Allow me to answer the headline question first: not really.
That said, the first five years of the College Football Playoff can at least provide a bit of a road map as to where the 2019 model of the CFP may be headed.
As you may have heard by now, the CFP selection committee released its initial playoff rankings of the 2019 college football season Tuesday night. For the first time in what’s now the six-year history of the CFP, Ohio State earned the top spot in the debut Top 25, followed by No. 2 LSU (third time making the initial rankings, second time at No. 2), No. 3 Alabama (fifth straight year they’ve been in the Top Four in the first poll) and No. 4 Penn State (highest-ever CFP ranking).
Just outside of that Top Four are No. 5 Clemson, the reigning national champions and owners of the nation’s longest winning streak, and No. 6 Georgia, the highest-ranked one-loss team.
All six of those aforementioned teams also happen to be the only teams that truly control their own destiny in the sense that, if they win out, they’re in as one of the four semifinalists. There will, though, be some Top Six cannibalism as the remainder of the regular season plays itself out…
- LSU at Alabama, Nov. 9
- Penn State at Ohio State, Nov. 23
- Georgia vs. LSU/Alabama winner in the SEC championship game (possible)
… while Ohio State (No. 14 Michigan), Alabama (No. 11 Auburn), Penn State (No. 17 Minnesota), Clemson (No. 19 Wake Forest) and Georgia (No. 11 Auburn) all have games left against current CFP Top 25 teams as well.
On the outside of that elite six, No. 7 Oregon, No. 8 Utah, No. 9 Oklahoma and a pair of unbeatens — No. 12 Baylor, No. 17 Minnesota — all will need some level of help in the form of chaos above them in order to have a shot at a semifinal slot, especially the teams, oddly enough, without a loss thanks in very large part to their lackluster strength of schedule (thus far).
Right now, though, these rankings mean next to nothing. In the first year of the CFP, Ohio State was ranked No. 14 in the initial Top 25; the Buckeyes went on to win the 2014 national championship as the No. 4 seed.
While this Top 25 is essentially meaningless, the past five years show some interesting little trends that could be disturbing to some and encouraging to others.
Yes, that’s right, no team that has been ranked No. 3 in the initial Top 25 has gone on to qualify for the playoffs let alone win a title. Let’s take a walk down that particular memory lane:
- 2014 — Auburn (finished regular season No. 19)
- 2015 — Ohio State (No. 7)
- 2016 — Michigan (No. 6)
- 2017 — Notre Dame (No. 14)
- 2018 — LSU (No. 11)
That’s good news/bad news for OSU fans. On the one hand, they are better positioned than ever to make the playoffs. On the other, no No. 1 team in the initial CFP Top 25 has gone on to win a national title.
Clemson (2016), Alabama (2017) and Clemson (2018) were all No. 2 when the first CFP rankings were unveiled those respective years, then went on to win the College Football Playoff championship. Can LSU extend history and join that No. 2 club?
The next five weekends will, of course, determine that — beginning first and foremost with LSU’s biggest test of the year as the Tigers travel to Tuscaloosa to tangle with the Tide in a No. 2 vs. No. 3 matchup this coming weekend.