The first installment of the College Football Playoff rankings come out on Tuesday night. Much fretting will take place over the seedings despite the knowledge another month-plus of season remains. Not only are this initial offerings subject to change, they’re required to change based on upcoming matchups.
Through three years of the playoff era, we have a small but still instructive sample size. Of the 12 teams to make the playoff, less than half have been in the top four of the initial release. Five have come from the top four, five from No. 5-8, and two from well behind the pack (Ohio State at No. 15 in 2014 and Oklahoma at No. 16 in 2015).
So what am I saying? I’m saying there’s a chance for some teams who have several spots to leapfrog.
Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Miami control their own destiny. Notre Dame, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Penn State likely need to win out and get some help. But looking beyond these sides, here are a few schools who shouldn’t abandon hope.
TCU (7-1): The Horned Frogs have Texas and Baylor at home, plus road trips to Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Winning out would mean a Big 12 title game berth against another top-15 opponent. Potential wins over the Sooners, Oklahoma State and Iowa State is not the best resume, but the best the conference allows.
Oklahoma State (7-1): The Cowboys host Oklahoma this week and travel to Ames the next. Notching two top-15 wins in back-to-back weeks would put OSU in the conversation. The problem? Not much they can do about the weak non-conference schedule (Tulsa, South Alabama and Pitt) now.
Washington (7-1): The Huskies have Oregon, Washington State, at Utah coming into Seattle. There’s also a road trip to Stanford. These are quality wins, but not ones that will necessarily vault the Huskies into the top five or top four. It is very possible Washington won’t have a victory over a team currently in the Top 25 come selection day.
Virginia Tech (7-1): The Hokies are way off the radar but have a great chance at becoming a contender. Winning at Miami on Saturday, then besting Virginia, Georgia Tech, and Pitt will mean a spot in the ACC title game — likely against Clemson.
Look, all of these potential one-loss conference champions have to take care of their business and get some help elsewhere. Or a lot of help elsewhere. But if history has been any indication, all hope should not be abandoned. Weird stuff happens.
The point is, tonight’s reveal is revealing and yet still an incomplete picture. Having big games in the future is an important data point, as is the lack thereof.