The College Football Playoff committee will release its first rankings of the season Tuesday night and which teams land in the top four is not all that important.
Last year, three of teams ranked in the first top four did not make the playoff.
What we might find are clues as to how the committee will value certain accomplishments later in the season and what teams still need to work on those resumes.
Here are five teams to watch when the rankings are revealed.
The committee showed last season that it would not simply rank teams by record – which is a good thing. A team with one-loss can be better than a team with none.
Alabama looks like the best of the one-loss bunch, though Stanford, Florida, Notre Dame and maybe even Oklahoma can also make a case. Where the Tide is ranked could give some insight into whether there is any chance an undefeated team from a Power Five conference could be left out of the playoff and if there is any shot a team that doesn’t win its conference championship reaches the semifinals.
The Bears are very good, but they have played the 104th toughest schedule in the country, according the Sagarin computer ratings.
Strength of schedule is important, but it’s not everything. Teams can overcome a weak schedule by being dominant against that lesser opposition and Baylor has definitely done that, outscoring opponents by 36 points per game.
Will the committee wait on Baylor’s schedule to toughen up as it did last year? The Bears were 13th in the first rankings, six spots behind TCU despite beating the Horned Frogs. Neither team lost another game. Eventually Baylor edged ahead of TCU in the final rankings, though both were left out of the playoff.
The committee was not impressed by Group of Five teams last season. For weeks the rankings had no teams from those conferences. Boise State ended up as the highest ranked team from the Group of Five, reaching No. 20 in the final rankings.
Memphis should change that this season. The Tigers have a marquee victory against a very good Mississippi team and an undefeated record.
Take note of where Memphis is ranked in comparison to Alabama and Ole Miss. The Rebels beat the Tide. So what the committee thinks of Alabama could influence where it ranks the Tigers.
The Spartans are undefeated, but how they have gotten there has been odd.
They looked as if they logged a huge nonconference victory against Oregon, but the Ducks have turned out to be in a down year. Then again Michigan State did play Oregon when Ducks quarterback Vernon Adams was healthy.
Then Michigan State spent a few weeks dodging upsets against Purdue and Rutgers. Not very impressive.
The Spartans best victory was against Michigan, and we all know how that went down.
How the committee assesses Michigan State’s resume could give some insight into how it will handle weird wins and a general lack of dominance.
What is a good loss worth? Notre Dame has some nice wins against USC and at Temple, but the centerpiece of its resume is a 24-22 loss at Clemson in a monsoon. The Irish outgained Clemson, fumbled at the goal line in the second half and missed a 2-point conversion to tie in the final minute.
Clemson is all but a lock to be in the committee’s top four. The Tigers have a good case to be No. 1. If so, it stands to reason the Irish’ performance in Death Valley will be highly regarded.
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.