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Takeaways From the First College Football Playoff Rankings

The first College Football Playoff Rankings were unveiled on Wednesday night. At the top of the list, there are no real surprises, but as you go further down, you can see the committee has put some emphasis on different things this year. With all the turmoil and uncertainty surrounding many of the top teams in college football, it makes sense that the committee is emphasizing games played as one of their key factors. While we take it all in, here is the first College Football Playoff rankings (ESPN):

KTEAMRECTREND
1Alabama7-0NR
2Notre Dame8-0NR
3Clemson7-1NR
4Ohio State4-0NR
5Texas A&M5-1NR
6Florida6-1NR
7Cincinnati8-0NR
8Northwestern5-0NR
9Georgia5-2NR
10Miami7-1NR
11Oklahoma6-2NR
12Indiana4-1NR
13Iowa State6-2NR
14BYU9-0NR
15Oregon3-0NR
16Wisconsin2-1NR
17Texas5-2NR
18USC3-0NR
19North Carolina6-2NR
20Coastal Carolina8-0NR
21Marshall7-0NR
22Auburn5-2NR
23Oklahoma State5-2NR
24Iowa3-2NR
25Tulsa5-1NR

The top four teams being Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, and Ohio State is no surprise. They’ve clearly been the dominant teams this year. It also seems like the Committee saw the Indiana vs Ohio State game, and dropped them one spot because it was not an easy win. Now let’s get into some real takeaways from the first rankings.

It’s Very Possible These Top Four Teams Make the Playoff, Just Not in that Order

  • If the season ended today, and this was the final playoff rankings, we would see (1) Alabama play (4) Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl and in the other semi-final we would see (2) Notre Dame vs (3) Clemson in the Rose Bowl. That means that Notre Dame and Clemson will play three times this year, and two times in a row. Notre Dame beat Clemson in the original match-up in South Bend, and they will likely meet again in Charlotte on December 19th for the ACC Championship. It is very likely that Ohio State will move up to the two or three spot by the end of the year, considering the committee and the rest of the college football world don’t want to see Clemson and Notre Dame play for a third time. Along with that, only one of those teams can win the ACC Championship, so an undefeated B1G Champion like Ohio State, would rank higher than a one-loss ACC runner-up.

The Committee Clearly Had Their Eyes on Columbus on Saturday

  • Ohio State was lucky to leave the Horseshoe undefeated this past weekend. An upstart Indiana team gave the Buckeyes all they could handle, in their 42-35 loss. Justin Fields, the supposed Heisman Candidate for the Buckeyes, had his worst game of his career, throwing three interceptions. The Buckeyes defense didn’t look much better as it allowed Indiana signal-caller Michael Penix Jr. to throw for 491 yards and five touchdowns. This Buckeyes team clearly has holes to fill or mend before the B1G Championship and their possible playoff berth. However, Ohio State was still the third best team in the country if you look at the AP and Coaches’ polls. So they clearly showed the rest of the country that in this crazy year, everyone is vulnerable. If the season plays out like it should, Alabama would win the SEC and get the (1) seed, while the winner of Clemson and Notre Dame in the ACC Championship would get the (2) seed, and finally if Ohio State wins out and wins the B1G Championship, they should bump up to the (3) seed.

Outside of the Top Four, Texas A&M Looks to Have the Best Shot at Sneaking into the Playoff

  • Unless Alabama or Ohio State trips up and doesn’t win their respective conferences undefeated, the playoff would go into a frenzy. However, it seems highly likely that Ohio State and Alabama will grab two spots in the playoff. The third team to basically grab an automatic bid would be the winner of the ACC Championship between Notre Dame and Clemson. If Clemson were to win that match-up, it would become likely that both would make it, however if Notre Dame sweeps Clemson, the fourth spot would be up for grabs. The first two out of the playoffs are Texas A&M and Florida. Florida has virtually no chance to make it as they would have to beat Alabama in the SEC Championship. However, the Aggies could be a popular pick. If they finish this season with only one loss (Alabama), the fourth spot could be theirs, simply by not playing. Florida is in the SEC East, while Alabama will represent the West in the SEC Championship. If Florida were to lose that game, they would have two losses and be pretty far out of the picture. Texas A&M on the other hand is also from the SEC West, so they won’t have to play in the conference championship. They could end up being the best one-loss team, and make the playoffs simply by not having to play in the SEC Championship.

