With the first installment of this season’s college football playoff finally out, many fans will begin to try and analyze if the rankings are correct. In past years, this method has proven to be a bit shaky, especially when the final poll comes out to decide which teams will be participating in the playoff. However, this week’s rankings look foolproof.
The first four teams in as of now, in order, would be Alabama, Clemson, Louisiana State and Notre Dame. Without a doubt, this correctly reflects the four best teams in the country.
Alabama has been the best team all year long, coming in at a convincing 8-0, with the closest win by a staggering 22 points over a ranked Texas A&M team. Alabama does travel to third-ranked Louisiana State this weekend, followed by matchups with Mississippi State, Citadel, and Auburn. Even with one loss, Alabama should get in, and the committee showed that with these initial rankings.
At the number two spot, also at 8-0, is Clemson, who have had a quality body of work. Clemson also beat Texas A&M, however only by a mere two points. The Tigers also boast wins over Syracuse, in which starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence was injured for the entire second half, and a blowout win over North Carolina State, who was ranked 16th at the time. Clemson should see themselves in the playoffs barring a misstep to Duke or Boston College, the two best remaining teams on its regular season schedule.
Louisiana State at number three could make Notre Dame fans upset, but it is the right move. These Tigers only lost one game, which was to a ranked Florida team in the final minutes of the game. However, Louisiana State might have the best overall amount of quality wins in the top four, as it beat Miami who was ranked seventh in week one, at a seventh-ranked Auburn in week three, and most recently, a 19-3 win over 22nd Mississippi State. A win over Alabama next week would seal the deal for them, but the Tigers still have a chance to sneak in with a close loss.
The last team to come in the top-four is Notre Dame. Notre Dame may be the shakiest of these teams, especially at the quarterback position. However, Notre Dame has wins over Michigan, Stanford and Virginia Tech, which is something the committee will take a big note on. What hurts Notre Dame is its lack of a conference championship game, as the Fighting Irish are independent. With games against Syracuse and USC to finish up the season, Notre Dame will have tough tests to stay undefeated.
Following these four teams are Michigan, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Washington State. All four of these teams are 7-1 on the season, but lack quality wins that the top-four currently have. Michigan has the best chance to slide in, as the Wolverines lone loss came to Notre Dame in week one, and it still has games against Pennsylvania State and Ohio State. However, these teams will need the ones ranked in the top four to lose a game or two if they want to be included.
The other teams that still have a slight chance at making the playoffs are Kentucky, Ohio State, Central Florida and West Virginia. They all either suffered bad losses or do not have the same aura around them, but each has shown that it can compete at a high level.
Overall, Alabama and Clemson should be fine, but after that, it is wide open.
Mat Mlodzinski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Mlodzinski_15.