College Football Playoff rankings predictions: Who will make top four?

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College Football

Oct. 30, 2023 10:08 a.m. ET

The College Football Playoff Selection Committee will reveal its first set of rankings on Tuesday.

Here is a look at the top contenders through Week 9. 

Ohio State has a case to be the No. 1

The Buckeyes are a force at full load, and they showed that at Notre Dame, against Penn State without the presence of TreVeyon Henderson or Emeka Egbuka, and on Saturday at Wisconsin.

They possess the man who ought to be a Heisman finalist and Biletnikoff Award winner. His name is Marvin Harrison Jr., and he had six catches for 123 yards with two TDs in a 24-10 win against the Badgers. Another Ohio State home run hitter, running back TreVeyon Henderson, did just that with 24 rushes for 162 yards (207 total) and a TD.

The Buckeyes defense just doesn’t let folks score. Now Braelon Allen wasn’t in this game for very long, as he left with an injury just before halftime. And injured QB Tanner Mordecai didn’t play at all. Still, the Buckeyes haven’t given up more than 17 points to a single opponent all year and have held six opponents to 12 or fewer — including Penn State.

Why Ohio State might be college football’s best team

Georgia is Georgia 

This is the first time since the 1940s that Georgia (8-0) has beaten Florida three times in a row by at least 20 points. And this latest whooping came without Brock Bowers. They’ve not only gone 41-1 since their last loss to Florida in 2020, but have won 25 straight. Their latest is their most impressive, with a ranked Missouri squad on the calendar this Saturday.

An undefeated UGA in the SEC title game feels like a lock for the CFP, even if it were to lose that title game — especially if that loss is close, and come against Alabama

Ohio State has a better résumé than both Georgia and Michigan, with ranked wins against Notre Dame and Penn State. Georgia has one ranked win (Kentucky), and Michigan hasn’t played a ranked team all year.

The Michigan question

When it comes to Michigan, the difference for me is that the Wolverines have throttled every opponent, and they play better with a chip. It’s fitting because the phrase comes from the 19th century when a dude would put a block of wood — a chip — on his shoulder and belligerently dare someone to knock it off if they wanted to fight.  

It’s self-inflicted — just like this sign-stealing-cheating scandal. As I am a man powered by slights both real and imagined, as fierce in a fight as I am spoiling for one, I recognize how pyrrhic these last few seasons must feel in light of this alleged dark corner of Michigan football being exposed naked, bare and ghastly like John McClane wearing nothing but a sandwich board in Harlem.

I understand where you’re coming from, Michigan fans. I have a tattoo of a chip on my right shoulder, Rudyard Kipling’s “If” tattooed on my left shoulder and William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus” tattooed on my right forearm. But I also doubt the rest of us can ignore that Michigan has owned Ohio State for the last two years and that it looks once again like the de facto CFP quarterfinal will be on Thanksgiving weekend.

Perhaps it’s simple for many that the reason the Wolverines won The Game these last two years is that they knew what plays were coming. But it’s not so simple. Just because you know what’s coming doesn’t mean you can stop it. Now that it appears your coaching staff enabled cheating — ignorantly or not — all players can do is what they have for the last two years: Win. And leave no doubt in the month of November.

What to expect in the Michigan sign-stealing investigation

Florida State can get there, but then what?

Oregon would be right where the Seminoles are if it had beaten Washington. That’s how much better the Ducks have looked since they played Washington, how bad Washington has looked since earning that signature win, and how little I trust Florida State to not get rocked by the No. 1 ranked team in the CFP.

I look at Florida State and I see 2014 FSU. I see Jordan Travis and Florida State like I saw Desmond Ridder and Cincinnati in 2021. They’re good enough to make the CFP, but I have reservations about whether the Noles can win the national title.

I see FSU’s defense and see a ceiling similar to LSU’s 2019 defense. I see FSU’s offense and see a ceiling similar to Oklahoma’s 2019 offense. 

2023 LSU wasn’t the No. 5 team to me when they played FSU, and they’ve made me right. LSU has a chance to make that win look much better on Saturday with a win against Alabama. 

Still, FSU beat up a Duke team that didn’t have its best player, quarterback Riley Leonard, for the second half. FSU was losing to Duke 20-17 when Leonard was in the game. That same Duke team got skunked by a Louisville team that lost to hapless Pitt, but also beat Notre Dame.

Recency bias helps them, though, because they stomped out Wake Forest in a week when Michigan didn’t play and Oklahoma lost. 

With Oklahoma’s loss to Kansas and Texas’ loss to Oklahoma, the Big 12’s only shot to make the CFP lies in the Sooners or Longhorns running the table with a Big 12 title in their pocket, while also hoping UW slips, Oregon slips again, or FSU messes up a perfect season.

The Big Ten and SEC are getting a team apiece in this thing. As to who? We’ll see.

How the CFP rankings will look on Tuesday

Here’s how I see things shaking out when the CFP committee reveals its rankings on Tuesday:  

1. Georgia

Recency bias — mostly that the Dawgs have won the last two national titles — applies.

2. Ohio State

The Buckeyes have the best résumé in the sport but have not beaten Michigan in two years.

3. Florida State 

FSU has ranked wins against LSU and Duke, but trailed both of those teams in the second half and needed overtime to beat the worst Clemson team we’ve seen in more than a decade.

4. Michigan

Undefeated in the regular season dating back to Oct. 30, 2021, and the two-time defending Big Ten Conference champ. Their only sin on the field is not having played a team anybody thinks is elite — yet.

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The Number One College Football Show.” Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young and subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube.

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