When the calendar hits November, it means it’s time to put away Halloween costumes and bring out the crystal balls. The first College Football Playoff rankings are here — and it’s time to make some fun predictions.
UPDATE: Click or tap here for the official College Football Playoff rankings
The first of six CFP top 25 reveals happens at 7 p.m. ET tonight on ESPN (here’s the full schedule; the second rankings are Nov. 8). Ahead of the announcement, here’s a prediction of how the committee could rank its top 25 teams. Note that these are my predictions and mine alone. I take a look at head-to-head results, schedule strength, games against ranked teams and more to help rank the teams how I think the CFP committee will do so. You can read the CFP committee’s official protocols here.
College Football Playoff rankings predictions: Top 25 projections
Georgia (8-0) — Here’s thinking the blowout nonconference win against Oregon counts for a lot, along with the overall dominance (mainly Mizzou aside).
Tennessee (8-0) — That 38-point drubbing of Kentucky could even lift the Vols to the top spot. Wins against the Wildcats, surging LSU on the road and, yes, Alabama, is a strong case for No. 1.
Ohio State (8-0) — The Buckeyes were tested for a long time, but OSU still came through with a 13-point road win against a ranked team in Penn State. An improving Notre Dame is also helping Ohio State’s case for the top spot.
Michigan (8-0) — The No. 4 spot in the initial rankings is maybe the most interesting, considering it’s a peek into what the committee values for that crucial final playoff spot. The Wolverines have just looked good, period, and that rout of Penn State stands out.
Clemson (8-0) — The Tigers might have slid into the fourth spot — they still could — but their wins over Wake Forest and Syracuse don’t look as great after those teams’ Week 9 losses.
TCU (8-0) — The Horned Frogs may be the last undefeated team in the poll, but TCU has come a long way since August. Just keep winning and wait for the other unbeaten teams to slip.
Alabama (7-1) — It would be a shock if the Tide weren’t the highest-ranked one-loss team, considering that defeat came on the road to Tennessee on the last play of the game. Next comes a key two-game stretch against LSU and Ole Miss.
Oregon (7-1) — The opening loss to UGA was ugly, but the Ducks have looked great since. Much of the remaining schedule isn’t easy, however, beginning Nov. 12 against Washington.
UCLA (7-1) — The Bruins didn’t have a hangover after losing to Oregon, taking care of business against Stanford, 38-13. Unless things get weird, UCLA should be 9-1 when it faces rival USC.
Ole Miss (8-1) — The Rebels regrouped after the 25-point loss to LSU by topping Texas A&M. Ole Miss doesn’t have really huge wins yet, but the Rebels get a visit from Alabama on Nov. 12.
USC (7-1) — 411 passing yards from Caleb Williams helped the Trojans outscore Arizona 45-37. USC is still looking for a signature win, which could keep it outside the top 10 at first.
Kansas State (6-2) — The Wildcats could be the top two-loss team, though there are other candidates for that distinction, such as LSU and Utah. But the fresh memory of a 48-0 rout of Oklahoma State was a can’t-miss result.
Illinois (7-1) — Only a three-point loss to Indiana in the second game of the season has the Illini off the undefeated list. That defense and running back Chase Brown are a great recipe for success.
LSU (6-2) — The Tigers have an interesting case. There are the two losses, but LSU has looked good — and have been fun to watch — lately. We’ll know more when the Tigers play Alabama on Saturday.
Utah (6-2) — With the two defeats but a clutch win against USC, the Utes should end up right around here.
Penn State (6-2) — The blowout loss to Michigan wasn’t pretty, but the committee won’t punish the Nittany Lions too much for the Ohio State loss. No ranked wins, however.
North Carolina (7-1) — The Tar Heels scored the last 28 points to outpace Pitt and get to their seventh win. This is another team that could be ranked in a few slots.
Oklahoma State (6-2) — The Cowboys coughed up a chance to start in the CFP top 10 because of the ugly 48-0 blowout to K-State.
Syracuse (6-2) — Consecutive losses and injuries have hurt the Orange, but Syracuse has three wins against teams with winning records.
Tulane (7-1) — The Green Wave have to love seeing K-State crush Oklahoma State. That 17-10 win on the road in Manhattan, Kansas, is a major plus.
Wake Forest (6-2) — Expect to find a collection of ACC teams in the second half of the rankings. The Deacons need to respond after falling to Louisville by 27.
NC State (6-2) — The Wolfpack might not be here very long without QB Devin Leary, but they’ll get a spot in the initial top 25.
Kentucky (5-3) — Three losses in four games aren’t good, but the schedule gets a little easier for a couple weeks. Then Georgia visits.
Oregon State (6-2) — The Beavers have quietly put together a solid resume. They’ve won three in a row, plus the opening win against Boise State gets only better.
Texas (5-3) — There are so many other ways the committee could go here. Notre Dame, Liberty, Washington and Florida State, just to name a few.
CFP🏆: College Football Playoff rankings release schedule
Notable College Football Playoff rankings questions
Could there be a surprise at No. 1?
Georgia is the defending national champion, crushed one-loss Oregon by 46 and just beat rival Florida by 22. That doesn’t mean UGA is a lock for No. 1. Ohio State was finally challenged on Saturday, but the Buckeyes still won at Penn State by 13 to go along with an early win against rising Notre Dame. But it’s Tennessee that could be the huge “shock” — either at No. 1 or No. 2. The Vols have wins against LSU (by 27), Alabama and Kentucky (by 38).
How will the order look for the undefeated teams?
There are six remaining undefeated teams. In alphabetical order: Clemson, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State, TCU and Tennessee. Depending on what you value most, you could come up with a variety of different rank orders for these six. But things often work out on their own — Georgia vs. Tennessee this week will have a lot to say, as will Michigan vs. Ohio State in a few weeks.
Wayne Staats is a senior interactive producer for NCAA.com. His work has also appeared in the Augusta Chronicle, augusta.com and Land of 10. He is a graduate of Penn State University.
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