Projected College Football Playoff Rankings Top Four: Making The Case

    Projected College Football Playoff Rankings for the top four. Which top teams are realistically in the hunt for the top four spots?

    November 3, 2015

    Making a case for the top four in this week’s projected College Football Playoff Rankings.

    Follow and/or Contact @PeteFiutak

    And away we go.

    Yeah, we all know it’s going to come down to who the conference winners are and what the records end up being, and the early College Football Rankings can and will change wildly – ask TCU what it’s like to get your hopes up – but at least the first release is a snapshot.

    What are the general perceptions? How are the conferences viewed? And, of course, who’s in the top four?

    You’d rather be in the ranked up in the top four than not, just to set a baseline, but what case does each of the top teams have to be in? Who’s going to actually get the honor of being in the initial top four of the second year of the CFP rankings?

    Okay, elite of the elite, make your case. The first four will come from these 12 teams.


    In The Top Four: By far the best overall resume of all the top teams with wins over Wisconsin, Georgia and Texas A&M away from home – and all by double-digits – and Tennessee and Arkansas at home.

    Out Of The Top Four: The home loss to Ole Miss is still a problem. The Rebels don’t make the top ten quite yet, and while it might have been an aberration for the Crimson Tide, it’s still a home loss.

    In Or Out?: Out, for now. This might be the best team in college football, and it’ll knock on the door next week if it beats LSU.


    In The Top Four: It’s a really, really good offense. If the committee is going on eye-test so far, the team that hung 62 points on the board in five games, 56 against SMU, and 45 against Iowa State looks the part. Ripping up Texas Tech and West Virginia is better than it might seem.

    Out Of The Top Four: Losing QB Seth Russell matters – for now. Yeah, beating Texas Tech and West Virginia is nice, but the schedule is a big basket of yuck with a nothing non-conference schedule – sound familiar, No. 5 Baylor of 2014?

    In Or Out?: Not quite. The committee will see how the Bears do at Kansas State with Jarrett Stidham under center.


    In The Top Four: The Tigers are checking off all the boxes. They’ve got the brand-name win over Notre Dame, and they’re rolling against everyone else, getting better and better as the season is going on. Not only did they put up 58 on Miami – getting Al Golden fired – and 56 on NC State, but they did it on the road.

    Out Of The Top Four: The Notre Dame win was a way-too-close call, and there’s not really that much else to get excited about. Does struggling to beat Louisville on the road do it for you?

    In Or Out?: Can you say No. 1? That might be a bit ambitious, but red-hot team is a near-lock to be in the initial top four.


    In The Top Four: Losing 35-28 at LSU is among the best losses by anyone this year. Beating Tennessee was good, destroying an Ole Miss team that beat Alabama is great, and rolling over Missouri on the road and Georgia in Jacksonville is big.

    Out Of The Top Four: How much does the loss of Will Grier matter overall? It’s been a few weeks, and there weren’t any issues against Georgia, but the loss to LSU, and a few concerns about an okay offense, might push the Gators out of the elite.

    In Or Out?: Out, but it doesn’t matter. With Florida State still to play, and likely an SEC championship ahead, the Gators control their own destiny.


    In The Top Four: All of a sudden, the 14-point road win over Iowa State looks better, to go along with a strong victory over Pitt and good win over Illinois. But road wins over Wisconsin and Northwestern – blowing out the Wildcats – makes for a stronger resume than most of the other top teams can boast.

    Out Of The Top Four: There’s absolutely nothing pretty about the Hawkeyes. It’s a good defensive team, and the O line has been great, but it doesn’t look the part. There isn’t enough pop and explosion.

    In Or Out?: Out, but there might be more of a debate than many committee members are thinking when they fill out their first lineup cards. Someone will bring up the painfully obvious – Iowa has done more than Ohio State, and looked better doing it.


    In The Top Four: The lone unbeaten team in the SEC, the Tigers have the star of the 2015 season in Leonard Fournette, it has the win over Florida, and it has a nice win at Mississippi State that’ll be a big part of the equation.

    Out Of The Top Four: It’s a relatively thin overall body of work considering Auburn’s a mess and South Carolina is a disaster. Yeah, beating Mississippi State is good, but the Bulldogs lost on a missed kick. How much can the Florida win carry the ranking?

    In Or Out?: Yeah, but it’s not a slam dunk. Because of Fournette, and because five of the seven wins were with ease, and because of the Florida win, and because it’s the SEC and they’re unbeaten, the Tigers will be in.


