Initial Playoff Rankings Show Georgia at Top and Numerous Potential Contenders

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The different would-be semifinalists successful the archetypal rankings of the College Football Playoff included Alabama, Michigan State and Oregon.

Georgia bushed  Florida connected  Saturday and is successful  premier  presumption   to beryllium  the apical  squad  successful  the College Football Playoff if it tin  spell  undefeated successful  the Southeastern Conference.
Credit...Kim Klement/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Billy Witz

Nov. 2, 2021, 7:31 p.m. ET

When the College Football Playoff committee gathered successful caller days to find the archetypal rankings of the apical teams successful the country, the archetypal task was straightforward: corroborate undefeated Georgia, which has mauled each comers, arsenic No. 1.

Filling successful the remainder of the board, particularly the 3 remaining spots successful the playoff field, mightiness person been done by firing names retired of a confetti cannon. The workout tested the limits of the oculus test, spot of docket comparisons, statistic and adjacent what seemed similar an infallible arbiter: head-to-head competition.

And truthful it was Tuesday nighttime erstwhile the archetypal rankings were announced that pursuing Georgia were one-loss Alabama, unbeaten Michigan State and one-loss Oregon successful the apical 4 spots. Ohio State, which mislaid astatine location to Oregon successful September, was 5th and Cincinnati, trying to go the archetypal squad from extracurricular the 5 powerfulness conferences to ace the playoff, was sixth.

Oklahoma, undefeated and unimpressive aft a bid of constrictive wins against middling opponents, was dropped to eighth — 1 measurement down Michigan, which blew a 16-point second-half pb astatine Michigan State connected Saturday.

In all, determination would look to beryllium astatine slightest a twelve teams with a accidental to scope the four-team playoff, which — with the lack of Clemson, which has already mislaid 3 times, and Alabama and Ohio State successful precarious positions with 1 nonaccomplishment each — is shaping up arsenic 1 of the astir wide-open fields since the format began successful 2014.

If the rankings regularly agitate assemblage shot fans — and, of course, that’s the constituent — this variation comes amid wrangling astir what the aboriginal of the playoff volition be.

When 3 league commissioners — Greg Sankey of the Southeastern, Bob Bowlsby of the Big 12, Craig Thompson of the Mountain West — and Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick revealed earlier this twelvemonth their secretly hatched program for a 12-team playoff, it acceptable disconnected different turf warfare implicit automatic berths and whether schools extracurricular the Power 5 would person a shot.

When Texas and Oklahoma’s intentions of jumping to the SEC from the Big 12 were made public, it created greater suspicions that the projected format would beryllium acceptable up arsenic an SEC invitational.

For much than 2 decades, schools extracurricular the powerfulness conferences person argued that they merit a accidental to vie for a championship, adjacent going to court. If determination person been different minnows with beardown résumés — Central Florida won 25 consecutive games successful 2017 and 2018 but was ne'er ranked higher than eighth by the committee — Cincinnati, different American Athletic Conference program, whitethorn supply a peculiarly beardown case.

The Bearcats (8-0) won decisively astatine No. 10 Notre Dame (7-1) — 1 of the champion roadworthy wins connected immoderate team’s ledger — and though they looked jittery the past 2 weeks, they person been nary much uneasy connected the eyes than Oklahoma (9-0), which has eked retired wins implicit Tulane, West Virginia, Kansas State, Texas and Nebraska, and trailed woeful Kansas successful the 4th quarter.

And if pedigree counts for the sport’s bluish bloods, past it is worthy noting that these are mostly the aforesaid Cincinnati players whose lone nonaccomplishment past play was connected a last-second, 53-yard tract extremity to Georgia successful the Peach Bowl.

Those successful the Pac-12 had to surely beryllium relieved for now. The league has been unopen retired of the playoff since 2016 and is down to 1 hope: Oregon (7-1). The Ducks person played uneven shot for astir of the season, but they person what stands retired arsenic a elephantine roseate connected their résumé — a 35-28 triumph astatine Ohio State, which was achieved adjacent without their prima antiaircraft end, Kayvon Thibodeaux, who did not play due to the fact that of an injury.

If the Buckeyes should get recognition for bouncing backmost aft shaking up their antiaircraft coaching staff, the Ducks mightiness reason that an allowance should beryllium made for their unsightly overtime decision to Stanford — it came with the violative coordinator, Joe Moorhead, successful the infirmary aft exigency surgery.

The schedule, arsenic it often does, volition robust retired immoderate of the existing wrinkles. Michigan State and Ohio State play each different connected Nov. 20 successful Columbus, and the Buckeyes play astatine Michigan a week later. Those games volition mostly find the victor of the Big Ten East and supply the league with a beardown contender for a playoff berth.

Alabama, aft being upset past period by Texas A&M, ranked 14th connected Tuesday, whitethorn not beryllium capable to spend different gaffe up, either astatine No. 13 Auburn connected Nov. 27 oregon successful the SEC rubric crippled against Georgia if that matchup holds.

Oklahoma, which has skirted past virtually everyone connected its schedule, inactive has to play astatine one-loss Baylor, ranked 12th, and one-loss Oklahoma State, ranked 11th, and volition apt conscionable 1 of them again for the Big 12 title.

And Oregon has to play astatine Utah, which has won 17 of its past 18 location games, connected Nov. 20, and volition apt spot the Utes again successful the Pac-12 title game.

Long changeable No. 9 Wake Forest indispensable past No. 19 North Carolina State and a sojourn to Clemson to support live its hopes for an unbeaten regular play and a spot successful the playoff.

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