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College Football Playoff Rankings reactions: USC overrated, Michigan underrated in initial top 25

The initial College Football Playoff Rankings were released on Tuesday, and there is drama at the top. Despite holding the No. 1 spot both polls all season, Georgia chimed in at No. 2 behind Ohio State. Behind those two teams — which happened to meet in last year’s Peach Bowl national semifinal — sit Michigan, Florida State and Washington, respectively. Oregon, Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma and Ole Miss round out the top 10. 

The race for the Group of Five spot in the New Year’s Six bowls is always an intriguing battle as well. One-loss Tulane out of the AAC takes lead in that one, coming in at No. 24. That’s one spot ahead of undefeated Air Force out of the Mountain West. 

These rankings are fluid, and there’s no doubt that there will be plenty of chaos between now and Selection Sunday on December 3. However, the committee did make a few mistakes in its initial release. Let’s break down the overrated and underrated teams in the first edition of the CFP Rankings

Overrated: No. 20 USC

The Trojans shouldn’t be ranked. It shouldn’t even be a consideration. They have lost two of their last three games, narrowly escaped California last week and needed three overtimes to beat Arizona on October 7. The defense has been atrocious all season — especially lately. USC has given up 34 or more points in each of its last five games. 

This isn’t an aberration. It’s a trend. Coach Lincoln Riley has made a career out of producing flashy offenses, but his resume is also littered with subpar defenses dating back to his time at Oklahoma. Not even a superstar quarterback like reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams can make this team remotely competitive on the national scene. 

Underrated: No. 3 Michigan

No, the Wolverines don’t have a flashy strength of schedule or signature wins on their resume yet, but they have been the most dominant team in college football from the moment toe met leather at the beginning of the season. They boast the top overall defense (226.8 yards per game), scoring defense (5.9 points per game) and red zone defense (33.3%) in the country. The rushing attack — led by Blake Corum — is stout. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy is second in Heisman Trophy odds.

It’s easy to say that Michigan “hasn’t played anybody.” That’s only part of the equation. Not struggling — like, at all — is something that not many other teams fighting for the top spot in the rankings can say. 

Overrated: No. 9 Oklahoma

The selection committee likes to use the phrase “game control” a lot, and the Sooners haven’t been doing much of that over the last two weeks. They fell at No. 21 Kansas last week and escaped the clutches of a 3-5 UCF team two weeks ago in a 31-29 thriller. The defense has appeared to taper off, which puts way too much pressure on an offense that is remarkably dependent on quarterback Dillon Gabriel.

“What have you done for me lately” is a philosophy that matters to some, and it matters in a big way for this Oklahoma team. Its 34-30 win over No. 7 Texas earlier this month put the target on the Sooners’ back, and they haven’t handled it well. That should matter when evaluating the championship mettle of title contenders.

Underrated: No. 14 LSU

The Tigers — who dropped games to No. 4 Penn State and No. 10 Ole Miss — are the top-ranked two-loss team in the country, which is fine. However, they should also rank above several one-loss teams including No. 12 Missouri (which they beat) and No. 13 Louisville, which lost to lowly Pittsburgh

Quarterback Jayden Daniels is in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race. He gives LSU its most dynamic offense since 2019. Meanwhile, defense that has suddenly looked — dare I say — good over its last two outings. Losses matter, but when you put this LSU team in the greater context of the regular season, it’s clear that it is much better than No. 14.

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