In a surprising turn of events, the first College Football Playoff rankings released on Tuesday night placed Ohio State at the coveted No. 1 spot. The Buckeyes’ impressive victories over Notre Dame and Penn State, coupled with their offensive prowess, earned them this distinction. However, it is important to question whether Ohio State truly deserves the top ranking, especially considering the strength of their schedule and the impending challenges they will face in the upcoming weeks.
The selection committee faced a particularly challenging task in determining how to rank the five undefeated Power 5 teams. Ultimately, the committee prioritized strength of schedule, which greatly influenced the rankings. Ohio State’s schedule has undoubtedly been tougher than Georgia’s, with wins over top-15 teams Penn State and Notre Dame. In contrast, Georgia has yet to secure a victory against a top-25 team and possesses a weak strength of schedule, ranking at a dismal No. 100 according to ESPN metrics. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that these metrics will likely change in the coming weeks as both teams confront formidable opponents.
Georgia and Michigan are set to face their toughest challenges yet in the following weeks. Georgia will contend with No. 12 Missouri, No. 10 Ole Miss, and No. 17 Tennessee, all of which have the potential to significantly strengthen their schedule. Similarly, Michigan is gearing up to face No. 11 Penn State and the formidable No. 1 Ohio State, a matchup that could have far-reaching implications for the playoff. These upcoming games will undoubtedly shape the perception of these teams and potentially alter their rankings.
Despite a notable victory over No. 6 Oregon, Washington’s recent performances have been lackluster, struggling against losing teams Arizona State and Stanford. While Washington’s strength of schedule may improve in the coming weeks, especially with upcoming matchups against No. 20 USC, No. 18 Utah, and No. 16 Oregon State, these recent struggles raise concerns about their viability as a top team. On the other hand, despite having just one top-25 victory against No. 14 LSU, Florida State’s standing remains relatively unaffected by the lack of strong competition within the ACC. With only one other ranked team in the conference (No. 13 Louisville), the Seminoles’ schedule fails to test their mettle.
The selection committee faced a considerable challenge in determining the rankings, particularly with the addition of three new committee members. Their foremost priority is to ensure that the rankings accurately reflect the top four teams. This responsibility entails carefully weighing various factors, including strength of schedule, and making decisions that may attract criticism. The committee’s concerns about Washington’s recent struggles highlight the complexity of this task.
While much attention has been placed on the highly ranked teams, it is important to acknowledge the presence of Air Force and Tulane. Despite being undefeated, Air Force was ranked at a modest No. 25. Even more surprising, Tulane, with one loss, managed to secure a higher ranking at No. 24. These lower rankings for undefeated Group of 5 teams demonstrate the perceived importance of overall strength of schedule, even when evaluating teams with unblemished records.
The first College Football Playoff rankings have sparked both intrigue and scrutiny. Ohio State’s rise to the top spot raises questions about the validity of their ranking given their schedule’s strength. Georgia and Michigan face challenging games that could prove pivotal in altering their rankings. Meanwhile, both Washington and Florida State have encountered struggles that could jeopardize their standing as top teams. The committee’s conundrum in deliberating the rankings and the unheralded status of Air Force and Tulane further highlight the intricacies of this process. As the season progresses, it will be fascinating to witness the changes in rankings and the impact they have on the College Football Playoff.