top of page

Adam's College Football Playoff Rankings: Strength of Schedule

For the first time in the history of the College Football Playoff, we have legit debate on who is going to make this year's playoff. This time tomorrow we will know who the committee has put forward and who is on the outside. With USC and TCU both losing their respective conference championship games, it has opened the door for Ohio State and Alabama to squeeze their way in, even though they did not play in their respective conference championship games.

No one really knows what the committee actually discusses in these meetings. Fans all over are fighting for why their team should make the playoffs. The current system is not fool proof. There is always going to be someone left out and there will always be a reason why they should have gotten in and why whoever got in should not have.

I wanted to do a quick case study ahead of the playoff announcement. I looked at the current top 12 of the CFB Playoff rankings and their schedules. I based my playoff rankings based only on their strength of schedule and their results. I am not focusing on the "eye test" because there is so much debate.

I do want to say, this is not what I think will happen or what I agree with. However, I wanted to see what would happen if we only focused on their schedules. I know how I did it was not perfect, and I am sure if I sat down for hours, it would be even better. However, who has time for that? So instead of ripping me apart over how I did, we can have a fun discussion over the results!

Ranking Criteria

Each game was given a score. At the end of the season, we added up the point totals and that gave us our final rankings.

Win over unranked opponent- 1 point
Win over ranked opponent- 3 points
Loss to unranked opponent - -3 points
Loss to ranked opponent- -2 points
Conference Championship Win- 5 points
Conference Championship loss- -1 points
No Conference Championship appearance- -2 points

I personally value a Conference Championship appearance over a team that sat home on Saturday. To make it to a conference championship game is huge, and it is even bigger to win the game. A team that does not play in the conference championship game should not be rewarded, so for my ranking criteria they will receive negative points.

Adam's CFB Playoff Rankings

1 Geogia (21 points)

This was obviously going to be the case. No losses, plus ranked wins over Oregon and Tennessee all led to this. They had the big wins, a conference championship, and no losses. The defending champs have been great all season long.

2. Michigan (21 points)

They have the same number of points as Georgia. The way I picked one over another is simple. The defending champs are defending champs till they got knocked off. Ranked wins over Penn State and Ohio State have helped cap off an undefeated season for Michigan. On top of that they won the Big Ten for a second straight season with a win over Purdue.

3. TCU (21 points)

How did I put TCU 3rd when they have the same number of points as Georgia and Michigan. This is conference championship. TCU might not have won the Big 12, but even with an OT loss to K-State, they had ranked wins over Oklahoma. Kansas, Oklahoma State, Kansas State (regular season), and Texas.

4. Clemson (16 points)

Here we go, the first surprise I had when I made these rankings. The loss to South Carolina was bad, but they did have ranked wins over Wake Forest, NC State, and Syracuse. On top of 3 ranked wins, they added an ACC Championship. The two losses hurt, but when one of them was to a ranked team it did not hurt their score as much. This is a clear case of the ACC Championship saved their season.

5. Tennessee (13 points)

For a while, we thought Tennessee was the best team in the country. They had ranked wins over Pitt, Florida, LSU, Alabama, and Kentucky. However, an unranked loss to South Carolina as well as a loss to Georgia, plus no conference championship knocked them just out of the CFB Playoff.

6. USC (12 points)

For a while, USC was not going to be ranked this high. However, ranked wins over UCLA and Notre Dame to close the regular season helped get some points. However, two losses to Utah have Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams on the outside of the playoffs.

7. Kansas State (11 points)

The first team to benefit from a victory in a conference championship game. They did have wins over ranked Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. However, losses to Tulane, TCU (regular season), and Texas knocked them down in the rankings.

8. Ohio State (11 points)

I do not agree with this at all, and I was very surprised. I fully expected Ohio State to be ranked higher. However, they have just two ranked wins over Notre Dame and Penn State, but the loss to Michigan and no conference championship appearance knocked them down. The lack of strength of schedule was not in the favor of the Buckeyes.

9. Alabama (10 points)

Nick Saban thinks Bama going 3-0 to end the season was enough to put him in the playoffs. Yeah okay, let's just forget about the losses to Tennessee and LSU. They did have wins over Arkansas, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss. Alabama has 2 losses and no conference championship appearance, and very soon no playoff spot.

10. Utah (9 points)

That Pac-12 Championship helped a lot. They only had 1 ranked win over USC in the regular season and a handful of losses to Florida, UCLA, and Oregon. The losses hurt any chance that Utah had of smelling the playoffs this season.

11 Washington (8 points)

Washington actually had a great season. They had wins over ranked teams like Michigan State, Oregon State, and Oregon. However, unranked losses to UCLA and Arizona State hurt any chances of smelling the playoffs.

12. Penn State (4 points)

I was really shocked at how low Penn State scored. However, take a look at their schedule. They had 2 losses to Ohio State and Michigan. They did not play for a conference championship, and more importantly they had 0 wins over ranked opponents. I am sure if I did this for the entire top 25, Penn State would be much lower than 12.

Wrap it up

Again, what I just presented was a very basic case study. I put it together in about 30 minutes. I wanted to see what the playoffs would look like if we just looked at the schedule. The top 3 of Georgia, Michigan, and TCU are fairly consistent of what we expect the actual playoff to look like. Even with a Big 12 Championship loss, TCU's dominant regular season should be enough for them to make the playoffs this year.

That 4th spot is what shocked me the most. Clemson had a good season even with the losses. They had one really bad loss, but like I said earlier I value playing in a conference championship over sitting at home. 4,5, and 6 all had 2 losses. The difference between them all, Clemson won the ACC, while the other two did not win their respective conferences. Even though Tennessee did not make the SEC Championship, their 5 wins over ranked opponents was enough to give them the nod over USC. The Ohio State result was shocking. The win over Penn State and Notre Dame were huge, but when you compare Clemson, Tennessee, and USC, Ohio State's schedule did not match up. The teams ahead of them had Conference Championship wins and appearances as well as more wins over ranked opponents.

Overall, these rankings will not be anywhere close to what the actual rankings are. Like I said, I focused on strength of schedule and not the eye test. If there are 4 and 64 spots in the playoffs, the debate over that 5th or 65th will always be a thing. However, this year's playoff proved that 4 is not enough. All the teams listed above should be given a shot and all realistically could make a run. I am looking forward to 2024 when instead of saying "by losing USC knocked themselves out of playoff contention," we are saying "by winning Utah just clinched a spot in the playoff."

I have no idea what the playoff committee will announce as the top 4 teams ( I guarantee this is not it), but I know we need to expand the playoff ASAP!


Honorable Mention Playoff Team?????



bottom of page