Reactions to the First 2019 College Football Playoff Rankings: Ohio State, LSU, Alabama, Penn State in Top Four

The College Football Playoff selection committee announced its first set of rankings for the 2019 season and it included several surprises – at least to many college football fans who rely on the AP Top 25 poll to predict the College Football Playoff rankings.

The SEC and Big Ten each had two teams in the top four.

Here are the College Football Playoff selection committee’s rankings for Week 11:

  1. Ohio State
  2. LSU
  3. Alabama
  4. Penn State
  5. Clemson
  6. Georgia
  7. Oregon
  8. Utah
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Florida
  11. Auburn
  12. Baylor
  13. Wisconsin
  14. Michigan
  15. Notre Dame
  16. Kansas State
  17. Minnesota
  18. Iowa
  19. Wake Forest
  20. Cincinnati
  21. Memphis
  22. Boise State
  23. Oklahoma State
  24. Navy
  25. SMU


Here are our reactions to the committee’s first College Football Playoff rankings of the season.

Not all undefeated teams are created equal

Arguably the biggest surprise of any individual ranking on Tuesday night was defending national champion Clemson being ranked No. 5. Of course, its status as last season’s champions in no way affects its resume or standing this season but the Tigers are the only 9-0 team in the country and they’ve been dominant in almost all of their wins.

But they don’t have a single win over a team ranked in the selection committee’s top 25.

Neither does Alabama, however, which means that the selection committee used some other criteria to rank the country’s top undefeated teams.

No. 1 Ohio State owns wins over No. 13 Wisconsin and No. 20 Cincinnati.

No. 2 LSU has victories against No. 10 Florida and No. 11 Auburn.

No. 4 Penn State has beaten No. 14 Michigan and No. 18 Iowa.

Meanwhile, fellow undefeated Power Five teams Baylor (No. 12) and Minnesota (No. 17) are much lower in the CFP rankings, which means that strength of schedule certainly plays a role in the committee’s eyes.

Committee chairman Rob Mullens, the athletic director at Oregon, cited Ohio State’s strength of schedule when he appeared on ESPN after the rankings were unveiled. The Buckeyes’ strength of schedule will continue to rank highly with upcoming games against Penn State and Michigan.


Conferences with multiple top-four teams

We’ve sent a conference have multiple top-four teams in the selection committee’s first rankings in a season before – 2014 (three SEC teams), 2015 (two SEC teams), 2016 (two SEC teams), 2017 (two SEC teams) and 2018 (two SEC teams) – but for the first time ever, two conferences each had two top-four teams on Tuesday. The Big Ten had No. 1 Ohio State and No. 4 Penn State, which will face off in Columbus in Week 13, and the SEC had No. 2 LSU and No. 3 Alabama, which meet this weekend in Tuscaloosa.

There’s a good chance those games are elimination games but Ohio State and Alabama are both living proof of programs that have made the playoff with an 11-1 record after finishing second in their respective divisions. It makes you wonder how far Ohio State or LSU would drop if they hypothetically lost a close game to an undefeated Penn State or Alabama, respectively.


Highest ranking in school history

Seven schools earned their highest CFP ranking in school history on Tuesday night, including three in the top 10:

  • No. 1 Ohio State
  • No. 4 Penn State
  • No. 8 Utah
  • No. 17 Minnesota
  • No. 19 Wake Forest
  • No. 20 Cincinnati
  • No. 25 SMU


Meanwhile, LSU tied its highest CFP ranking in school history at No. 2.


Can LSU finish the job?

In the first five years of the playoff era, the Tigers are the only program that debuted in the committee’s top four and miss the playoff in multiple years. LSU debuted at No. 2 in the committee’s rankings this season, which means if the Tigers fail to make this year’s playoff, they would’ve started in the top four three times in the first six years of the playoff era, only to ultimately miss the cut each time.


Welcome to the club

Entering Tuesday, there were 11 Power Five programs that had never been ranked in the CFP rankings.

Wake Forest removed its name from that list with its No. 19 ranking following a 7-1 start.

That means every ACC school has been ranked in the CFP rankings through the first week of the sixth year of the playoff era – the only Power Five conference that can make that claim.

SMU also cracked the CFP rankings for the first time in school history following its 8-1 start.


An intriguing Group of Five race

The highest-ranked Group of Five school at the end of the season will earn a New Year’s Six bowl bid and there were five Group of Five schools ranked in the first CFP rankings of the year: No. 20 Cincinnati, No. 21 Memphis, No. 22 Boise State, No. 24 Navy and No. 25 SMU. With four of those schools competing in the American Athletic Conference, the AAC is the most likely conference to produce the highest-ranked Group of Five team but those schools will also cannibalize each other to some degree.


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