Predicting the College Football Playoff Rankings for Week 11

The first College Football Playoff rankings of the 2019 season will be revealed Tuesday night. Here’s a refresher on past trends of the playoff rankings and a reminder of some of the selection committee’s protocols, and here’s a list of the schools that have appeared the most in the CFP rankings since 2014.

Using the latest AP Top 25 poll and past editions of the committee’s first rankings in a season, we can try to guess how the selection committee will select and rank the Top 25 teams this week.

Here’s what we predict the first College Football Playoff rankings will look like.

 

25. Indiana (7-2)

Since 2014, 17 of the 25 teams that have been ranked between No. 21 and No. 25 in the committee’s first CFP rankings of the season were Power Five teams and 15 of them were two-loss Power Five teams, so Indiana fits the profile of schools that have been ranked in the low-to-mid-20s at this point in the season, even if the Hoosiers don’t have any Top 25 wins.

In fact, they’d be the only Power Five team with two or fewer losses to not be ranked if the committee didn’t rank the Hoosiers but ranked the teams listed below. Plus, the committee has proven almost annually that there are one, two or three teams it’s higher on than the AP poll voters at this point of the season. Indiana was third among Others Receiving Votes in the AP poll this week.

 

24. Texas A&M (5-3)

There have only been four three-loss teams that have appeared in the selection committee’s first rankings in the last five seasons, but three of them appeared in Week 10 last season, including a 5-3 Texas A&M.

So there is a precedent for this ranking.

Sure, the Aggies may not have any wins that will blow away the committee but their three losses are to Clemson, Auburn and Alabama — likely two of the committee’s top four teams and three of their top 12 — so Texas A&M is going to have a really impressive strength of schedule. At this point last year, Texas A&M was ranked No. 25 in the AP poll but No. 20 in the committee’s rankings, so don’t be surprised if the committee is a little higher on the Aggies than the AP poll voters are (Texas A&M was fourth among Others Receiving Votes this week).

 

23. SMU (8-1)

The Mustangs’ road loss to Memphis on Saturday hurts their case for the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bid, but if they win out, which includes a road game against Navy, and Memphis loses agin, SMU could play for the AAC Championship, likely against a ranked Cincinnati team.

 

22. Wake Forest (7-1)

As of Monday, Wake Forest is one of 11 Power Five programs that have never been ranked in the College Football Playoff rankings, and the Demon Deacons should remove their name from that list on Tuesday.

Theoretically, they could enter the playoff conversation but that would require them beating Clemson.

 

21. Boise State (7-1)

Because of Boise State’s road loss at BYU, the Broncos are behind the eight-ball in terms of their chances of getting the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bid. While the Mountain West had an impressive non-conference run, the American has proven to be a stronger conference, at least at the top, so Boise State will have to compete with Cincinnati, Memphis and SMU for the highest ranking among G5 teams.

 

20. Kansas State (6-2)

Kansas State has already clinched bowl eligibility in the first year of the Chris Klieman era, and the Wildcats have a good chance at finishing the season in the Top 25 if they can navigate a remaining schedule of at Texas, West Virginia, at Texas Tech and Iowa State to the tune of 8-4 or better.

They have only been ranked in the CFP rankings seven times, so to be ranked in the first set of CFP rankings under Klieman would be significant, and Big 12 playoff hopefuls Oklahoma and Baylor certainly hope that Kansas State remains ranked.

 

19. Memphis (8-1)

Memphis is a two-point, road loss at Temple from being undefeated and the debut of the 2019 College Football Playoff rankings couldn’t come at a better time because the Tigers just added their best win of the season (over previously unbeaten SMU), and Navy, which Memphis previously beat, just cracked the AP Top 25 poll on Sunday. Memphis will be in the running for the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bid.

 

18. Iowa (6-2)

There’s a chance Iowa could play a greater role in the College Football Playoff rankings and discussion, but that requires the Hawkeyes to win out, winning the Big Ten West and playing Ohio State or Penn State in the conference championship. Their best win is a road win at Iowa State, but there’s not much else of significant value on Iowa’s resume, so there could be some level of variance in where the Hawkeyes are ranked on Tuesday or how long they stay ranked if they lose another game or two.

 

17. Cincinnati (7-1)

Cincinnati could be the highest-ranked Group of Five team in the first College Football Playoff rankings of the season, which is important because whichever G5 team finishes the season with the highest ranking will earn a New Year’s Six bid. The Bearcats’ only loss this season was on the road at Ohio State — and there’s no shame in that.

 

16. Wisconsin (6-2)

It’s sort of amazing how fast Wisconsin went from a potential dark-horse playoff contender to just another Big Ten West team ranked in the teens. The Badgers’ victory over Michigan is a quality win that will keep them in the Top 25 for the time being, and they can still play for the Big Ten Championship if they win out.

