UPDATE: The rankings came out early in the show, and there was a surprise. Texas A&M ranks No. 4 ahead of No. 5 Washington. Here are the full rankings.
The first College Football Playoff rankings of 2016 will be released Tuesday night, and ESPN will count down the Top 25 starting at 7 p.m. ET. But the first edition of these rankings probably won’t be all that exciting as it pertains to the top four.
Alabama, Michigan, Clemson and Washington are the only Power 5 teams still unbeaten (Western Michigan is the other FBS team) and will almost certainly make up the top four. The only real debate is whether Michigan or Clemson should be No. 2.
Louisville, Ohio State and Texas A&M will likely be the next three teams ranked. Of those teams, only Ohio State controls its own destiny to the playoff — winning the next three (Nebraska, Maryland, Michigan State), beating Michigan and winning the Big Ten Championship Game will get the Buckeyes in. Louisville is by no means eliminated, but if Clemson doesn’t slip up, the Cardinals will need some help from the rest of the country. Texas A&M needs Alabama to lose twice to reach the SEC Championship Game.
Wisconsin could disrupt the playoff picture if it wins out. The Badgers play Northwestern, Illinois, Minnesota and Purdue to close the season and if they win all four — plus a Nebraska loss at Ohio State on Saturday — they would reach the Big Ten Championship Game.
But remember, in the last two years, just three of the eight total teams in the top fours in the first week of the College Football Playoff rankings were still there in December.
First 2014 CFP rankings top four: No. 1 Mississippi State, No. 2 Florida State, No. 3 Auburn, No. 4 Ole Miss
First 2015 CFP rankings top four: No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 LSU, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Alabama
The selection committee met Monday night and reconvened Tuesday morning. Remember, these rankings are different than the AP Poll. They start fresh each Tuesday, so teams can make big jumps week-to-week. It’s also not computer-based like the BCS, but committee members do factor in some statistics.
Here are the details you need to watch the first College Football Playoff rankings show on ESPN, our projected Top 25 and some details we’ll be looking for in the rankings.
What time do the College Football Playoff rankings come out?
The College Football Playoff rankings show will begin at 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday, but the actual top four — what really matters, since only four teams get in — won’t be released until later in the program. The playoff committee ranks the top 25 teams each week.
What TV channel will show the College Football Playoff show?
ESPN will carry the College Football Playoff rankings show each Tuesday until the Sunday after championship weekend. Here’s the full schedule.
All on ESPN
November 1 – 7 p.m. ET
November 8 – 7 p.m. ET
November 15 – 9 p.m. ET*
November 22 – 7 p.m. ET
November 29 – 7 p.m. ET
December 4 – Noon ET
*On the week of Nov. 15, the rankings will be released between the Kentucky vs. Michigan State and Duke vs. Kansas basketball games at Madison Square Garden. That 9 p.m. start time is approximate and will depend on the length of the first game.
College Football Playoff projected rankings
The wonderful CFPMachine.com uses historical data and machine learning techniques to determine how the committee will rank the teams each week — not how they should rank them. It considers both performance and program factors, like prestige, fanbase, conference, etc.
Using that as a baseline, here are Land of 10’s projected College Football Playoff rankings. The Big Ten will likely have three teams in the Top 10 and five in the Top 25.
- Ohio State
- Texas A&M
- West Virginia
- Western Michigan
- North Carolina
- Penn State
- Florida State
- Boise State
- Virginia Tech
- Oklahoma State
- Washington State
There’s so much football left that we can’t put too much stock into these rankings. But the initial Top 25 gives us some insight into how the committee views certain teams.
College Football Playoff rankings burning questions
Clemson vs. Michigan
This probably doesn’t matter all that much because there’s so much football to be played. But Alabama is the consensus No. 1, and Clemson or Michigan coule be No. 2. Washington will probably be No. 4.
Clemson has the more impressive wins — at Auburn, Louisville and at Florida State. Michigan beat Colorado, Wisconsin and Penn State at home.
Nebraska vs. Wisconsin
Wisconsin has two losses — Ohio State and Michigan. Nebraska has one — Wisconsin. But nearly every projection has the Badgers ahead by at least a few spots.
Both these teams likely control their own destinies to the playoff. They’ll need to win out and beat Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State in the Big Ten title game. A one-loss Nebraska (which does play at Ohio State this weekend) would get in, and a two-loss Wisconsin (with just those two losses and vengeance in the conference championship game) would have a good chance, too.
Western Michigan has no shot, right?
Last year, 8-0 Memphis came in at No. 13 in the first CFP rankings, albeit in the tougher AAC. The committee almost certainly won’t put P.J. Fleck’s group in the playoff come season’s end, even if they’re unbeaten, but where they start determines how tough the climb is.
How does the committee view the Big 12?
The Big 12 — one-loss Baylor and one-loss TCU — was left out of the playoff in 2014 in favor of Ohio State, which jumped both in the final rankings after drubbing Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. Not having a title game has hurt the conference, but seeing where two-loss Oklahoma and one-loss West Virginia and Baylor land should tell us something about how the committee views the Big 12.