Breaking Down College Football Playoff Rankings

1. The LSU situation
If you’re really going to do this, and if you’re really going to take a snapshot of the entire season so far and base the rankings on what has actually happened on the field, then 1-2-3 is right with Mississippi State and Florida State in the top two in some form, and then Auburn No. 3 – with its wins over Ole Miss and the one loss coming to Mississippi State. You could actually make a case for the Tigers being No. 2 behind the Bulldogs, but FSU is one of two unbeaten Power 5 teams and has Top 25 wins over Notre Dame and Clemson, so there’s no problem there. 

LSU might have been way too low last week at 19, and it’s still not getting the respect it’s earned at 16. The Tigers might be throttled by Alabama this week, and the loss to Auburn was brutally ugly, but at the moment, they have to be No. 4. The two losses came to the No. 1 (Mississippi State) and No. 3 (Auburn) teams, and they beat the No. 11 team (Ole Miss), the No. 25 (Wisconsin), and the team (Florida) that just throttled the No. 20 team (Georgia). This will all change over the coming weeks, and I’m still sticking with my call of Alabama over Oregon for the national title, but for right now, to do this right, the SEC West pecking order has to be Mississippi State, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss, Alabama, Texas A&M – there are no other variables among these five teams considering all of the losses involved came among themselves. 

2. Remember, the Big Ten all but lost September
It was just a few short weeks ago when everyone was wonder what was wrong with the Big Ten after it suffered loss after loss after loss after loss in the first month of the season. Michigan State currently has one win – Nebraska – over a team that’s going to end up going to a bowl game. However, its lone loss came to No. 4 Oregon, so, in theory, it’s probably around right at No. 8, but it should probably be around No. 10. Nebraska has one decent win over Miami, who isn’t ranked in the top 25. Meanwhile, No. 14 Ohio State still owns the second-worst loss by anyone in the top 25 – No. 17 Utah’s loss to Washington State still tops the list – with the gaffe to Virginia Tech looking worse and worse. 

So what does it all mean? 

How many non-conference wins do Big Ten teams have this year over teams currently ranked in the top 25? Zero, going 0-7. The SEC, by comparison, is 4-1. Of the seven non-conference losses among the CFP Top 25, the SEC has four of the wins (Auburn over Kansas State, Alabama over West Virginia, LSU over Wisconsin, Georgia over Clemson), the ACC two (Florida State over Notre Dame, Virginia Tech over Ohio State), Pac-12 1 (Oregon over Michigan State).

Michigan State (8) and Nebraska (13) are probably too high, for now, and Ohio State is definitely too high at 14 considering it’s the only top 25 team with a non-conference loss to someone out of the top 25. There’s no reason to rank Wisconsin at 25– the Badgers’ loss to Northwestern is awful, and the best win is against Maryland. 

3. Georgia and Clemson probably shouldn’t be ranked
Georgia is 20 and Clemson 21, which makes sense because the Bulldogs beat the Tigers. However, Georgia’s loss to Florida kills them both. A case could be made for Clemson to be in the top 25 with its two losses coming to Florida State and Georgia, but Georgia lost to two unranked teams, doesn’t have a top 25 win over anyone but Clemson, and Clemson’s best win is over North Carolina or Louisville. The Bulldog loss to South Carolina, who lost to East Carolina, is a disaster. Even so, because of the head-to-head aspect over the Tigers, Georgia could slip in late. 

4. West Virginia lost – but it should probably move up
If you really believe that Alabama if the No. 5 team in America, and TCU is No. 6, and Oklahoma No. 15, then West Virginia probably deserves to be around 16 instead of 23. It’s a tough call considering the Big 12 isn’t clean in terms of Team A vs. Team B vs. Team C, but the win over Baylor is strong enough to overcome the loss to three top 15 teams. At the moment, it’s the highest-ranked three-loss team, and the only ranked three-loss team. 

5. Once again, the Texas A&M problem
I’m trying to be consistent with the Team A beat Team B, Team B beat Team F sort of logic, but Texas A&M blows that up. At some point, yes, the committee absolutely has to take into account some semblance of an eye test, and right now, the Aggies are a hot mess having lost three straight – including a 59-0 blasting from Alabama – before struggling way too much with a 21-16 ULM. However, A&M’s losses came to No. 1 Mississippi State, No. 5 Alabama, and No. 11 Ole Miss, and it still has on the resume a blowout win over South Carolina, who beat Georgia and East Carolina. So while it might be tough to stomach, and it’ll be an even more impossible sell next week if A&M loses to No. 3 Auburn – even if the theory still remains – the committee kinda, sorta, close eyes, grit teeth has to put this team ahead of Georgia and ahead of Clemson. I’m not going to go to the wall arguing this point, and I dropped the Aggies way down. 

6. Ole Miss isn’t dead quite yet
It was easy to call the Auburn-Ole Miss game a sort of playoff, with the loser suffering its second loss and effectively knocked out of the playoff chase – but not really. The Rebels didn’t fall off the map, going from No. 4 to No. 11, and with a whole bunch of teams above them certain to lose along the way. With Presbyterian and Arkansas up next, it’ll take a big upset for Ole Miss to not by 9-2 going into the Egg Bowl showdown with Mississippi State. If the Bulldogs can somehow beat Alabama, the Rebels might have the potential to claim wins over Alabama and a No. 1 Miss State team for a heck of a two-loss resume. Even more interesting might be if Alabama beats Mississippi State and ends up in the top two, and Ole Miss holds the honor of being the one team to tag Nick Saban with a loss. 

7. At the moment, if done absolutely as correctly as possible based on what has happened so far, the rankings on Nov. 4 should be … 

1. Mississippi State (CFP: No. 1)
2. Florida State (CFP: No. 2)
3. Auburn (CFP: No. 3)
4. LSU (CFP: No. 16)
5. Notre Dame (CFP: No. 10)
6. Kansas State (CFP: No. 7)
7. Ole Miss (CFP: No. 11)
8. Alabama (CFP: No. 5)
9. Oregon (CFP: No. 4)
10. Michigan State (CFP: No. 8)
11. Nebraska (CFP: No. 13)
12. Baylor (CFP: No. 12)
13. TCU (CFP: No. 6)
14. Oklahoma (CFP: No. 15)
15. West Virginia (CFP: No. 23)
16. UCLA (CFP: No. 18)
17. Arizona State (CFP: No. 9)
18. Arizona (CFP: No. 19) 
19. Duke (CFP: No. 22)
20. Georgia Tech (CFP: No. 22)
21. Ohio State (CFP: No. 14)
22. Utah (CFP: No. 17)
23. USC (CFP: Not Ranked)
24. Texas A&M (CFP: Not Ranked) 
25. Georgia (CFP: 20)