Northwestern Is Very Much In the Hunt for a Playoff Spot

  • Northwestern somehow beat Wisconsin at home on Saturday 17-7. The Wildcats were out-gained but not out-played. Wisconsin gained over 100 yards more than Northwestern, and held them to 24 rushing yards. However, the Wildcats forced the Badgers into five turnovers, which sealed the deal for Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern. While it is still unlikely Northwestern could beat Ohio State in Indianapolis for the B1G Championship, it’s still a possibility. Ohio State has struggled on defense, and with consistency, so if the Wildcats catch them on the right night, Ohio State could be vulnerable. Northwestern checks in at number eight in the playoff rankings. Behind the top four, Florida, Texas A&M, and Cincinnati. If they were to win the B1G Championship they would surely jump to at least the fifth spot, but more likely, they would vault themselves into the Playoffs as the third or fourth seed.

Outside of Cincinnati, The Committee Clearly Doesn’t Respect non-Power 5 Teams

  • It has been an incredible year for Luke Fickell and the Cincinnati Bearcats. They come in at 8-0 and would be the third team out if the playoffs started today. One would expect them to jump up to the second team out after Florida, who would hypothetically lose to Alabama in the SEC Championship. The dream playoff berth for the Bearcats is still within arm’s reach, not likely, but still possible. As for the other teams outside of the Power 5, they can kiss their playoff dreams goodbye. The second-best non-power 5 team is BYU and, boy were they dealt a surprise on Wednesday night (More on that later). Coastal Carolina joins the rankings at number 20, Marshall grabbed up the 21st spot, and Tulsa was lucky number 25 in the rankings. It is nearly impossible for any of those teams to make they playoffs, with just a few games left on the college football slate. Those who are looking for a Cinderella story can ride on Cincinnati’s coat-tails for now, but the chance for any non-power 5 team to make the playoffs is slim to none.

BYU, and Zach Wilson Were Dealt a Swift and Powerful Knockout Punch on Tuesday night

  • BYU has had a magical season in Provo, Utah. They are 8-0, and dominating teams they should be dominating. They also have a Heisman hopeful in quarterback Zach Wilson. So they have all the boxes checked for a playoff push: an undefeated season, an incredible story-line, and a fantastic Heisman-worthy quarterback. So on Tuesday night, when the rankings were first posted, BYU was shocked to see themselves ranked all the way down in the 14th spot. While 14 is a little lower than many expected, it is still surprising. One of the main reasons for this is BYU’s horrible schedule. Their schedule consisted of Navy, Louisiana Tech, Troy, UTSA, Houston, Texas State, Western Kentucky, Boise State, North Alabama, and San Diego State on December 22nd. None of those teams are ranked, and most of them have records below .500. Another reason for the steep drop is that BYU is an independent school, not affiliated with any conference. Therefore, they have no conference championship to play in. Well, BYU, it was fun while it lasted, but it was time to give the Cougars a reality check. (Shoutout to my Co-Host Jake. Kiss BYU’s playoff dream goodbye my friend!)

The SEC and B1G Each have Five Teams Ranked in the Top 25, Followed by the ACC and Big-12 with Four Each

  • It is no surprise that the B1G and SEC have the most teams ranked inside the top 25. They were the two strongest conferences going into this year. Representing the SEC is Alabama, Florida, Texas A&M, Georgia, and Auburn. Representing the B1G is Ohio State, Northwestern, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Iowa. The SEC, however, is more top heavy than the B1G, with four of their five teams being ranked in the top-10. The ACC is also rather top heavy, with three teams inside the top-10 (Miami (FL), Notre Dame, and Clemson). Finally to wrap it up, the Big-12 is represented by Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Iowa State.

These rankings are bound to change weekly, as each team will impress some weeks, and disappoint in others. There are really three certainties that come from these rankings: The SEC, ACC, and B1G winners will have a spot in the playoffs. Whether it be Northwestern in the B1G, Florida or Alabama from the SEC (likely both if Florida were to beat Alabama in the SEC Championship), or Notre Dame or Clemson from the ACC. With only a couple weeks left in the season, it’s time to see teams showing their true colors.

*Make sure to tune into The Fourth & Long Podcast on Friday at Noon ET where Jake and I will go over these rankings, and draw some conclusions. We will also preview the Iron Bowl, an awesome slate of Friday games, and get into some of our segments.

Some New College Football News From Today:

  • Wisconsin vs Minnesota has been cancelled ending their 113 year streak of playing.
  • Arizona State and Utah has been cancelled as well. This will be the third straight game Arizona State has cancelled because of the virus.
  • Auburn is still unsure if freshman phenom running back Tank Bigsby will play in the Iron Bowl on Saturday.
  • USC cancelled practice because of a positive test result.
  • Purdue’s sophomore defensive end standout, George Karlaftis tested positive for the virus on Tuesday evening.

Follow Me on Twitter: @BrownlojCLE

Follow Jake on Twitter: @PiccuitoJacob

Follow 4th & Long on Twitter: @4thandlongpod

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