 

15. Notre Dame (6-2)

The selection committee can exhale with a sigh of relief knowing that Notre Dame has lost twice already this season. The Fighting Irish are the ultimate wild card in the College Football Playoff picture and as long as they’re undefeated or only have one loss, they’ll be in the playoff discussion.

Notre Dame nearly lost at home to Virginia Tech in Week 10, which would’ve dropped the Irish to the back-end of the Top 25, if not completely out of the rankings, but for now, they remain a quality win for playoff-hopeful Georgia.

 

14. Michigan (7-2)

Michigan fans will hate to hear this but the Wolverines’ ranking on Tuesday night matters the most to Ohio State. With two losses, Michigan is out of playoff contention, but if it can stay in the top 15 until its regular season finale, the Wolverines represent a potential resume-boosting win for the Buckeyes.

With a head-to-head loss to Penn State and a two-game deficit to Ohio State and Penn State in the Big Ten East standings, Michigan’s ceiling is capped as a best-case 10-2 team that wouldn’t play for the conference championship.

 

13. Minnesota (8-0)

The initial 2015 College Football Playoff rankings featured four undefeated teams – Baylor, Michigan State, TCU and Iowa – ranked behind two one-loss teams – Alabama and Notre Dame – from No. 4 through No. 9, respectively, and on Tuesday, we could see a pair of undefeated teams (Minnesota and Baylor) ranked behind a couple of two-loss teams (Auburn and Florida).

So don’t freak out if you’re an outraged Gophers or Bears fan. History says Auburn and Florida are out of playoff contention, even if the committee views them as better teams through Week 10. Minnesota controls its own destiny, starting with a big Week 11 game against undefeated Penn State. The Gophers play two more ranked teams in November in Iowa and Wisconsin.

That’s a difficult final month of the season, but if Minnesota can navigate it without a loss, it will climb the rankings and get closer to the top four. We can acknowledge that Minnesota’s 8-0 start is great while also admitting the Gophers have probably played five of the six worst teams in the Big Ten, numerous backup quarterbacks and that they had to escape South Dakota State, Fresno State and Georgia Southern before they even got to Big Ten play.

 

12. Baylor (8-0)

Baylor is in a similar category as Minnesota, so many of the same points apply. To see the improvement the program has made under Matt Rhule — from 1-11 to 7-6 to the point where the Bears have already matched their win total from the previous two seasons combined — is really impressive.

A road win at Kansas State looks better in hindsight, but the truth of the matter is that Oklahoma is the only other program that can be a potential top-end win for Baylor. The Big 12 has a large middle tier of teams that probably rank somewhere between No. 20 and No. 35 nationally, but Baylor probably needs multiple conference foes to finish the year in the Top 25.

 

11. Auburn (7-2)

If Texas A&M is ranked in the committee’s Top 25 on Tuesday, Auburn will own two wins over Top 25 teams, most notably Oregon, but the Tigers’ two losses – even though they were both on the road against top-10 teams – takes Auburn out of playoff contention this year.

With remaining home games against Georgia and Alabama, Auburn’s best-case scenario would be that they play the role of spoiler for two playoff hopefuls, finish 10-2 and just miss the playoff.

 

10. Florida (7-2)

Florida has two of the “best” losses in the country – at an LSU team that’s No. 1 in the AP poll and at a neutral site to a playoff-contending Georgia team by seven points – plus a good win over an Auburn team that should be ranked just behind the Gators. A two-loss team has never made the playoff, and Florida no longer controls its own destiny in the SEC East, so the best the Gators can hope for is a 10-2 season and finishing at No. 6 or No. 7.

 

9. Utah (8-1)

The Utes have righted the ship after a road loss to USC in September, meaning the media preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 still has a shot at the playoff. If Utah wins out and finishes the season 12-1, its loss to USC would rank somewhere in the middle of past playoff teams’ losses, so while the Utes would need to be concerned with how many other one-loss teams are out there, its trip to L.A. wouldn’t immediately take them out of playoff consideration.

What potentially could down the line, however, is how many wins over ranked opponents Utah finishes the season with because right now, that number is probably zero through Week 10. Utah needs Oregon to win out so that a hypothetical Pac-12 Championship game is something like No. 5 vs. No. 6.

Regardless of what happens in the next five weeks, Utah should earn its highest CFP ranking ever on Tuesday night and that deserves to be commended.

 

8. Oklahoma (7-1)

The Sooners’ loss at Kansas State dropped them in the AP Top 25, and there’s a good chance it leads to them being ranked closer to No. 10 than No. 4 in the committee’s first rankings on Tuesday. But a loss to Kansas State, which should be a Top 25 team itself, would be far from the worst loss among past playoff teams.

