The first College Football Playoff selection committee rankings were released Tuesday night and whether or not they are necessary at this point in the season is debatable, but for the most part, the rankings themselves are not.
Mississippi State and Florida State, the only two unbeaten teams left in the power conferences, are one-two in the playoff poll and are followed by Auburn and Ole Miss. Oregon is fifth with Alabama, TCU, Michigan State, Kansas State, and Notre Dame rounding out the top 10.
“It was extremely difficult, more difficult than any of us had expected having gone through our mock selections before,” committee chairman and Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said. “There are 18 one-loss teams in FBS at this point in time, and the difference between many of them is very slim.”
Auburn is the top ranked one-loss team and has the toughest schedule of the top four teams. The Tigers and Rebels meet Saturday in Oxford meaning that one team in the initial top four is going to have two losses. Should Auburn survive, it still has games left at Georgia (11th in the rankings) and at Alabama in the annual Iron Bowl grudge match.
The initial rankings are fun for some debate and ESPN, which paid a hefty fee to broadcast the playoff, no doubt wants to start reaping a return on its investment and likely insisted on some kind of in-season poll. ESPN broadcast the poll announcement and will continue to do so as the College Football Playoff rankings are announced every Tuesday for the next six weeks. The semifinal pairings and bowl assignments will be revealed on Dec. 7. The rankings and pairings are formed by the 12-member College Football Playoff Selection Committee.
Despite having three teams in the first poll’s top four and four in the top six, the Southeastern Conference has a long way to go to get multiple teams in the playoff. Auburn at Ole Miss will serve as the first SEC eliminator and there are many big games remaining in the conference. No. 1 Mississippi State still has to travel to Alabama and Ole Miss while the Rebels have Auburn, a game at Arkansas, and the Egg Bowl vs. Mississippi State before a possible meeting with Georgia in a SEC title game.
Alabama, which has lost at Ole Miss, has a game at LSU (18th) left as well as showdowns with Mississippi State and Auburn.
Oregon appears ready to slide into the top four when one of the SEC contenders loses with the Ducks getting healthier on the offensive line and QB Marcus Mariota putting up a Heisman worthy season. Oregon has a dangerous game with Stanford on Saturday and is at Utah (17th) the following week.
“Everyone on the selection committee recognized that our rankings will change over the next six weeks,” Long said. “I think that’s important for us to emphasize. We expect our rankings to change over the next six weeks. One week’s rankings won’t influence the next week’s rankings.”
Unbeaten Marshall is not in the first poll and the Thundering Herd’s playoff chances look slim. There were six two-loss teams included in the first playoff poll including Oklahoma, which is the highest ranked two-loss team at No. 18. Marshall is 8-0 but struggles in the strength of schedule department. The Thundering Herd still can break into the rankings but currently No. 23 East Carolina is the lone team from the group of five non-power conferences ranked in the first College Football Playoff rankings. The top-ranked team by the committee from the American Athletic Conference, Mountain West, Sun Belt, MAC, and Conference USA will earn a berth in a New Year’s bowl game — the Fiesta, Peach, or Cotton. That team also has to win its conference.
TCU has a shot at the final four if it can win out and win the Big 12 while the Big Ten’s chances for a playoff spot come down to the Michigan State-Ohio State game on Nov. 8. If the winner of that matchup wins out and is victorious in the Big Ten Championship game, then it will have a decent chance at being in the final four. The Spartans are currently eighth while Ohio State is 16th. Michigan State is essentially being rewarded for having a better loss. The Spartans led at Oregon in the third quarter before losing while the Buckeyes lost at home to Virginia Tech, which is 4-4 overall, 2-2 since winning in Columbus and currently last in the ACC Coastal Division.
The final rankings will be released Dec. 7.
Here is the entire College Football Playoff top-25.
1. Mississippi St.
2. Florida St.
8. Michigan St.
9. Kansas St.
10. Notre Dame
14. Arizona St.
16. Ohio St.
20. West Virginia
23. East Carolina