College Football Playoff predictions: Who will be in the inaugural top four?


The College Football Playoff is going to release their top 25 tonight at 6:30 PM Central time on ESPN. Now, obviously Iowa State isn’t going to be a part of this process sitting with a 2-5 record, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun and predict what’s going to happen.

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Let’s project what the top four teams will be in the top 25 and who should be in the top 25. Also, is there a chance for any Big 12 teams to make it?

First off, let’s take a look at how the top teams rank on various polls — the AP, Coaches, and I even threw in ESPN’s power rankings. Mississippi State, Florida State, and Alabama are the unanimous top three teams in the nation in that order. Those top two teams are undefeated, and Alabama bounced back after losing to Ole Miss earlier this season.

Here’s how the rankings shake out from fourth to eighth on all three polls:


  • 4. Auburn
  • 5. Oregon
  • 6. Notre Dame
  • 7. Ole Miss
  • 8. Michigan State


  • 4. Auburn
  • 5. Michigan State
  • 6. Oregon
  • 7. Notre Dame
  • 8. Georgia


  • 4. Oregon
  • 5. TCU
  • 6. Notre Dame
  • 7. Auburn
  • 8. Georgia

There’s some decent parody in that mix. ESPN tends to have the biggest shakeup, having Auburn three spots lower than the traditional two polls, having TCU all the way at 5th, and not having Michigan State in the top eight.

What the rankings will be

Here’s what the top four of the College Football Playoff’s first top 25 rankings will look like. We have the confidence percentage following the teams.

  1. Mississippi State (100%)
  2. Florida State (100%)
  3. Alabama (85%) [Oregon 15%]
  4. Oregon (40%) [Notre Dame 30%, Auburn 20%, Michigan State 10%]

Oct 25, 2014; Lexington, KY, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen talks with quarterback Dak Prescott (15) during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

It’s almost a guarantee that MSU and FSU will be the top two teams. They could be switched around, but the nation highly regards them as the top two teams. There’s a lot of separation between those two teams and the rest of the pack in every poll in terms of points.

If we still had the BCS system, both the Bulldogs and Seminoles could go undefeated and not worry about a thing — they would be in the national title because no other team would be able to leapfrog them.

I’m pretty confident that Nick Saban’s squad will get the nod at third like much of the nation thinks. The fourth slot is really a wild card, but because I don’t think the committee is comfortable putting in a third SEC team, I’ll give the edge to Oregon.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Notre Dame sees this slot either, as the committee could look at the near victory at Florida State and penalize the Ducks on the loss to Arizona and on their bad defensive performances throughout the year.

What the rankings should be

  1. Mississippi State
  2. Florida State
  3. Auburn
  4. Oregon

Oct 25, 2014; Knoxville, TN, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban before the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to fight against MSU and FSU. Undefeated is undefeated is undefeated. Right now, they should be the top two teams in the country. What gets scrappy is the last two spots right now. There are A TON of one loss teams, and those losses at the top are to other good one-loss teams.

So, why do I have Auburn and Oregon rounding out the top four, and how DARE I not have Alabama?? Well, I took a look at the overall schedule of each of these teams (so far) and their best victories.

Auburn has the edge over other one-loss SEC teams because of non-conference — they beat Kansas State. And Oregon’s there because they probably have the best non-conference win — an eventual blowout over Michigan State

Alabama doesn’t get the nod, although West Virginia is going to look like a better victory as the season progresses. Fear not, Crimson Tide, for the upcoming schedule can definitely push you in the top four. Just take care of business.

Why no Big 12 teams? What about TCU, Kansas State?

Oct 11, 2014; Waco, TX, USA; TCU Horned Frogs head coach Gary Patterson gives instructions to his team during the second half against the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium. The Bears defeat Horned Frogs 61-58. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There is still a lot of football to be played, and a lot more destruction in the top 10 to come. Any of the five ranked Big 12 teams could march their way to the top four if they continue winning. There’s an outside chance that TCU could be in the top 5 — they ARE in ESPN’s list, and if there weren’t preseason rankings, they would probably sit higher in the traditional polls.

A doomsday scenario for the conference would be if the best team has three losses. It could definitely happen given the structure of the schedule, but if there’s a lot of two-loss teams hovering around the last spot, the Big 12 teams should get just as much attention as anyone else. That includes you, SEC.

What are your thoughts on the College Football Playoff projections, and who do you think will be in the top four?