The first College Football Playoff ranking has winners, losers, question marks, and one clear path to chaos

ESPNIf the season ended today, Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, and LSU would be in the playoff.
  • The first College Football Playoff ranking is out.
  • There was not much of a surprise in the top four, but the rest of the top 12 created some winners, losers, and a couple of big questions.
  • We could see as many as three of the Power 5 conference champions miss out on the playoff if Alabama loses.

The first College Football Playoff ranking is out, and while most people are focused on LSU grabbing the third spot over Notre Dame, the real winners and losers were lower in the ranking.

Earlier this week we took a look ahead and ranked the teams with the best shots to make the playoff. While the committee is only looking at games already played, their first ranking didn’t have any huge surprises. But there were some small deviations that could have a big impact down the road.


Read more:


Only 12 schools still have a legit shot to make the College Football Playoff

Let’s take a look at what we learned in the first ranking.

The Winners – Michigan and Washington State

Jim HarbaughLeon Halip/Getty ImagesMichigan could control their destiny as early as next week.

If Alabama beats LSU this weekend, as expected, Michigan is a big winner by landing at No. 5 in the first poll as they would control their destiny. If the Wolverines win out and win the Big Ten, there are no teams behind them that could add enough to their resume to leapfrog Michigan.

Washington State still needs help, but by being ranked No. 8, they don’t need as much help as most had assumed. By starting out two spots ahead of Ohio State, there is now a path for the Pac-12 to get in ahead of the Big Ten if Michigan loses.

Ohio State can still add wins over Michigan and, potentially, a top-15 Iowa team in the B1G title game. But Washington State can still add wins over Washington and, potentially, a top-15 Utah team in the Pac-12 championship. That’s not a guarantee for Wazzu, but the Cougars are in a position to make a strong case, and nobody thought that a week ago.

The Losers – Big 12, Ohio State, and UCF

Purdue-Ohio StateMichael Hickey/Getty ImagesOhio State’s loss to Purdue is the worst among the 1-loss contenders.

Oklahoma’s ranking at No. 6 is not surprising, and it is not terrible. But what it does mean is that the Big 12 is in danger of being left out of the playoff for the third time in five years unless the Sooners get some help.

Ohio State is ranked No. 10 and is in big trouble. Even if they beat Michigan and win the Big Ten, there is no guarantee they get into the playoff. The blowout loss to Purdue might have been the most impactful game for any of the top contenders regarding how it affected the team’s ranking.

Some expected Central Florida to crack the top 10, but instead, they are No. 12, behind a 2-loss Florida team that has looked mediocre in some of their wins. There are potentially two or three 1-loss Power-5 conference champs that won’t make the final four. UCF is not getting in over all of them.

The Questions – Can any of the undefeated teams survive a loss and what happens if Michigan loses?

Notre DameJon Durr/Getty ImagesNotre Dame’s win over Michigan might not be enough if the Irish lose.

Alabama is the best bet to still get into the playoff with a loss, especially if it is to LSU. If the Tigers beat Alabama, the Tide’s one loss would likely be to the new No. 1 team.

Notre Dame could still have a shot depending on how things shake out, but they would need some help, even with the win over Michigan. Meanwhile, Clemson would likely be eliminated with a loss because it wouldn’t be a quality loss to a good team and there are just too many other 1-loss teams in the mix, including possible conference champs.

Outside of LSU and Georgia – who are or would be big underdogs to Alabama – the team near the top most likely to lose another game is Michigan, with games left against Penn State and Ohio State. If all three of those teams pick up a second loss, that opens the door to the teams ranked 7-10. That means the final spot could come down to a debate between Oklahoma, Washington State, and Ohio State. All three could be one-loss conference champs, and that debate would be a good one.

ESPN

The easiest path to pandemonium – Alabama loses to LSU

Nick sabanKevin C. Cox/GettyWould the committee dare take two SEC teams if Alabama loses?

If you want chaos, you are rooting for LSU to beat Alabama. A loss by Michigan, Notre Dame, or Clemson would stir some debate, but the real mess comes if Alabama loses a game.

Let’s assume for the moment that Notre Dame and Clemson win out – their schedules suggest there is a good chance – those two are in the playoff. If LSU beats Alabama and wins the SEC, they would also be in the playoff.

Now there is one spot left, and these teams could potentially all make a case:

  • Alabama – Best team in the country with their only loss coming on the road to the No. 1 team. But, they did not even win their division.
  • Big Ten champ – Either 1-loss Michigan or 1-loss Ohio State.
  • Big 12 champ – Oklahoma with just one loss.
  • Pac-12 champ – Washington State with just one loss.

Would the committee dare take two teams from the SEC and leave out all three of those conferences? Hoo boy. Neither scenario sounds good.

Of course, we could solve all this by just going to an 8-team playoff.

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