Fair warning: These rankings reflect only what teams have accomplished and do not take into account how teams were rated in the preseason. This has created some pretty crazy College Football Playoff rankings as teams who have lost haven’t had a chance to build up much of a resume and one win can take a team a long way up the list. Here are how the teams would and should rank through the eyes of the CFP committee:
In the CFP:
1. Clemson Tigers
Clemson got a big road win over Louisville on Saturday. Not only did they show their defensive dominance by slowing down Lamar Jackson, but they also showed the capacity for great offense. It is one of the best wins of the young season and moves the Tigers up to the top spot, for now.
The Tigers pair that big win, with their victory over Auburn. While Auburn struggled against Mercer, they are still a top 25 team for the time being. Those two wins get them the top spot after week three, as their win over Kent State doesn’t really bolster their case.
In the upcoming weeks they have to play Virginia Tech and Florida State, so they will be tested again.
This week: vs. Boston College Eagles
2. Oklahoma Sooners
The Sooners started off slowly against Tulane, but finished strong, with Baker Mayfield turning in another good performance. Tulane is not a very good team, so it was important that Oklahoma look good against the Green Wave and they did.
With their win in Columbus over Ohio State still being the best win of the season, Oklahoma only slides one spot as a result of Clemson playing two good teams and winning. The two wins against very bad Tulane and UTEP teams is what hurts their case to be number one.
Mayfield and the Sooners won’t face much of a challenge in the next few weeks with games against Iowa State and Baylor.
This week: at Baylor Bears
3. Alabama Crimson Tide
This week Alabama won relatively easily over Colorado State, 41-23. The Rams are now 2-2, but are a solid group of five team that already has a win over Oregon State. It might be a little boring, but Alabama is doing exactly what they are supposed to do.
Like Oklahoma, the Crimson Tide are benefiting heavily from one win. The win over Florida State is another one of the best wins of the college football season. Alabama’s win over Colorado State is solid, while Fresno State looks bad this season, making that win a non-factor.
Nick Saban’s troops will take on the SEC schedule now, with some interesting games. They will be favored in all games for the next several weeks.
This week: at Vanderbilt Commodores
4. USC Trojans
USC was on the brink of defeat, but Sam Darnold led them back for a thrilling overtime victory over Texas. Texas is not a very good football team, but their defense showed up in this one. The Trojans look to be still finding out who they are, but got the win to stay in the top four of the rankings.
Their win over Stanford looks worse now that the Cardinal lost to San Diego State, but the Cardinal will likely bounce back. USC also beat a solid Western Michigan team in addition to their win over Texas this week. It may be a few more weeks before the Trojans find themselves, but they have a decent start to the season.
The Trojans go back to Pac-12 football in the coming weeks, which should feature some challenges down the road.
This week: at California Golden Bears
First four out:
5. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Mississippi State looks like a threat in the SEC West after three weeks. This week they had no issues derailing LSU, winning 37-7. If you are undefeated and throttle a team as good as LSU, you deserve to be in these rankings.
This is a big jump for an unranked team (in the polls), but a win like that has to be rewarded. They also have beaten Louisiana Tech, who is a good C-USA team, so their case to be in these rankings isn’t totally based on one game. That game was also on the road, which makes their case more appealing.
They play a mammoth of a game this week against Georgia. Win that game and the Bulldogs can really move up these rankings.
This week: at 11 Georgia Bulldogs
6. Michigan Wolverines
The Wolverines haven’t looked good offensively, but got another win against Air Force this week. Air Force is a solid team that poses a different type of threat with the triple option offense. They need to find some offense for when the schedule gets tougher, but are in a great spot for now.
Michigan’s resume got bolstered when Florida edged out Tennessee. The Gators will likely move into the top 20 teams in the country. Their win over Cincinnati won’t be in the equation too much, as they struggled to beat Austin Peay (FCS) and Miami (OH).
Big Ten play will be tougher for Michigan, but they get a chance to ease into their schedule, playing some of the worst teams in the conference from last year to start.
This week: at Purdue Boilermakers
7. Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia used this week to get more reps for freshman quarterback Jake Fromm, who was efficient. They beat Samford (FCS) easliy, but that won’t really do a lot to help their case to be in the CFP.
The Bulldogs benefit from every Notre Dame win after beating them in South Bend. The Fighting Irish beat Boston College, to keep it as a solid win for Georgia. Appalachian State has won both of their games since losing to Georgia. With two solid wins and a win over an FCS team, Georgia needs to capitalize in the coming weeks.
They start off SEC play this week and have a couple of tougher games in a row in Mississippi State and Tennessee.
This week: vs. 17 Mississippi State Bulldogs
8. Vanderbilt Commodores
Yes, the Vanderbilt Commodores made the top 12 and deserve to be here. They just knocked off a very good Kansas State team to add to their cause. Their defense really preformed well, helping Vandy win 14-7.
With their good win this week, Vanderbilt also has a very good road win on the season. They went to Middle Tennessee and picked up a 28-6 win. Middle Tennessee is 1-2 on the season, but picked up a win at Syracuse and will do a lot of damage in the C-USA.
The problem for the Commodores? The upcoming schedule features: Alabama, Florida and Georgia.
This week: vs. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide
Next four out:
9. Virginia Tech Hokies
The Hokies flexed their muscle against East Carolina in week three. They crushed the Pirates 64-17 and are starting to look like a good challenge in the ACC for Clemson. Their young quarterback, Josh Jackson is living up to the hype so far and needs to continue to do so.
Virginia Tech wins over ECU and Delaware (FCS) won’t do anything to impress the committee and were games that were more about avoiding a loss. Their season opening win over West Virginia is still a good one, as the Mountaineers have continued to win, albeit against subpar competition.
There is one more non-conference game for the Hokies against Old Dominion before they jump into ACC play with a bang against Clemson.
This week: vs. Old Dominion Monarchs
10. Oklahoma State Cowboys
What moves Oklahoma State up over Penn State? They looked better against a common opponent, Pitt, and had to play them on the road, while Penn State had them at home. The Cowboys had Pitt beat at halftime with another great performance from Mason Rudolph.
The jury is still out on the Pitt win, but they should bounce back to make a bowl game. They also beat Tulsa, who had ten wins last season, and South Alabama on the road, a team who went to a bowl game last season. None of these wins are top tier wins, which is why the Cowboys are eighth.
Big 12 play starts this week for Oklahoma State, which should be tougher than the non-conference schedule.
This week: vs. 16 TCU Horned Frogs
11. Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State had no problems with Georgia State and won easily. Georgia State is not a good football team this year, so this is another non-factor win for a top program. The good news is that Penn State looks very good against whoever they are playing in the first few weeks.
The Georgia State and Akron wins won’t do much for the Nittany Lions. Penn State will be rooting for Pitt to turn their season around and reel off some wins to make the resume look better. Ultimately it is a lackluster case to get into the CFP, despite being undefeated.
This week Penn State starts their gruesome Big Ten schedule, that will only get tougher in a few weeks.
This week: at Iowa Hawkeyes
12. Washington State Cougars
The Cougars avoided a loss to Oregon State and in fact put up a lot of points. They won 52-23 and Luke Falk, their quarterback, got back on track with his six touchdown performance. Mike Leach has the offense rolling and ready for more challenges ahead.
It is nice to have a win over Oregon State, although they are pretty bad. The win over Montana State also won’t move the meter for committee members. Washington State’s win over Boise State is what is carrying them right now, so they need the Broncos to keep winning.
The Cougars should be able to beat Nevada pretty easily before jumping back into Pac-12 league play.
This week: vs. Nevada Wolfpack
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