College Football Playoff Rankings prediction: USC moves to No. 5, Clemson jumps Alabama before Rivalry Week

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There was a little more separation created between the contenders and those not quite ready for prime time following Week 12. Tennessee took a bad loss in more ways than one, and USC emerged from the Pac-12 pile to secure a spot in the league’s title game. Rivalry week will surely bring some more unexpected results that could completely change how the College Football Playoff Rankings look entering the conference championship games ahead of Selection Sunday.

With two weeks left in the regular season, we are here to predict what the top 25 will look like when the committee announces its field Tuesday night. It is a warmup act for the warmup act, which is every edition of the CFP Rankings before the final one comes out after conference championship Saturday.

Before we get to the rankings themselves, here’s a refresher listing some of key points the committee members consider when deciding a team’s ranking beyond their on-field record:

  • Strength of schedule
  • Conference championships (when decided)
  • Head-to-head
  • Results vs. common opponents
  • Results vs. ranked opponents

Thankfully, the committee’s definition of “ranked opponents” is different than what you’re used to seeing. The rankings they use are the prior week’s CFP Rankings. They do not consider where teams are ranked when the games were played either in the CFP, AP Top 25, etc. Using game-time rankings is the most worthless way to determine “ranked opponents;” in fact, the committee specifically forbids the use of any poll that has a preseason starting point.

Notice that “game control” is not listed in the criteria. It never has been considered despite the term (or similar concepts) coming out of the mouth of the committee chairman at times the last few full seasons. (The CFP does not have a way to measure “game control” — I’ve seen the data the committee uses — but let’s not kid ourselves: They do talk about it.)

With all that in mind, here is how the CFP Rankings will look this week. Remember: This is not necessarily how I would vote if I were on the committee. I am merely predicting what they will do Tuesday night.

Note: This projection is based only on results to this point. It does not reflect the final forecast for the playoff. The complete bowl playoff and bowl projections through the end of the season can be found here.

College Football Playoff Rankings prediction

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