College Football Playoff Rankings: Reaction to Tuesday’s CFP Top 25 Reveal
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On Tuesday night, all of college football waited for the smoke to emerge from the Gaylord Hotel’s chimney in Grapevine, Texas, where the College Football Playoff selection committee unveiled its first rankings.
There were two options: White smoke meant Group of Five Cincinnati was disrespected and ranked outside the top four. Gray smoke meant brisket was being served.
White smoke emerged — or would have emerged if the CFB Playoff had a Pope-like chimney system (maybe when the playoff earns more money, it can add one when it expands to 12 teams?).
Maybe some folks believe smoke and mirrors would be more appropriate, but the top seven of the initial rankings — 1. Georgia, 2. Alabama, 3. Michigan State, 4. Oregon, 5. Ohio State, 6. Cincinnati, 7. Michigan — all have one thing in common: Win out, and they will make the playoff.
Well, except for Cincinnati. The Bearcats will need help. If any of the other seven teams win out, they’re in.
The Bearcats made history by becoming the first Group of Five team to rank in the top six, but selection committee chair Gary Barta didn’t sound like the committee was overly impressed with the Bearcats.
“The committee has great respect for Cincinnati,” Barta said. “The win at Notre Dame was a really impressive win … Who else did they beat?”
Cincinnati may not have cracked the top four, but the Bearcats made history as the highest ranked Group of Five team in the ranking’s eight-year history. Last year, Cincinnati debuted at No. 7 in the first ranking and finished undefeated at No. 8 in the final ranking — behind two-loss Oklahoma and three-loss Florida.
CFP Top 25 Rankings vs. Our Power Ratings
CFP denotes Tuesday’s inaugural College Football Playoff Top 25 Rankings.
PR denotes Collin Wilson’s College Football Betting Power Ratings.
Projected Point Spreads for CFP Semifinal Matchups
If the top four teams on Tuesday met in the College Football Playoff Semifinals, here are the projected point spreads for each matchup based on Collin Wilson’s college football betting power ratings:
Capital One Orange Bowl
Friday, Dec. 31 ⋅ Miami Gardens, FL
Projection: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Michigan State
Action Spread: Alabama -17
Goodyear Cotton Bowl
Friday, Dec. 31 ⋅ Arlington, TX
Projection: No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Oregon
Action Spread: Georgia -15
Win-Loss Records of FBS Opponents for CFP Top-10 Teams
- No. 10 Notre Dame, 39-26 (60.0%)
- No. 7 Michigan, 38-27 (58.5%)
- No. 1 Georgia, 37-28 (56.9%)
- No. 2 Alabama, 30-26 (53.6%)
- No. 5 Ohio State, 34-30 (53.1%)
- No. 3 Michigan State, 27-30 (47.4%)
- No. 9 Wake Forest, 27-30 (47.4%)
- No. 4 Oregon, 27-31 (46.6%)
- No. 6 Cincinnati, 24-32 (42.9%)
- No. 8 Oklahoma, 26-40 (39.4%)
San Diego State
Additional Notes on the 2021 CFP Top 25 Rankings
The inaugural College Football Playoff in 2014 had seven rankings, but the next five years (2015-19) had six sets of rankings. Last year’s COVID-19 season had only five rankings.
This year, there will be six rankings so each set will be compared with the same time frame of rankings from other seasons.
Only 6 Teams Have Ever Ranked No. 1 in the CFP Top 25 Rankings
Georgia’s No. 1 ranking Tuesday marked the first time since Nov. 7, 2017 that Georgia was atop the College Football Playoff rankings. Here is a list of the only six teams that have ranked No. 1 in the eight-year history of the College Football Playoff.
Weeks Ranked No. 1
Mississippi State (3)
Ohio State (3)
Note: This list includes Georgia’s No. 1 ranking on Tuesday.
Scouting This Year’s Potential National Champion
Looking for this year’s national champion? Look no further than the top four teams in Tuesday’s rankings.
In the past five years (excluding last year’s COVID-19 season, which didn’t have a comparable ranking at this point of the season) the eventual national champion ranked in the top four. The only exception came in 2014 by No. 14 Ohio State.
Eventual National Champions & Where they Ranked at this Point by Season:
2014 — No. 14 Ohio State
2015 — No. 4 Alabama
2016 — No. 2 Clemson
2017 — No. 2 Alabama
2018 — No. 2 Clemson
2019 — No. 2 LSU
2020 — No rankings this week.
Trying to project this year’s College Football Playoff field? Eighty-two percent of the College Football Playoff qualifiers have ranked among the top six teams in these rankings.
Only 5-of-28 teams were outside the top six, most notably eventual 2014 national champion Ohio State at No. 14.
The Lowest-Ranked Teams at this Point of the Season to make the College Football Playoff:
2014 — No. 14 Ohio State, national champion
2015 — No. 7 Michigan State, lost semifinal
2015 — No. 15 Oklahoma, lost semifinal
2018 — No. 7 Oklahoma, lost semifinal
2019 — No. 9 Oklahoma, lost semifinal
With Clemson’s streak of 42 consecutive appearances in the College Football Playoff rankings ending on Tuesday, Alabama and Ohio State are the only two programs that have been ranked in all 43 editions of the CFP rankings.
Here are the current consecutive weeks schools have been ranked in the College Football Playoff rankings: