Tonight is the big reveal.

The only rankings that matter.

The College Football Playoff rankings.

Tonight, the CFP Selection Committee takes its first step toward picking the 4 teams that will play for the national title.

Rankings will be released every Tuesday night on ESPN until the Playoff field is revealed on Sunday, Dec. 8. The schedule:

  • Nov. 5: 9-9:30 pm
  • Nov. 12: 7 pm
  • Nov. 19: 7 pm
  • Nov. 26: 7 pm
  • Dec. 3: 7 pm
  • Sunday, Dec. 8: 12 pm

A little background to ease your anxiety …

The initial Playoff rankings have never included all 4 eventual Playoff teams, but they have gotten better. Each of the past 2 years, the 1st CFP poll had 3 eventual Playoff teams.

By year, here’s a look at where the Playoff teams were ranked in the initial poll.

Year
Champion (rank)
Runner-up (rank)
Team (rank)
Team (rank)
2018
Clemson (2)
Alabama (1)
Notre Dame (4)
Oklahoma (7)
2017
Alabama (2)
Georgia (1)
Clemson (4)
Oklahoma (5)
2016
Clemson (2)
Alabama (1)
Washington (5)
Ohio State (6)
2015
Alabama (4)
Clemson (1)
Michigan State (7)
Oklahoma (15)
2014
Ohio State (16)
Oregon (5)
FSU (2)
Alabama (6)

Enough history.

After 10 weeks of play, this is what I think the Playoff Selection Committee’s top 10 will look like tonight.

No. 1 LSU

The Tigers are undefeated, have 3 wins against top 10 teams and a top 5 scoring offense led by Joe Burrow, a Heisman Trophy frontrunner. What’s not to like?

Rankings note: Twice, the No. 1 team in the AP poll has not been the No. 1 team in the first CFP poll.

2. Ohio State

Recency certainly carried the day in the final vote in 2014. This is a new committee, but Ohio State’s 31-point victory over then-No. 13 Wisconsin will carry a lot of weight. It quiets the notion that OSU had merely beaten up on bad teams. And it puts the Big Ten firmly in the Playoff hunt. The knock? OSU didn’t even play a Power 5 team out of conference.

Rankings note: The initial No. 2 seed has won the past 3 national championships.

3. Clemson

The Tigers squeaked past UNC but also have a signature nonconference win that OSU lacks — a 14-point victory over then-No. 12 Texas A&M. The Tigers also are the reigning champs who are riding a 24-game winning streak and scored more in October than any Power 5 team in the country. I have them at No. 2 in my Overreactions poll, but I think the committee will give OSU credit for the Wisconsin win and no close calls.

Rankings note: No team ranked No. 3 in the initial poll has made the Playoff. Those teams, by year:

2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
Auburn
Ohio State
Michigan
Notre Dame
LSU

4. Alabama

Why this low? There is no signature win to speak of. Yet. Texas A&M was No. 24 by the time the Tide pounded them. That’s their lone Top 25 win. For buildup purposes, they could be No. 2, just as they are in the AP poll, but between Tua Tagovailoa’s injury and the weak schedule thus far, don’t scream if they’re lower. (I had them No. 4 Sunday in Overreactions.) Obviously, the showdown against No. 1 LSU is the Tide’s opportunity to silence all of this. Either way, the Tide are safely in the top 4.

5. Georgia

The Dawgs have a surprising loss. The Dawgs also have 2 wins over top 10 teams. Nobody below them can say that. The committee will reward a challenging schedule.

6. Penn State

The Nittany Lions are undefeated, but they also haven’t played a team ranked in the top 15. The schedule picks up soon.

7. Oregon

It’s amazing how teams “recover” from an SEC loss and “improve” once they get back in their conference. Oregon is the latest example. The Ducks’ biggest impediment to making the Playoff might actually be how far Auburn’s reputation has fallen since opening day.

8. Oklahoma

There is no excusing the Kansas State loss, and ultimately I think that keeps the Big 12 out of the Playoff. But the committee will recognize the talent advantage the Sooners have over Baylor and reward the Sooners for their victory over then-No. 11 Texas, too. I think they’re better than Oregon, but I expect the committee to slot the Ducks higher.

9. Utah

The Utes are 8-1 and lead the Pac-12 South. Are they any good? They’ve only played 1 ranked team and the only way they will play anybody in the top 15 is if they face Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

10. Baylor

The Bears are undefeated and will have to stay that way to make the Playoff. The committee will notice the 3 close calls and 0 notable victories. But there is a path. They likely will have to beat Oklahoma twice to make it.

What about anybody outside the Top 10?

Sorry, it’s not happening.

Ohio State and Oklahoma clearly were on the outside looking in in 2014 and 2015, respectively, but no team lower than 7 has made the Playoff the past 3 years.

Minnesota is undefeated and likely will be outside the top 10, but its perfect start could end as soon as Saturday’s visit from Penn State. Get past that, and the Gophers still have ranked teams in Iowa and Wisconsin to navigate just to earn the right to beat the SEC East champion. Minnesota is more likely to finish 9-3 than 12-0.

For teams expected to be lower than No. 7, Baylor has a path. In theory, Utah does, too. Neither can lose, and even as a 1-loss Pac-12 champ, Utah probably would need some chaos to climb into the 4th spot.