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How to Make Sense of the First CFP Rankings

November 2, 2022
Tennessee QB

There are some pretty irate college football fans in the Dallas-Fort Worth region today. The first edition of the College Football Playoff rankings were released last night and the unbeaten 8-0 TCU Horned Frogs were not in the Top 4. They weren’t even in the Top 6.

In a system of uncertainty, there are actually a few things one can bank on. There will always be a team or two that will feel like it was left out. It happens every year in CFP and in college basketball’s Final Four. The other certainty is this. No one will care about these initial rankings come Dec. 4. Let’s take a look at who’s happy and who’s not as of Nov. 1.


Rocky On Top

At No. 1, the CFP committee got it right. Tennessee deserves to be ranked first because it has the strongest resume and the best victory (against Alabama). The Vols beat a No. 17 Pitt, No. 20 Florida, and No. 25 LSU. Then, last week Tennessee thrashed No. 19 Kentucky 44-6.

When the Vols play at third-ranked Georgia this week, the Vols season could come crashing down. However, even with a loss, Tennessee still has a chance to make the CFP. More on that later.


The Top Four

Ohio State, an 8-0 team, is ranked No. 2. The Buckeyes opened the season with a win over then-No. 5 Notre Dame. Since, the Buckeyes have crushed every team on their schedule, including No. 13 Penn State last week. 

Georgia, as mentioned, is No. 3. There is minimal space for error for the Bulldogs. Yes, they have a win over No. 8 Oregon, but other than the Ducks, Georgia’s opponents have an overall record of 22-26. There is a slim chance Georgia will defend its national championship if the Bulldogs lose on Saturday and miss out on the SEC championship game.

Clemson (8-0) is ranked No. 4. The Tigers have defeated ranked opponents three times: Wake Forest, NC State, and Syracuse. The remaining schedule doesn’t feature a ranked opponent, but South Carolina and Notre Dame present some difficult challenges.


Michigan Left Out

The Wolverines, who are unbeaten at 8-0, were left out of the Top 4. The nonconference schedule for Michigan is a significant factor. Beating Colorado State, Hawaii, and UConn won’t get anyone into the Top 4.

Michigan’s best win was over Penn State, currently ranked No. 15. Later this month, the Wolverines will face No. 16 Illinois. The big test will be at Ohio State to finish the season. Then, the Wolverines would have to win the Big Ten championship.


Angry Texans

An 8-0 unbeaten TCU would have been expected to follow Michigan at No. 6. Some even thought the Horned Frogs would be worthy of a spot in the Top 4. That, of course, did not happen and TCU winds up ranked No. 7 behind sixth-ranked Alabama. 

It would be an understatement to say TCU fans are angry. The Frogs can argue they have a better resume than Alabama. TCU has dominated its opponents. They won four games in a row over AP Top 25 teams. TCU has eight possessions in the second half where they were trailing. For comparison, No. 4 Clemson has had seven possessions in the second half while trailing.

There are those that will say that TCU has three wins by just seven points or less. What’s interesting is Alabama has two wins by seven points or less and the Crimson Tide has a loss. Both teams still have plenty of football left to play leaving the argument to be settled on the field.


The Pac-12

The Pac-12 is still college football’s Rodney Dangerfield. The conference isn’t getting much respect. The highest-ranked team in the conference is No. 8 Oregon (7-1). USC is at No. 9 with a 7-1 record. UCLA (7-1) is No. 12 and Utah (6-2) is No. 14.

It’s highly likely that Oregon and USC will play for the Pac-12 title. The winner would require a lot of help to make the CFP. Both an undefeated TCU and a Tennessee team with one loss but no SEC title would be a challenge. The Pac-12 would benefit from a loss by either Clemson or Alabama, but for the time being, the Left Coast is probably out of the running.


The No. 3 Jinx

Georgia CFB Rankings November 2022The No. 3 position has been a curse since the CFP’s inception. In the history of the CFP, only one club that finished third in the original rankings has ever advanced to the semifinals. That was Clemson in 2020. Can Georgia break the curse?

A victory over Tennessee this week would be huge. Tennessee wouldn’t necessarily be eliminated if they lose to Georgia. The Bulldogs still have games against Kentucky and Mississippi State, both of which were ranked at some point this season. Tennessee could still win the East and the SEC even with a loss this weekend.

In the event that Tennessee prevails, it might play Alabama again in the SEC championship. The Vols could lose the SEC championship game, but with one loss, they might still qualify for the CFP. There is still a ton of football to be played, and as mentioned, a month from now nobody will be care about these Nov. 1 rankings.