Key questions for College Football Playoff rankings launch

The highest 4 groups within the nation — Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan and TCU — all received on Saturday to stay undefeated, so there should not be a lot, if any, change Tuesday night time when the College Football Playoff choice committee unveils its third of six rankings at 9 p.m. ET.

No. 5 Tennessee additionally ought to maintain its spot following its lopsided win over Missouri, giving the Volunteers a possibility to complete within the prime 4 on Choice Day with out profitable their league or division.

It will get extra fascinating after that, however not unpredictable. No. 7 LSU ought to stay the committee’s prime two-loss staff, and USC will exchange Oregon because the Pac-12’s prime playoff contender after the Geese and UCLA each misplaced. With Oregon dropping, LSU ought to transfer up one spot to No. 6, adopted by a promotion for USC to No. 7.

Whereas issues might sound easy on the prime, the affect on Choice Day will get a bit extra sophisticated. Here is your information to decoding what the committee is considering behind closed doorways, together with Adam Rittenberg’s case for Clemson being ranked increased than USC and the top-four picks of ESPN’s faculty soccer reporters:

1. How a lot margin for error does TCU actually have? The Horned Frogs clinched a spot within the Massive 12 title recreation on Saturday night time, and in the event that they end as undefeated convention champions, TCU will likely be within the playoff. If the choice committee bumps TCU forward of Michigan on Tuesday night time, it may point out the Frogs have slightly extra leeway, however the power of your complete convention is a query. Aside from TCU, each staff within the Massive 12 has a minimum of three losses, guaranteeing the Frogs will face a lower-ranked opponent within the convention title recreation. (The winner of Ohio State-Michigan will face an analogous state of affairs within the Massive Ten, however wins in that rivalry recreation and over Penn State will trump something TCU has on its résumé). Take note of the place TCU’s opponents are ranked, beginning with Texas, which now has 4 losses. If the Frogs stumble at Baylor (which they should not, given how the Bears have spiraled), their schedule may price them.

2. Is LSU the one two-loss staff with an opportunity? Alabama prevented catastrophe with its win on Saturday at Ole Miss, however by beating the Rebels, the Crimson Tide ensured LSU’s spot within the SEC championship recreation as winner of the West Division. Alabama ought to stay behind LSU within the rankings due to the head-to-head outcome, nevertheless it additionally may appear deceivingly shut at No. 8. There will likely be motion forward of the 8-2 Tide going ahead, as Ohio State or Michigan will lose within the regular-season finale, and it is attainable TCU loses and/or Georgia knocks LSU out of the dialog. The CFP rankings do not observe the Related Press ballot mentality; it isn’t so simple as groups lose and others transfer up. With no convention or division title, Alabama would face a lot increased scrutiny within the choice committee assembly room. The group has written protocol it should adhere to, and Alabama would come up brief in three essential areas: championships received, power of schedule and head-to-head outcomes.

3. How dire is the Pac-12’s state of affairs? With USC nonetheless a top-10 staff, the convention remains to be within the combine, however keep watch over how far Oregon and UCLA fall — and the place two-loss Utah suits in. The excellent news for the league is that Washington ought to transfer up, giving the convention 5 ranked groups, which is spectacular. With out divisions, the Pac-12 is also in higher form than the Massive Ten and Massive 12 by way of its title recreation matchup (a minimum of for now), as each of these leagues may have a staff with a minimum of three losses taking part in for its championship. If USC runs the desk and finishes as a one-loss convention champion, it probably may have defeated three straight ranked opponents alongside the way in which: UCLA, Notre Dame and its title recreation opponent. That may very well be the increase the Trojans have to get in, maybe forward of Tennessee. It additionally may give them the sting over TCU as a one-loss Massive 12 champion. The one message that ought to be clear: It is USC or bust within the Pac-12.

4. Does one-loss North Carolina have a shot? Tar Heels followers need to know why their staff is not producing severe dialogue. It is a truthful query with two simple solutions: a scarcity of assertion wins and protection. North Carolina’s regular-season schedule would not function one ranked opponent or one Energy 5 nonconference win. An upset of Clemson within the ACC title recreation is not going to compensate for that, particularly with how poorly the Heels’ protection has performed, permitting Appalachian State 61 factors and a minimum of 24 factors in each win this season, besides in opposition to Virginia Tech (41-10). UNC is a gutsy staff that’s undefeated in convention play, however when the convention is struggling, it is harder to make the case.

