Breaking down the initial College Football Playoff rankings


We take a look at the first College Football Playoff rankings of 2015, and break down what they mean for the top contenders.

After the BCS was scrutinized for years, the College Football Playoff was supposed to alleviate some of the controversy surrounding college football’s national championship game.

There goes that theory.

The first College Football Playoff rankings of 2015 were released on Tuesday, and controversy was not in short supply.

The top three teams went as expected, with undefeated Clemson, LSU and Ohio State standing atop the rankings. But when the final team currently slated the make the four-team playoff was announced, shockwaves were sent through the college football community.

The Alabama Crimson Tide premiered at No. 4 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, despite already having one loss on the season. As could be imagined, this was not taken well by a large portion of the media, much less fans of the eight undefeated teams currently left out of the playoff picture.

Here is a breakdown of the initial College Football Playoff rankings, and what they mean for the top contenders going forward.

The Top Four

1. Clemson (8-0)

It should come as no surprise that Clemson ranks in the top-four. With their 24-22 victory over No. 5 Notre Dame earlier this season, they have the most significant win of any of the top contenders.

They have a major test against Florida State this weekend, however. A loss could cost the Tigers a trip to the ACC Championship and potentially ruin their bid for a College Football Playoff appearance.

2. LSU (7-0)

The second-most deserving team currently in the playoff picture is the LSU Tigers, something reflected in their spot in the rankings. LSU handed No. 10 Florida its only loss of the season earlier this year, and have featured a multidimensional offense that has the potential to carry them to a national championship.

They still have several tests remaining, though, beginning on Saturday against No. 4 Alabama.

3. Ohio State (8-0)

The Ohio State Buckeyes have not been particularly impressive this season, but the defending national champions have done enough to maintain a top-four spot in the rankings. They have a fairly easy schedule, with their only serious tests coming in the last two weeks of the season against No. 7 Michigan State and No. 17 Michigan.

Unless the Buckeyes are dealt an upset loss in the coming weeks, expect them to remain in the playoff picture for the time being.

4. Alabama (7-1)

The Alabama Crimson Tide have stirred plenty of controversy by landing a spot in the top-4 of the College Football Playoff rankings. Despite losing to Ole Miss earlier this year, though, they have looked like a team capable of winning a national title.

And while their spot in the rankings is controversial, it can become undoubtedly justified with a win over No. 2 LSU this weekend.

Big 12 Left Out

6. Baylor (7-0)

8. TCU (8-0)

14. Oklahoma State (8-0)

15. Oklahoma (7-1)

Three undefeated teams from the Big 12 have been left out of the top-four, largely because they have not played any serious competition. And there is a decent chance that Big 12’s lack of a conference title game will prevent a one-loss team from the conference from making the playoff.

Despite losing to the embarrassment that has become the Texas Longhorns, Oklahoma has the best shot of any team in the Big 12 to make the playoff as a one-loss team, simply because they finish the season with games against the three currently undefeated teams in the conference.

As for the three undefeated teams — Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State — they will be able to secure a spot in the top-four by winning out.

Ohio State Not the Big Ten’s Only Contender 

7. Michigan State (8-0)

9. Iowa (8-0)

17. Michigan (6-2)

21. Northwestern (6-2)

Ohio State may find itself in the top-four of the College Football Playoff rankings at the moment, but their biggest tests are yet to come.

Michigan State is undefeated, has been just as impressive as the Buckeyes and the two teams meet in just a few weeks. The Iowa Hawkeyes are primed to run the table in the west and advance to the Big Ten Championship Game, where they will likely face the winner of that contest.

Michigan and Northwestern are technically not eliminated from contention, but with two losses aleady, they will need a lot of help down the stretch.

Non-Power 5 Schools Make the List

13. Memphis (8-0)

22. Temple (7-1)

24. Toledo (7-0)

25. Houston (8-0)

Of the four teams from non-Power 5 conferences to make the initial College Football Playoff rankings, the Memphis Tigers have by far the best shot to ascend into the top-four.

Memphis has a convincing win over No. 18 Ole Miss to its credit, as well as games looming against the other three non-Power 5 teams on the list; Temple, Toledo and Houston.

These three teams appear to have too much to overcome in regards to strength of schedule, or lack thereof. Temple had a tremendous opportunity to vault into contention last week against No. 5 Notre Dame, but came up just short.

One-Loss Teams Still Alive

5. Notre Dame (7-1)

10. Florida (7-1)

11. Stanford (7-1)

12. Utah (7-1)

16. Florida State (7-1)

Notre Dame, Florida, Stanford, Utah and Florida State all have a chance to compete for a national title, but with one loss already on their records, they will need to win out in order to do so.

Notre Dame was the first team left out in Tuesday’s rankings, coming in at No. 5. The Fighting Irish’s only loss of the year came against top-ranked Clemson, and they could very well find their way into the top-four after No. 2 LSU and No. 4 Alabama meet this weekend.

No. 10 Florida’s only loss of the season came against LSU, and with another opportunity for a quality win over a top-10 opponent likely coming in the SEC Championship Game, the Gators should have no issue making the playoff if they win out. Same goes for Florida State, who plays No. 1 Clemson on the road this weekend.

Stanford and Utah will have strong cases to make the top-four if they win the rest of their games, but they will need some help in order to ensure a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Two-Loss SEC Teams Not Eliminated Yet

18. Ole Miss (7-2)

19. Texas A&M (6-2)

20. Mississippi State (6-2)

All three of the two-loss SEC teams are not officially eliminated from contention, but they are far from being serious contenders.

Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Mississippi State have all looked shaky this year, and will need a lot of outside help in order become legitimate threats to make the College Football Playoff.

But with marquee matchups in the SEC West and the conference championship ahead, anything is possible.

Next: 10 best players of the Les Miles era

Below are the College Football Playoff rankings in their entirety:

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1. Clemson 8-0
2. LSU 7-0
3. Ohio State 8-0
4. Alabama 7-1

5. Notre Dame 7-1
6. Baylor 7-0
7. Michigan State 8-0
8. TCU 8-0
9. Iowa 8-0
10. Florida 7-1
11. Stanford 7-1
12. Utah 7-1
13. Memphis 8-0
14. Oklahoma State 8-0
15. Oklahoma 7-1
16. Florida State 7-1
17. Michigan 6-2
18. Ole Miss 7-2
19. Texas A&M 6-2
20. Mississippi State 6-2
21. Northwestern 6-2
22. Temple 7-1
23. UCLA 6-2
24. Toledo 7-0
25. Houston 8-0