Oklahoma’s best win is probably its victory over Texas, so the Sooners need the Longhorns to climb back into the rankings (or even better, debut in the Top 25 on Tuesday) and for Baylor to not lose to anyone besides the Sooners. Heck, maybe even UCLA can keep rolling and turn into a Top 25 team by season’s end.

Oklahoma made the playoff in 2015 after debuting at No. 15 in the committee’s rankings, so starting at No. 9 and making the playoff wouldn’t be an unprecedented leap.

 

7. Oregon (8-1)

As we’ve written in the past, Oregon’s loss to Auburn on a neutral-field is potentially one of the strongest losses in the playoff era if the Ducks go on to finish 12-1 and make the playoff. What potentially hurts Oregon is that California, Washington, Washington State and USC have all fallen out of the AP poll (meaning they’re unlikely to appear in the CFP rankings this week), which means the Ducks are still searching for a signature win, let alone two or three of them.

Oregon and Utah need each other to finish the regular season 11-1 so that the winner of the Pac-12 Championship is guaranteed to finish 12-1 with a win over a top-10 opponent in the conference championship game.

 

6. Georgia (7-1)

The Bulldogs should have wins over two top-15ish teams (depending on where Notre Dame is ranked) in the committee’s eyes. The win over Florida on Saturday was huge, both in giving Georgia a high-quality win just in time for the first CFP rankings of the year and because it puts the Gators in the driver’s seat in the SEC East.

The loss to South Carolina certainly hurts – a) because it’s a loss, period, leaving no room for error and b) South Carolina is probably going to finish 5-7 – but past playoff teams have finished in the committee’s top four after losing to worse teams.

 

5. Penn State (8-0)

Most of the Nittany Lions’ best wins haven’t been by significant margins – seven points over Michigan, five points over Iowa, seven points over Pitt – but they’re undefeated and they should have two wins over teams also ranked in the committee’s Top 25 (Michigan, Iowa).

Penn State should be a lock to appear in the committee’s top six – remember, the way the rankings are unveiled is a countdown from No. 25 to No. 1, and the top six teams are shown on the final screen together.

A No. 5 ranking would tie Penn State’s highest CFP ranking ever and the Nittany Lions still have room to climb with upcoming games against Minnesota and Ohio State.

 

4. Clemson (9-0)

The Tigers are undefeated through nine games and if Texas A&M doesn’t crack the committee’s Top 25, they won’t have a win over any other ranked teams. Clemson’s narrow win over North Carolina is the only one of the Tigers’ nine wins that was close, so while we likely won’t know if the committee’s opinion on them is swayed by that one game, you’d love to be a fly on the wall in the committee room to hear if that one game affects Clemson’s ranking compared to its overall, dominant body of work.

Clemson controls its own destiny for making the playoff – a 13-0 Power Five conference champion won’t be left out of the playoff – but given the lack of ranked teams in the ACC and the fact that there are six other currently undefeated Power Five teams, the Tigers could potentially be ranked No. 3 or No. 4 in the final rankings even if they run the table.

 

3. Alabama (8-0)

The Crimson Tide might be the best test for how much the selection committee truly wipes the slate clean every year and doesn’t consider – consciously or subconsciously – past seasons’ performances. Alabama’s been great but its best win is likely over a Texas A&M team that may not crack the committee’s Top 25.

The Crimson Tide don’t have much to show for its non-conference schedule, so when you compare resumes, there should be at least one other undefeated team (if not two or three) that has a stronger record. Don’t worry, Alabama fans. Your team can still potentially add three more high-profile wins over LSU, Auburn and Georgia in the SEC Championship.

 

2. Ohio State (8-0)

The Buckeyes will almost certainly have two wins over teams in the committee’s first rankings – Wisconsin and Cincinnati, both of which will likely be ranked between No. 15 and No. 20 – and they could potentially add a third, depending on how Indiana’s season finishes. Ohio State is averaging 48.2 points per game (third nationally) and its 7.9 points allowed per game is the best in the country.

The Buckeyes have blown out everyone they’ve played, and they’ve been elite on both sides of the ball.

 

1. LSU (8-0)

If Texas manages to crack the selection committee’s Top 25 – there’s no guarantee it does; Texas was second among Others Receiving Votes in the latest AP poll – then LSU will have three wins over Top 25 teams, thanks to victories over Florida and Auburn. The Gators and Auburn Tigers both have two losses, which limits their ceiling in the rankings, but they’re both borderline top-10 teams and few programs can match LSU’s record, quality wins, true road wins (three) and high-powered offense.

As mentioned in this week’s No Huddle column, LSU is the only school in the country that has debuted in the committee’s top four in a season before ultimately missing the playoff multiple times during the last five years.

A No. 1 CFP ranking would be unprecedented for the Tigers, but can they finish the job this year and make the playoff?

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