    In The Top Four: Not only did Memphis beat Ole Miss, but it beat the team that beat Alabama on the road. The 13-point Tiger win changed around the perception of the American Athletic and boosted MU into the conversation of the elite. Beating Bowling Green and Cincinnati is terrific, too.

    Out Of The Top Four: The resume isn’t there. It’s coming with road games at Houston and Temple and a home game against Navy, but is the Ole Miss win enough? The D gave up over 40 points to Bowling Green, Tulsa and Cincinnati.

    In Or Out?: Out. It’ll be the highest-ranked Group of Five team, but that’ll have to do for now. The American Athletic, though, is going to get enough credit to make this a tougher call if the Tigers keep winning.

    Michigan State

    In The Top Four: The win over Oregon might not seem as impressive now as it originally was, but it’s still a restaurant-quality victory. It might have taken a miracle to beat Michigan, but it could be argued that it’s what the program does – last year’s Baylor team knows this all too well.

    Out Of The Top Four: Yeeeeeeuck. It’s not just that it took some help from the gods to get by both the Ducks and the Wolverines, but MSU has looked horrendous in close calls against the worst teams in the Big Ten. Sparty only beat Purdue and Rutgers by one score, and the final 52-26 score against Indiana wasn’t indicative of the team’s performance.

    In Or Out?: Out, but don’t be stunned if this is one of the most overranked teams based on nothing more than respect.

    Notre Dame

    In The Top Four: If you believe in Clemson, then it’s okay to believe in a Notre Dame team whose one loss came on a missed two-point conversion attempt in the most hostile setting possible. The Irish handed Temple and Navy their only losses, got by USC by ten, and stomped on Texas.

    Out Of The Top Four: It’s too inconsistent. It was too hard to get by Virginia on the road, and despite the 62-27 final score, it was a fight for a long while to beat UMass. The team finds ways to win, but it’s not looking like one of the four best teams.

    In Or Out?: Out. The CFP committee will only put unbeaten teams in the top four for now, but if the Irish win out, and if the game against Stanford is between two one-loss teams, it’ll probably be for a playoff spot.

    Ohio State

    In The Top Four: Talent, talent, talent. The committee isn’t supposed to live in a world where last year doesn’t exist, and the future is a promise to no one, but it’s hard to ignore just how talented the defending national champs are. Impressively, even though the team is supposedly struggling, six of the eight wins finished up as blowouts.

    Out Of The Top Four: There’s absolutely no rational explanation to put OSU into the top four considering its schedule. It’s not the Buckeyes’ fault that Virginia Tech stinks, but playing Northern Illinois and Western Michigan – as good as those two are in the MAC – along with a slew of mediocre Big Ten teams isn’t impressive.

    In Or Out?: Yeah, and it’ll be interesting to see how the committee spokesmen – whether it’s Jeff Long or someone else, explains this. We’ll get the “we thought it’s one of the four best teams” line, but there won’t be anything tangible.

    Oklahoma State

    In The Top Four: Talk about the hot team at the right time, the Cowboys are coming off a 70-point performance over Texas Tech. The offense is rolling, and the team seems to know how to win. It’s battle-tested with all the big guys ready come to Stillwater in November.

    Out Of The Top Four: Unlike Baylor, who’s ripping apart everything in its path, Oklahoma State is struggling a bit. It took too much work to put away West Virginia and Kansas State, the defense went bu-bye against Texas Tech, and the Texas win was helped by a Longhorn special teams screw up.

    In Or Out?: No. The chances are about to come, but at the moment this will be seen as the Big 12’s fourth-best team behind Oklahoma, TCU and Oklahoma State, in some order.


    In The Top Four: The offense is on fire, and the defense is starting to come together in a hurry. For all the problems and all the injuries, the D has it figured out allowing just seven points to Texas and ten against West Virginia. It’s not about star power, but QB Trevone Boykin is good enough to become a household name.

    Out Of The Top Four: It took a minor miracle on a tipped pass to get by Texas Tech, and it took a Boykin run to finally put away a Kansas State team that’s getting hammered. The resume is hardly anything to jump up and down about.

    In Or Out?: After what happened last year, you really think the committee isn’t going to throw the Horned Frogs a bone? It’ll be in.

    WATCH: Inside The College Football Playoff Rankings Live Show with interviews from Committee Chair Jeff Long Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. ET


    Have the full Stadium experience

    Watch with friends

    Get rewards

    Join the discussion