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The First CFP Rankings Are Out! But Who Can Reach the Final Four?

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North Carolina: Probably not gonna make it this year.

NCAA Football: Georgia at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In the midst of a rough year for Carolina football, November represents a great time to get out, pop your knuckles, and check out what the rest of the college football world has to offer. If the first three years’ initial CFP rankings, from which a total of six teams ended up making the subsequent playoff, are any indication...we’re in for a wild ride down the stretch.

Because America is obsessed with odd consistencies and routines, the playoff committee is forced to rank 25 teams. Yes, Ohio State rallied from #16 in 2014’s initial rankings to win the national title, and Oklahoma started November at #15 the next year, but teams such as #16 Mississippi State, #24 Memphis, and #25 Washington State have no real shot of hoisting the trophy.

Who does, though? Glad you asked.

Group I: Win Out And They’re In

Teams: Georgia (1), Alabama (2), Notre Dame (3), Clemson (4), Ohio State (6), Wisconsin (9), Miami (10)

Obvious disclaimer: These teams can’t all win out. Georgia and Alabama are on their own respective death marches to the SEC Championship game. Holding a Georgia degree (haha got a picture of them on the THB page), I, along with most of the college football world, hope they’re more 2009 Alabama than 2008 Alabama. If you’ll remember, the last two 1 vs. 2 conference championships pitted tired champion Florida against upstart Alabama. The Tide won in 2009 and haven’t stopped winning since.

With blowouts over USC and N.C. State, Notre Dame has shifted the narrative to where they are now terrifying. They’re a deserving number three. Clemson is riding the strength of its September, which will carry them if they don’t slip up again. Miami is on this list if they stay undefeated, which would theoretically include a win over...Clemson (or possibly N.C. State).

Wisconsin’s best win to date is FAU. They don’t have one on their schedule. Ohio State would be a ranked win. The unfortunate thing is, a 13-0 Wisconsin or a 12-1 Ohio State gets in ahead of the SEC Championship loser, and that’s unfortunate.

Group II: Oh, Hey, Big XII (And More Teams Who Need Help)

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Teams: Oklahoma (5), Penn State (7), TCU (8), Oklahoma State (11), Washington (12), Virginia Tech (13), Iowa State (15), UCF (18)

I’ve been preaching for a month now that the Big XII is the most fun conference in football, and this confirms it. All four teams mentioned above are 4-1 in the conference, with Bedlam this week, Oklahoma/TCU, and Oklahoma State/Iowa State still to come. If any one of them wins out (plus their STUPID conference championship game), I’d bet on them making it.

For Penn State, the schadenfruede shoe is on the other foot from last year, and I love it. They howled about Ohio State making the CFP despite a head-to-head win over the Buckeyes (ignoring their two losses), and are perfectly positioned to finish #5 again with no Big Ten title to show for it.

Has anyone seen Washington play this year? Chris Petersen thinks you have not.

Virginia Tech is a serious dark horse. They’re favored at Miami this week, and could cruise from there into the ACC Championship game at 11-1. Or, Justin Fuente could do the right thing and take the Florida job.

The highest ranked initial Group of 5 teams in the first three years are as follows: 2014, 15, 16: Notre Dame at 10, 11, and 10ECU (23 in 2014), Boise State (23 in 2015), Houston (15 in 2016). By that logic, Central Florida is positioned well. Does their presence require continuing to paste the AAC? Sure. Does it also require absolute chaos ahead of them? Oh man. It’d need to be down to them, or like, a three-loss N.C. State. Go buy your Knights gear now.

Tier III: Spoilers

Teams: Auburn (14), LSU (19), N.C. State (20), Stanford (21), Michigan State (24)

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Michigan
Michigan State will beat someone 13-8 and ruin their season.
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

They don’t really have a shot of making the playoff, but could make lives miserable in the process.

Auburn: home vs. Georgia (11/11), Alabama (11/25)

LSU: at Alabama (Saturday) /shrugs

N.C. State: home vs. Clemson (Saturday)

Stanford: home vs. Washington (11/10) & Notre Dame (11/25)

Michigan State: home vs. Penn State (Saturday), at Ohio State (11/11)

Auburn, Stanford, and Michigan State could theoretically WRECK SOME S***.

Tier IV: “We Had to Come Up with 25 Teams, So Here You Go”

NCAA Football: Washington State at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Teams: Mississippi State (16), USC (17), Arizona (22), Memphis (23), Washington State (25)

Technically, USC and Arizona could’ve qualified as spoilers, but the winner of this Saturday’s game has a long way to go before getting a chance to dethrone Washington. Washington State gets that chance first, buuuuuuttttt Washington State lost 37-3 to Cal.

This whole group is just the ‘musical chairs’ list at the bottom of the rankings. Could Memphis lose and USF sneak in next week, with nobody noticing? Sure! Is Minnesota ranked yet? No? WATCH OUT!

My personal experience with Mississippi State is watching them get outscored 87-13 by Georgia and Auburn. NOT A GOOD LOOK, BULLDOGS!

Arizona deserves a Khalil Tate mulligan for somehow not realizing he is the best player in America until their bye week. If anyone from tier IV makes some noise, it’d better be Arizona.