With the calendar flipping from October to November, we’re now officially at the launching point for the 2015 postseason.
Tuesday night, the College Football Playoff Committee released what will be the first of six Top 25 rankings that will determine the four playoff participants in the second year of the system. So, without further ado, the CFP’s top four teams are, in order, Clemson, LSU, Ohio State and Alabama.
The Tide’s inclusion, obviously, will likely cause the biggest initial controversy as one-loss ‘Bama took a spot over undefeated Power Five teams like Baylor (No. 6), Michigan State (No. 7), TCU (No. 8), Iowa (No. 9) and Oklahoma State (No. 14). The rankings do, though, ensure a shakeup next week as No. 2 LSU travels to take on fourth-ranked ‘Bama.
Alabama’s conference, the SEC, leads all leagues with six of the Top 25. The Big Ten is next with five, followed by the Big 12 with four, Pac-12 with three and ACC two. The Pac-12’s highest-ranked team, No. 11 Stanford, is the lowest ranked of the five power conferences.
Michigan is the highest-rated two-loss team in the rankings, which, provided they continue to win, would be a boost for the cases of both Ohio State and Michigan State ahead of their huge matchup a couple of months down the road. There are six teams in the rankings with two losses, with three coming from the SEC (Ole Miss, No. 18; Texas A&M, No. 19; Mississippi State, No. 20) and two from the Big Ten (Michigan; Northwestern, No. 21).
As for the Group of Five, four “mid-majors” earned Top-25 spots: No. 13 Memphis, No. 22 Temple, No. 24 Toledo and No. 25 Houston. The highest-ranked G5 team in the final rankings will earn a spot in one of the lucrative New Year’s Six bowl games.
In last year initial CFP Top 25, there was exactly one G5 team represented: East Carolina at No. 23.
Below is the complete set of rankings for the College Football Playoff:
One thing to keep in mind: Whether your school is in or isn’t this first go-around is almost immaterial, at least this early on in the process.
Last year at this time, the first four were, in order, Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn and Ole Miss. Only FSU, as the No. 3 seed, ultimately earned one of the four playoff spots. The top two seeds, No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oregon, were ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, in the Oct. 28, 2014, release.
MSU ended up No. 7 in the Top 25 that set the playoff table, with Ole Miss at No. 9. Auburn was a distant No. 19 after opening in the three-hole a month and a half before.
And No. 4 seed Ohio State? They were barely within shouting distance at No. 16 in that first set of rankings, six weeks before earning one of the four semifinal slots and two and a half months before winning the national championship.
“It’s exciting to be back as we kick off the second year of the College Football Playoff,” CFP selection committee chairman and Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said in a statement. “We are little more than half way through the season and a lot of football that remains to be played. This is the first of six rankings. They are the result of games that have been played thus far. Change is guaranteed and that’s what makes college football exciting.”