have counted. One of the other losses was by three to LSU, and the other defeat was to Alabama.

However, the Bulldogs beat Texas A&M – who beat Bama. They also beat NC State by 14, and just took down Kentucky by 14. It’s one of those trending-up teams, even with the issues on the resumé.

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Memphis 31, Mississippi State 29

Up Next: at Arkansas

18. UTSA Roadrunners (8-0)

The Case For This Spot: If it was so easy to be 8-0, everyone would be doing it, including the teams with lousy schedules. There are only six teams out of 130 that are still without a blemish in November.

The win over Illinois on the road deserves a wee bit of love – the Illini beat Penn State and Nebraska, for what that’s worth. There’s also a win over a Memphis team that beat Mississippi State, the Western Kentucky win isn’t bad, and …

8-0 is 8-0.

Win That Matters: UTSA 37, Illinois 30

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: UTSA 24, UNLV 17

Up Next: at UTEP

17. Arkansas Razorbacks (5-3)

The Case For This Spot: The top 16 should be close to right – with a few mixes and matches in the configuration. Before getting there, this isn’t where Arkansas will likely be.

It’s the one philosophical belief in this that I can’t ever convince anyone else is right – including committee members.

It’s not fair to punish teams that play great teams, and lose.

Arkansas beat Texas A&M by ten, and the committee is going to swoon over the A&M win over Alabama. The blowout over Texas should mean something, too, but the Hogs will probably be in the low 20s because of losses to Georgia and Ole Miss on the road, and with a home loss to Auburn.

Win That Matters: Arkansas 20, Texas A&M 10

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Auburn 38, Arkansas 23

Up Next: Mississippi State

16. Ole Miss Rebels (6-2)

The Case For This Spot: There shouldn’t be any real punishment for losing at Alabama and at Auburn. There are enough solid wins – Louisville, Arkansa, Tennessee, LSU – to maybe be in the top 15.

Win That Matters: Ole Miss 42, Arkansas 51

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Auburn 31, Ole Miss 20

Up Next: Liberty

College Football Playoff: Helping The Committee With The Top 25

Top 4 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20

Predicting the first CFP Top 25

College Football Playoff Chase: Who’s alive?

NEXT: College Football Playoff Rankings: How The Top 25 Should Be Done – Top 15

College Football Playoff Rankings: How The Top 25 Should Be Done – Top 15

15. BYU Cougars (7-2)

The Case For This Spot: BYU will be one of the most interesting calls on Tuesday night. The loss to Boise State at home will sting a bit, but there won’t be a whole lot of punishment for losing at Baylor.

The Cougars – even with those two losses – might have a better overall resumé than Cincinnati when it comes to arguing over the teams outside of the Power Five conferences.

BYU beat Utah, Arizona State, Washington State, and Utah. The 66-49 win over Virginia will play a large role.

Win That Matters: BYU 26, Utah 17

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Boise State 26, BYU 17

Up Next: Idaho State

14. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (8-0)

The Case For This Spot: There’s no meat on that schedule bone, but how many other unbeaten Power Five teams are there? Three – Georgia, Oklahoma, and Michigan State. That will be enough to get Wake Forest at least this high, and maybe into the top ten.

The big games are coming.

Win That Matters: Wake Forest 37, Virginia 17

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Wake Forest 37, Louisville 34

Up Next: at North Carolina

13. Texas A&M Aggies (6-2)

The Case For This Spot: Texas A&M beat Alabama. Mic drop.

The losses to Arkansas and Mississippi State will hurt, but the committee will love how the Aggies are moving forward, getting better, and won their last two games over Missouri and South Carolina by a combined score of 79-28.

And, they beat Alabama.

Win That Matters: Texas A&M 41, Alabama 38

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Mississippi State 26, Texas A&M 22

Up Next: Auburn

12. Baylor Bears (7-1)

The Case For This Spot: Is the win over Texas enough? Not really, but when the committee dives in, it’s going to love the 14-point victory over BYU and adore the win over Iowa State a bit more than it should.

Win That Matters: Baylor 38, BYU 24

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Oklahoma State 24, Baylor 14

Up Next: at TCU

11. Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-1)

The Case For This Spot: To be a broken record through this piece, big wins mean everything to the committee. Being the team that handed Baylor its only loss will be a big deal, and the close loss at Iowa State will be seen as reasonably acceptable.

Win That Matters: Oklahoma State 24, Baylor 14

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Iowa State 24, Oklahoma State 21

Up Next: at West Virginia

College Football Playoff: Helping The Committee With The Top 25

Top 4 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 21-25

Predicting the first CFP Top 25

College Football Playoff Chase: Who’s alive?

NEXT: College Football Playoff Rankings: How The Top 25 Should Be Done – Top 10

College Football Playoff Rankings: How The Top 25 Should Be Done – Top 10

10. Auburn Tigers (6-2)

The Case For This Spot: You like big wins? The College Football Playoff committee sure does, and Auburn just beat both Arkansas and Ole Miss by double-digits, to go along with a win at LSU.

You like hot teams trending up? Four wins in the last five games with the lone loss a forgivable 34-10 defeat at Georgia.

The loss at Penn State might be enough to put the Tigers behind Oklahoma State and Baylor when the rankings come out, but in a tough environment on the road, that probably won’t be punished too much.