What the committee will — and may — do

I had far much less beef with the second CFP rankings than the preliminary model, nevertheless it would not be a Tuesday in November with out one thing to complain about. The highest six spots in Tuesday night time’s rankings should not generate too many surprises, nevertheless it may get fascinating at No. 7 and decrease, particularly with a brand new Pac-12 front-runner and the groups lurking simply behind.

What the CFP choice committee will do: Rank USC forward of Clemson

What the CFP choice committee ought to do: Rank Clemson forward of USC

When 9 of the highest 10 groups within the rankings win, the temptation is to not mess with the order. Oregon undoubtedly will tumble after its house loss to a superb however not elite Washington staff. USC is now the one one-loss staff left within the Pac-12. The Trojans did nothing to essentially lose their place, overcoming a sluggish first quarter Friday night time to thump Colorado 55-17. USC eclipsed 40 factors for the eighth time this season, tied with Oregon for essentially the most in FBS.

However USC, to no fault of its personal, beat one other dangerous staff, which the Trojans have spent a lot of the season doing. As the great Jon Wilner pointed out, USC’s seven Pac-12 wins have come in opposition to groups with a mixed league file of 14-36. Solely two of these groups, Oregon State and Washington State, have profitable information. Oregon State ought to reenter the committee’s rankings Tuesday night time, however USC’s finest win was a 17-14 squeaker over the Beavers regardless of a 4-0 edge in takeaways.

Proper now, the Trojans are buoyed extra by an important loss — they fell 43-42 at Utah after the Utes scored a landing and a two-point conversion within the last minute — than the rest of their profile. The Pac-12 is a much-improved convention, however USC has performed solely one of many league’s actually robust groups, Utah, and misplaced. The Trojans lastly get profile-boosting alternatives this week in opposition to UCLA and subsequent week versus Notre Dame.

However at this second, Clemson has the stronger general résumé. The Tigers are undefeated in ACC play with 5 victories in opposition to groups with profitable information. Clemson has three wins in opposition to groups that had been ranked within the AP ballot when it confronted them, and it simply beat surging Louisville by 15 on Saturday. There isn’t any doubt Clemson has an uglier loss than USC, because the Tigers by no means challenged Notre Dame in a 35-14 highway setback, main coach Dabo Swinney to confess, “This was an ass-kicking, period.” However the Tigers have extra stable wins, together with an Oct. 15 triumph at Florida State that appears higher every week.

Each groups have had some slender victories. Clemson has received three video games by six factors or fewer, however all had been in opposition to groups both ranked on the time or ranked now. USC has three wins by eight factors or fewer however just one in opposition to a presently ranked staff. The Trojans struggled to tug away from Arizona and Cal, permitting a complete of 72 factors and 1,012 yards in these wins.

There’s not an enormous hole between these groups, however CFP rankings are snapshots of the present panorama. USC is being rewarded extra for a loss and dominating dangerous groups, whereas Clemson has compiled an even bigger and higher group of wins. USC has the closing stretch to cement itself above Clemson, however that point is not now. — Adam Rittenberg

ESPN reporters’ top-four picks

Andrea Adelson: 1. Georgia 2. Ohio State 3. Michigan 4. TCU
Blake Baumgartner: 1. Georgia 2. Ohio State 3. Michigan 4. TCU
Kyle Bonagura: 1. Georgia 2. Michigan 3. Ohio State 4. TCU
Invoice Connelly: 1. Georgia 2. Ohio State 3. Michigan 4. TCU
Heather Dinich: 1. Georgia 2. Ohio State 3. TCU 4. Michigan
David Hale: 1. Georgia 2. Ohio State 3. TCU 4. Michigan
Chris Low: 1. Georgia 2. Ohio State 3. Michigan 4. TCU
Harry Lyles Jr.: 1. Georgia 2. Ohio State 3. Michigan 4. TCU
Ryan McGee: 1. Georgia 2. Ohio State 3. TCU 4. Tennessee
Adam Rittenberg: 1. Georgia 2. Michigan 3. Ohio State 4. TCU
Alex Scarborough: 1. Georgia 2. Ohio State 3. TCU 4. Michigan
Mark Schlabach: 1. Georgia 2. Michigan 3. Ohio State 4. TCU
Paolo Uggetti: 1. Georgia 2. Ohio State 3. TCU 4. Michigan
Tom VanHaaren: 1. Georgia 2. Ohio State 3. Michigan 4. TCU
Dave Wilson: 1. Georgia 2. Ohio State 3. TCU 4. Michigan