The opening College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night, and the top four teams – and their corresponding rank – might have surprised a few people.
Alabama and Clemson are Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, which should surprise no one since they’re each having dominant seasons, remain undefeated and each have more than an 80 percent chance to make the playoff going into their Week 10 matchups.
Perhaps unexpectedly, one-loss LSU – which is in the same SEC division as Alabama and will play the Crimson Tide at home Saturday – opened at No. 3, while undefeated Notre Dame is at No. 4. Respectively, Michigan, Georgia, Oklahoma, Washington State, Kentucky and Ohio State round out the top 10, while undefeated UCF comes in at No. 12.
The teams at the top of the initial rankings will likely get jumbled up after this weekend simply because of the Alabama-LSU and Georgia-Kentucky games. But for now, let’s take a look at some of the biggest questions about the opening College Football Playoff rankings.
1. Why is LSU ranked so high?
Despite the Tigers’ 27-19 loss to then-No. 22 Florida earlier this month, they’ve played a fairly impressive schedule so far this season in a conference where they’re one of seven ranked teams. Ahead of their marquee matchup against Alabama on Saturday, they’ve played five teams that were ranked at the time and beat four of them: No. 8 Miami, No. 7 Auburn, No. 2 Georgia and No. 22 Mississippi State.
But does that record warrant putting LSU ahead of Notre Dame? As College Football Playoff Selection Committee chair Rob Mullens explained during a teleconference Tuesday after the rankings were released, via ASAP Sports:
“One reason one-loss LSU is ranked No. 3 ahead of an undefeated Notre Dame is because they’ve beaten six teams with a winning record. Within the FBS, no other team in the country has that many victories against winning teams. They’ve played a strong schedule. By comparison, Notre Dame has three such wins.”
Coming out of Week 9, ESPN’s Playoff Predictor – an algorithm based on the factors the selection committee considers when determining which teams will contend for a national championship – gave Notre Dame a 65 percent chance to make the playoff, behind Clemson and Alabama. That same formula gave LSU just a 12 percent chance.
Based on the opening playoff rankings, it appears the committee highly values how the losing opponents of the playoff hopefuls fare throughout the season. So currently, the Fighting Irish’s three wins over teams with a +.500 record (Michigan, Virginia Tech and Stanford) don’t mean as much as LSU’s six (Miami, Auburn, Louisiana Tech, Ole Miss, Georgia and Mississippi State).
2. Why is UCF ranked so low?
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