The first batch of the 2021 College Football Playoff rankings are set to be released tonight on ESPN. It’s been a thrilling ride to the halfway point with numerous big jobs vacant, close games, and not-so-close games. Who will likely debut in the top ten of the playoff committee’s first set of rankings?
1. Georgia (8-0)
Georgia has been far and away the best team in the country, blowing out every team on their schedule to date. Their defense has carried the day, setting a historically dominant pace rivaled by few select teams in the history of college football. It’s no question who the top team is at this point, and they have a soft landing at home against woeful Missouri after a somewhat rigorous WLOCP effort against hated rival Florida last week.
The offense has done more than its fair share of work, scoring 30+ multiple times despite not needing to most days. It can be argued that they haven’t pressed the hammer down yet and don’t have to until Atlanta. If they can win it all, expect some comparative talk to the 2001 Miami Hurricanes or 2013 Florida State Seminoles.
Next Game: 11/6 HOME vs. Missouri
2. Alabama (7-1)
The reigning national champions have been efficiently effective against their opponents, save that one loss on the road in primetime at College Station. Like Georgia, they haven’t been tested too strenuously throughout the season to this point. The defense has been worrisome under nominal DC Pete Golding’s watch, however.
Bryce Young has been on the fringes of Heisman contention, replacing first round selection Mac Jones as the point man. The offense is capable of exploding at any time due to its still litany of perimeter weapons such as John Metchie and prohibitive Biletnikoff favorite Jameson Williams. Next up is a post bye week home date against a reeling LSU team that just fired their head coach and has injuries out the wazoo.
Next Game: 11/6 HOME vs. LSU
3. Ohio State (7-1)
After a brief interlude that saw them struggle a bit coming out of the gates, it appears that head coach Ryan Day has the Buckeyes rolling again. CJ Stroud struggled mightily early on but has turned it on and has himself in Heisman contention (surprise, it turns out that freshmen struggle early).
The defense was a mess until revitalizing itself against a relatively soft schedule. It has too much talent to not to improve. It can be favorably argued that they have the “best loss” in the country coming against Oregon. Next for them is an away contest to horrendous Nebraska playing out the string for likely unemployed Scott Frost.
Next Game: 11/6 AWAY @ Nebraska
4. Oklahoma (9-0)
9-0 is 9-0 no matter how you got there, but with the Sooners defense being its usual traditionally leaky self, it has been a journey. Freshman quarterback Caleb Williams has been a breath of fresh air compared to the now benched Spencer Rattler, who was struggling to put it mildly.
Williams led the improbable comeback against Texas and stole the game from Kansas. Yes, the very same Kansas that has struggled in football as much as the basketball program wins. The schedule is relatively light going forward but with the Sooners apt to get into trouble, it will likely lose a game it has no business losing. Up next, a road trip to Baylor who is ascending up the conference ranks quickly.
Next Game: 11/13 AWAY @ Baylor
5. Cincinnati (8-0)
Ah, those lovable Bearcats from the state of Ohio. They get to the fifth spot based on merit but it is a tenuous hold as they haven’t looked good in a few weeks. Struggle wins against that schedule will look rather indefensible in the meeting room.
Notre Dame was the lone highlight on the schedule, and depending on the Irish is a fool’s errand historically. The Bearcats have a chance to go undefeated with their schedule but will it be enough to impress the voters to vault them over the big boys? Will Luke Fickell even coach them in a bowl game?
Next Game: 11/6 HOME vs. Tulsa
6. Oregon (7-1)
The reigning Pac12 champions simultaneously own the biggest win of the season (Ohio State on the road) and probably the worst loss of the season (Stanford) to date. The Ducks have been a mixed bag of collective meh so far on both sides of the ball.
Quarterback Anthony Brown has been wildly inconsistent while 2022 EDGE1 Kayvon Thibodeaux has been a force to be reckoned with — when healthy. They have had way too many injuries as well. A spiraling Washington team awaits as a road game this week. The Ducks need some help getting in and they aren’t getting it from their bad conference mates.
Next Game: 11/6 AWAY @ Washington
7. Michigan State (9-0)
Sparty is 9-0 and coming off a close victory against bitter rival Michigan last week. Mel Tucker has reignited a dormant team in East Lansing with an unexpectedly explosive offense. That offense is paced by running back Kenneth Walker III, who should be firmly in the Heisman conversation and a high draft pick.
Defensively, they will be stout as per usual. They are currently leading the Big Ten East pack as of this writing. A date at The Shoe awaits after two relatively winnable games. That game will likely determine the East representative in Indianapolis.
Next Game: 11/6 AWAY @ Purdue
8. Wake Forest (8-0)
The Demon Deacons are exciting in every way this season with an equally sublime offense and a defense that needs work. One of the surprise teams this season, that’s for sure. They are the favorites to win the ACC Atlantic, but have a daunting schedule with three straight division foes capable of pulling off the upset.
An away date with the inconsistently consistent Tar Heels is coming this weekend. Can the Deacs muster enough defense to close things out to get to Charlotte unblemished?
Next Game: 11/6 AWAY @ UNC
9. Michigan (7-1)
Jim Harbaugh’s charges are coming off a deflating loss but still are in the thick of things in the Big Ten East. They will need to win out and hope for the Spartans to lose twice in the coming weeks to secure the division crown.
Harbaugh has had a rough go of things against his rivals, including a glaring winless streak against Ohio State. He will need to correct that in order to likely extend his employment status in Ann Arbor. Still, the Wolverines have a good team anchored by dominant EDGE Aidan Hutchinson. Three consecutive winnable games before The Game. Can they rebound this week against Indiana?
Next Game: 11/6 HOME vs. Indiana
10. Notre Dame (7-1)
Those Fighting Irish always seem to be in the conversation, yet so far away. Their only loss is to the second-ranked Bearcats. A home game against the United States Naval Academy is coming and you know what they say about games against triple option teams with very little prep time.
However, the schedule is set up for an undefeated November. They probably won’t be in the playoff this season as there are way too many programs to jump and the schedule has failed them spectacularly.
Next Game: 11/6 HOME vs. Navy