Friday, December 1, 2023

College Football Playoff Rankings: Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan, Florida State open 1-4 in top 25 poll

The first edition of the College Football Playoff Rankings was released Tuesday night with undefeated Ohio State slotted at No. 1 in the four-team field. Off to a dominant start to the 2023 season with wins already over Notre Dame and Penn State, the Buckeyes sit in the top spot while looking to make a playoff appearance for the fourth time in the last five seasons.

All but two teams ranked No. 1 in a season’s initial CFP Rankings ultimately reached the four-team playoff (Mississippi State in 2014, Tennessee in 2022).

Unbeaten teams round out the rest of the top four with two-time reigning national champion Georgia, Michigan and Florida State filling the next three spots. The Bulldogs will look to maintain their stature this Saturday as they face No. 12 Missouri at 3:30 p.m. ET in one of two SEC on CBS Games of the Week.

Just behind those four as the first two out of the playoff field are undefeated Washington and one-loss Oregon. The Huskies have a head-to-head rating over the Ducks already this season.

There are no significant surprises atop the rankings, though No. 9 Oklahoma does sit behind No. 7 Texas despite the Sooners already defeating the Longhorns. OU’s loss last Saturday to No. 21 Kansas (previously unranked in the AP Top 25) is clearly seen as a “worse” loss, hence the ranking order.

Unlike 2021 when Cincinnati opened at No. 6 in the CFP Rankings and eventually became the first Group of Five team to reach the playoff, the highest-ranked Group of Five program Tuesday is Tulane at No. 24. That will not create a scenario in which the Green Wave can advance to the playoff, but in an expanded 12-team field set to be introduced in 2024, Tulane would be in pole position to earn a bid as the highest-ranked potential Group of Five champion.

Let’s take a look at the entire CFP Rankings top 25. Check out analysis by bowls expert Jerry Palm, which will be added below shortly.

College Football Playoff Rankings, Oct. 31

  1. Ohio State (8-0)
  2. Georgia (8-0)
  3. Michigan (8-0)
  4. Florida State (8-0)
  5. Washington (8-0)
  6. Oregon (7-1)
  7. Texas (7-1)
  8. Alabama (7-1)
  9. Oklahoma (7-1)
  10. Ole Miss (7-1)
  11. Penn State (7-1)
  12. Missouri (7-1)
  13. Louisville (7-1)
  14. LSU (6-2)
  15. Notre Dame (7-2)
  16. Oregon State (6-2)
  17. Tennessee (6-2)
  18. Utah (6-2)
  19. UCLA (6-2)
  20. USC (7-2)
  21. Kansas (6-2)
  22. Oklahoma State (6-2)
  23. Kansas State (6-2)
  24. Tulane (7-1)
  25. Air Force (8-0)

Analysis by bowls expert Jerry Palm

There were always going to be different ways to perceive and rank the five major unbeaten teams. Ohio State at No. 1 had the strongest case based on strength of schedule and quality wins.

The battle between Michigan and Georgia for second in the rankings, if these were the final edition, would be a battle for uniform color in the CFP semifinals. In this case, it is more of a battle of a perceived weaker schedule (Michigan) against a much lower ranked schedule (Georgia). The Bulldogs emerge ahead most likely on the strength of wins over Kentucky and Florida, which you could reasonably say are still better than any team the Wolverines have played. However, no team has dominated its schedule to this point like Michigan.

Both teams have backloaded schedules. Georgia’s next three games are against Missouri, Ole Miss and at Tennessee. Michigan visits Penn State and hosts Ohio State after feasting on Purdue and traveling to Maryland in a game that is quickly losing its luster. Even if Michigan were ahead this week, Georgia is on a path to finish in front if both end the season 13-0.

Washington sits at No. 5 behind Florida State in part because the Huskies have somehow only played three teams that are currently .500 or better despite being in the best conference this season. Washington also has a backloaded schedule with games coming up at USC and Oregon State sandwiched around a visit from Utah.

Florida State is not so fortunate. The Seminoles have in-state rivals Miami and Florida, the latter on the road, but the only ranked team potentially left on its schedule is No. 13 Louisville in the ACC Championship Game.

Oregon was a clear choice for the top one-loss team, but it gets interesting behind the Ducks. The CFP Selection Committee chose to respect the head-to-head result of Texas’ win at Alabama but not Oklahoma’s victory over the Longhorns. That is due to the loss by the Sooners to a lower-rated team in Kansas.

Of the one-loss teams, the Ducks, Longhorns and Crimson Tide have the most clear paths to playoff berths because of their remaining schedules and what they have accomplished so far. It is much less likely for the other one-loss teams.

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