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The first College Football Playoff rankings come out tonight. Here's what to watch

Matt Baker has Michigan among his top four teams.

AP photo

Matt Baker has Michigan among his top four teams.



Tonight will give us our first glimpse of which teams have the best shot at coming to Tampa for the Jan. 9 national title game at Raymond James Stadium.

That's because the first College Football Playoff rankings will be unveiled at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

You can read all about how the selection committee comes up with those rankings here, based on my experience on a media mock committee last month.

Joey Knight and I are planning to do a Facebook Live event after the rankings are unveiled. You can join us here.

In the meantime, a few things I'll be watching for tonight:

1. What's the order of the top four? As our Tom Jones wrote in today's Times, the top four seems pretty obvious: Alabama, Clemson, Michigan and Washington. If all four win out, those are your semifinalists. But what's the order? My guess: Bama is first, because the Crimson Tide has simply dominated. Clemson is second because it has three impressive wins (at Auburn, Louisville and at Florida State), followed by the Wolverines and Huskies, in that order.

2. Who's the top one-loss team? This one could matter, because I doubt the top four all finish undefeated; that's not how college football works. How highly does the committee regard Louisville, which probably won't even win its own division? And how does that compare to Ohio State (which still could)? Or Baylor/West Virginia? Which brings us to...

3. How low is the Big 12? Because college football rarely makes any sense, it's foolish to count out the Big 12 completely. But the league will need a lot of help to get in. The first set of rankings will tell us which teams the conference needs to root for: Does Oklahoma have a more impressive resume already than West Virginia? Is Baylor so lowly regarded that a non-championship team from another league (Louisville? Ohio State?) might get in over the hypothetical 11-1 Bears?

4. What's the top Group of Five team? Boise State seemed like the frontrunner (and a potential dark horse in the CFP race). Saturday's loss to Wyoming changed that. Western Michigan looks like the top team now, which would have the Broncos rowing the boat all the way to a New Year's Six Bowl.

[Last modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2016 11:35am]


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