Win That Matters: Auburn 31, Ole Miss 20

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Penn State 28, Ole Miss 20

Up Next: at Texas A&M

9. Michigan Wolverines (7-1)

The Case For This Spot: The top eight should be relatively set in some order. The ninth spot will be a bit trickier, but the committee isn’t going to beef too much with a close, tough loss on the road to an unbeaten Michigan State. It’ll like the 21-point win at Wisconsin, and in the metrics, the win over Northern Illinois will actually get a little bit of credit.

Win That Matters: Michigan 38, Wisconsin 17

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Michigan State 37, Michigan 33

Up Next: Indiana

8. Ohio State Buckeyes (7-1)

The Case For This Spot: The committee is SO going to want to put Ohio State higher than this, but for the first round of the rankings, it can’t. It’s not going to deal with the argument that it shouldn’t be ahead of Oregon – at least for now.

The committee is going to overlove the blowout wins over mediocre teams and the victories over Minnesota and Penn State, but it can’t put the Buckeyes over Oregon – it just can’t.

Win That Matters: Ohio State 33, Penn State 24

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Oregon 35, Ohio State 28

Up Next: at Nebraska

7. Oregon Ducks (7-1)

The Case For This Spot: This might be the most hotly debated team in the room. Oregon hasn’t looked the part, but that win …

That one win at Ohio State is going to get more credibility than anything anyone has done, with the possible exception of Cincinnati beating Notre Dame in South Bend. However, the loss to Stanford will be an anchor, and it could end up being used as an excuse for a lower ranking than this.

Win That Matters: Oregon 35, Ohio State 28

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Stanford 31, Oregon 24

Up Next: at Washington

6. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-1)

The Case For This Spot: At Florida State, Purdue, Wisconsin, at Virginia Tech, USC, North Carolina. Based on the schedule – and throw in a win over Toledo, too – the committee is going to want to reward the Irish and put them up as high as possible. However, there’s that hard ceiling of Cincinnati they won’t be able to get past.

Win That Matters: Notre Dame 41, Wisconsin 13

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Cincinnati 24, Notre Dame 13

Up Next: Navy

5. Cincinnati Bearcats (8-0)

The Case For This Spot: Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Notre Dame. The committee is going to LOVE that win more than just about anything anyone else has done. It’s going to want to rank the Irish high, but can’t put them past the Bearcats. However, the rest of Cincinnati’s schedule is abysmal.

In reality, because of that win over Notre Dame, Cincinnati could start out as high as No. 3, and could be two if the committee adores the Irish schedule that much. However, DO NOT GET COMFORTABLE with that, if it happens. Cincinnati could be top three throughout the whole process and then get yoinked out at the end if there are four viable Power Five champions.

Win That Matters: Cincinnati 24, Notre Dame 13

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Cincinnati 27, Navy 20

Up Next: Tulsa

College Football Playoff: Helping The Committee With The Top 25

Top 4 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 21-25

Predicting the first CFP Top 25

College Football Playoff Chase: Who’s alive?

NEXT: College Football Playoff Rankings: How The Top 25 Should Be Done – The Top 4

College Football Playoff Rankings: How The Top 25 Should Be Done – The Top 4

4. Alabama Crimson Tide (7-1)

The Case For This Spot: The committee has always given Alabama the benefit of every possible doubt – and for good reason. The one loss to Texas A&M should be enough to keep it out of the top three for now – don’t be shocked, though, if Bama starts out at No. 2 – and the somewhat shaky day at Florida will factor in. However, the dominance over Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Tennessee will factor in.

Win That Matters: Alabama 42, Ole Miss 21

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Texas A&M 41, Alabama 38

Up Next: LSU

3. Michigan State Spartans (8-0)

The Case For This Spot: When it comes to how the College Football Playoff rankings usually go, big, giant wins matter the most. Now the 38-17 win over Miami on the road looks a whole lot better, and the victory over previously unbeaten Michigan will be fresh. Like the case for the next pick, it’s about where teams are trending, and Michigan State is going way, way up.

In reality, though, don’t be stunned if Cincinnati is ahead of Michigan State – for now. The committee will compare and contrast, and the Bearcat win at Indiana might be a deciding factor over MSU’s close game against the Hoosiers. Also, the committee might like the UC win over Notre Dame more than MSU’s win over Michigan.

Win That Matters: Michigan State 37, Michigan 33

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Michigan State 20, Indiana 15

Up Next: at Purdue

2. Oklahoma Sooners (9-0)

The Case For This Spot: Remember that the College Football Playoff committee cares about momentum and the here-and-now as much as the total resumé. The rise of Caleb Williams and the explosion of the offense will matter – along with the 9-0 record.

The rough performance against Kansas will be a part of the equation, and there isn’t any one amazing win to point to, but for now, this team is trending up, and it has the most wins – that’s going to matter.

Win That Matters: Oklahoma 55, Texas 48

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Oklahoma 35, Kansas 23

Up Next: at Baylor (November 13)

1. Georgia Bulldogs (8-0)

The Case For This Spot: The defense is absolutely dominant and there’s no fluff among the eight wins so far. There’s no reasonable argument for anyone else right now.

Win That Matters: Georgia 34, Florida 7

Loss (or bad performance) That Matters: Georgia 10, Clemson 3

Up Next: Missouri

College Football Playoff: Helping The Committee With The Top 25

Top 4 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 21-25

Predicting the first CFP Top 25

College Football Playoff Chase: Who’s alive?

MORE:

College Football Playoff Rankings Prediction: Week 1, November 2

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New York Giants at Kansas City Prediction, Game Preview

College Football Roundup Week 9: What It All Means, Winners, Losers, Overrated, Underrated

College Football Playoff Chase: Ranking The 15 Teams Still Alive After Week 9

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