Winners and losers in College Football Playoff first rankings include Big Ten and Clemson

Paul Myerberg


Published 11: 32 PM EST Nov 5, 2019

There’s an SEC feel atop the first College Football Playoff rankings, with three teams from the conference inside the top six, and the timing couldn’t be better: No. 3 Alabama hosts No. 2 LSU on Saturday, in one of the most hyped regular-season games of the past several seasons.

Another two SEC teams, No. 10 Florida and No. 11 Auburn, led all two-loss Power Five teams and even led unbeaten Baylor, due to the Bears’ weaker strength of schedule. The Big Ten put two teams into the top four, including No. 1 Ohio State, while the Pac-12 saw its two frontrunners, No. 7 Oregon and No. 8 Utah, seeded in position to take advantage of any chaos from the SEC, Big Ten and ACC.

The rankings were worse for the Big 12, which is paced by No. 9 Oklahoma. And in a twist that should fuel Clemson through the rest of the regular season, the defending national champions were ranked No. 5, behind Ohio State, LSU, Alabama and No. 4 Penn State. Here are the winners and losers from Tuesday’s debut rankings:



Everything is coming together for the maligned Pac-12, which has spent years wondering how to crack the code for the playoff. Oregon and Utah are headed for a conference championship game pitting a pair of one-loss teams with the potential to move even higher in the rankings by the first week of December. While the league still needs some help — the Ducks and Utes need to hold serve, most of all — the debut rankings paint a realistic scenario for how the Pac-12 can put its champion into one of the national semifinals.

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FIRST LOOK: Ohio State leads LSU in initial playoff committee rankings

POWER RANKINGS: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

BOWL PROJECTIONS: Alabama-LSU game will clear up playoff picture

American Athletic

The selection committee respected the American enough to place four teams along the back end of the rankings: No. 20 Cincinnati, No. 21 Memphis, No. 24 Navy and No. 25 SMU. While there’s a case to be made for these teams being under-ranked — for Cincinnati and Memphis in particular — the high number of teams from one Group of Five league speaks to the American’s strong reputation among the committee and essentially says that the conference champion, if with just one loss, is in the driver’s seat for a New Year’s Six bowl.

Big Ten

Ohio State’s two-month stretch of dominant play under first-year coach Ryan Day has the Buckeyes atop the debut rankings, though the stay might only last a week — the winner of this Saturday’s matchup in Tuscaloosa will likely rise to No. 1, though the Buckeyes shouldn’t fall below No. 2 barring a loss. Another five Big Ten teams follow: No. 4 Penn State, No. 13 Wisconsin, No. 14 Michigan, No. 17 Minnesota and No. 18 Iowa. In the eyes of the committee, the Big Ten and SEC are the top leagues in the country by a substantial margin. (Cue the arguments for one of these conference getting two teams into the semifinals.)

While Minnesota is well outside the upper tier of teams, the Golden Gophers have ample opportunities to climb the rankings. That starts with a home game against Penn State on Saturday. November also includes games against Iowa and Wisconsin. Wins against both would set up a potential Big Ten championship against Ohio State. Win them all — good luck, Gophers — and Minnesota will be knocking on the door.

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It’s great for Dabo Swinney, who can use the Tigers’ ranking into ammunition for another ACC championship and playoff berth. Clemson was docked based on the rightful perception that the ACC is the weakest of the Power Five leagues; while the Tigers have dominated nearly all comers, North Carolina notwithstanding, the schedule simply hasn’t presented an opportunity to sway the selection committee. One positive: Wake Forest, the Tigers’ opponent on Nov. 16, came in at No. 19. In the end, Clemson remains in position to replace the loser of Alabama and LSU in next week’s top four and then even move up again based on the result of Ohio State and Penn State later this month. But it’s clear there is no margin for error.

Big 12

It wasn’t all bad news for the conference: Kansas State came in at No. 16 and Oklahoma State, despite three losses, at No. 23. But unbeaten Baylor was at No. 12, behind those two-loss teams from the SEC, though the Bears have high-profile games against Oklahoma and Texas to come in November. The biggest blow is with the Sooners, who trail not only the best teams from the SEC, Big Ten and ACC, as expected, but were slotted in behind those two leaders in the Pac-12. There’s time and opportunity to make up ground, but Oklahoma’s ranking suggests the selection committee holds the Big 12 in lower regard than the remaining Power Five leagues.

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