CFP Top 25: Projections and most intriguing teams
The 12-person College Football Playoff selection committee will release its initial Top 25 on Tuesday night, which will give us our first glimpse at how the group is processing the results of the 2014 college football season to this point.
In my Top 25 posted on Sunday morning at the National Football Post, I had the nation's lone unbeaten Power Five teams — Mississippi State and Florida State — at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. Marshall, the only other unbeaten FBS squad, checked in at No. 25. Unfortunately, the schedule of the Thundering Herd just doesn't translate into a higher ranking.
It's almost a certainty that both the Bulldogs and the Seminoles will be the top two teams in the committee's Top 25. It's just common sense. The real tricky part is ranking the slew of one-loss teams, many of whom have a legitimate argument to be ranked Nos. 3 and 4.
Now, we know that the committee will re-rank its Top 25 every week. And we've been told that the previous week's rankings will essentially be thrown out. But the committee members are all human beings, of course. Will some of them feel compelled to stick to some of their initial rankings, as is the case when some members of the media do their respective polls for their publications?
There are a ton of unanswered questions.
Below, I've drafted how I could see tonight's first set of rankings looking after Week 9's action. Of course, these rankings don't matter too much in the grand scheme of things. But it does give us a glance at the CFP selection committee's thought process up to this point.
This is how the playoff picture could look right now and not how I am projecting it to look at the end of the regular season. My current bowl projections can be found here.
Will Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs be ranked No. 1 in the selection committee's initial Top 25?
No. 1 Mississippi State (7-0): The Bulldogs have quality wins over Auburn and LSU, which helps make up for a weak non-conference slate. Dan Mullen's squad will be No. 1 or 2 on Tuesday night, and I suspect it will sit atop the rankings because of the SEC wins.
No. 2 Florida State (7-0): The Seminoles have a chance to be ranked No. 1 by the committee because they do have wins over Notre Dame, Clemson and Oklahoma State — which arguably is more impressive than what Mississippi State has done. But because the 'Noles haven't been as sharp as last year, they could get penalized by the "football people" on the committee, such as former players and coaches. But the members that look more closely at the numbers could give the 'Noles the edge. These are the type of issues that the committee will come across. Eye test vs. resume is a big one.
No. 3 Alabama (6-1): The Crimson Tide's win over West Virginia in the season opener is looking really good because of the strong campaign the Mountaineers are having, and Nick Saban's squad has just the one close loss at Ole Miss. It's Alabama, and it's an SEC West power. Fair or not, the Tide are going to get the benefit of the doubt, in my opinion.
No. 4 TCU (6-1): The Horned Frogs have solid wins against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Minnesota, and Gary Patterson's squad is making headlines weekly with its efficient and prolific offense. The Frogs haven't forgotten how to play defense either. They have just the road loss by three points to Baylor, which was a game they should have won after being up three touchdowns early in the fourth quarter. I could see TCU as high as No. 3, but I could also see it on the outside looking in — which would not be right because this team has played almost as well as any team in the country thus far.
With a plethora of one-loss teams that have an argument to be in the mix for a spot in the top four, let's take a look at some of the most intriguing squads hoping to be high in the rankings by the end of the season.
Auburn (6-1): Last year's SEC champion has a strong non-conference win at Kansas State and defeated LSU, but the Tigers did not play a clean game in a loss at Mississippi State. Still, the Bulldogs are the No. 1 team in the nation, so it wasn't a bad loss.
Ole Miss (7-1): The road loss at LSU will be fresh on everyone's mind, but it was a three-point setback in a game in which the Rebels only had one turnover — the interception thrown by Bo Wallace in the last minute. Hugh Freeze's squad beat Alabama at home, but will the loss this past Saturday work too much against the Rebels? A win over Auburn this week would give Hotty Toddy a much-needed boost.
Oregon (7-1): The Ducks lost at home to Arizona, but they played the game with a battered offensive line. Marcus Mariota has been well-protected the last three games, and Mark Helfrich's team has a chance to win every game it plays if Mariota is upright — even if the defense has issues. Oh, and there's also the very strong non-conference win over Michigan State.
Kansas State (6-1): Bill Snyder's team will never win with style points, but all the Wildcats do is claim victories. Their only loss was at home to Auburn, a game in which they could have won if kicking woes didn't get in the way. K-State is the Big 12's lone unbeaten in conference play.
Notre Dame (6-1): The Fighting Irish had Florida State beat except for on the scoreboard, as Brian Kelly's squad fell short in Tallahassee a few weeks ago. But the Irish have an explosive offense led by Everett Golson and a defense that is playing much better than expected under first-year coordinator Brian VanGorder. Games against Arizona State and USC will help the strength of schedule argument.
Michigan State (7-1): The Spartans have just the one loss to Oregon, which came in Eugene after Mark Dantonio's squad hung with the Ducks for a good portion of the game. The biggest remaining contest before a potential Big Ten title game is the November 8 showcase against Ohio State. But how will the Big Ten be perceived by the committee?
Georgia (6-1): The Bulldogs' lone loss was against a South Carolina team that has four defeats, and the overall schedule to this point hasn't been great. But Mark Richt and Co. have a chance to make a strong statement when the team meets Auburn. Never discount a Jeremy Pruitt defense.
Arizona State (6-1): The Sun Devils have the bad home loss to UCLA, which blew things open in the second half of that contest. ASU was also playing without starting quarterback Taylor Kelly, although Mike Bercovici played quite well save for the late first-half interception. USC, Stanford and Washington have been victims of Todd Graham's team the last three games, while Utah, Notre Dame and Arizona remain on the schedule. This is a team that has a chance to play itself into the playoff because the defense has given the team balance.
Baylor (6-1): < /strong>After the Bears roared back against TCU, they fell on the road against a surprisingly good West Virginia squad. Art Briles and Co. have a chance to get back into the mix, but style points will matter.
Arizona (6-1): Rich Rodriguez's Wildcats have had a wild season thus far, with the Hail Mary win over Cal and road victory at Oregon dampened by the close loss to USC. It remains a dangerous squad, though, with a chance to be in the mix if it runs the table.
Ohio State (6-1): Will a win over Michigan State be enough to offset the setback at home to Virginia Tech in Week 2?
Nebraska (7-1): The Cornhuskers have put together a solid campaign, but they needed to win against Michigan State for a chance at a special season. Will Bo Pelini's squad get a second chance at Sparty?
Utah (6-1): Kyle Whittingham has done a wonderful job with these Utes despite the one-point home slip-up to Washington State. That upcoming slate is brutal, but at least Utah will have a chance to prove its doubters wrong.
Duke (6-1): Not even a shocking upset of Florida State in a potential ACC title game would be enough for the Blue Devils unless most every higher-ranked team implodes.
"Compromise" is the one word that comes to mind when thinking about the committee's approach in putting together its weekly Top 25, because a human being has a certain set of values that he or she brings to a discussion no matter the subject matter. We should get a sense of how the group works together over these next several weeks even if we aren't in the discussion room.
This playoff system was essentially created to reward the best four teams in the country, but the best vs. most deserving argument comes into play. "Best" can be defined in different ways. For some committee members, best could be defined as which teams pass the eye test. This could be the case for the former players/coaches, perhaps. For others, it can strictly be based on resume. Perhaps this applies more to those members who did not play or coach. All of the members of the committee are certainly qualified to serve, but each person's approach will differ.
Buckle up, because the BCS was nothing compared to what the College Football Playoff may bring in the form of controversy and conversation.
Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.