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Early projections for College Football Playoff ahead of Week 5

Here’s our best guess as to where teams would be ranked if the College Football Playoff Selection Committee was releasing their rankings today.

The College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy is seen on the field prior to the game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Tennessee Volunteers at Sanford Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Athens, Georgia. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The 2023 college football season is swiftly moving along as we’ve already reached Week 5 within the sport. As September turns to October and we transition towards the midway point of the campaign, the College Football Playoff begins to come into focus.

Traditionally, the CFP committee has waited until around Halloween to release its first batch of rankings as by then, they’ll have two months worth of data points to judge contenders. According to their website, their criteria for ranking teams is based off the teams’ on-field performance, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, comparison of results against common opponents, and at the end of the season, conference championships won (even though we’ve seen teams who didn’t win their conference still get in).

While we’re still about a month out from the committee releasing its first batch of rankings, it’s not to early to guess how they’d stack the top six right now. Here’s our best guess as to how they’d slot the top of the board:

  1. Florida State Seminoles
  2. Georgia Bulldogs
  3. Texas Longhorns
  4. Ohio State Buckeyes
  5. Michigan Wolverines
  6. Penn State Nittany Lions

Florida State has looked the part of a College Football Playoff team and has the strongest resume of any contender so far. The Noles opened the season by blowing past an LSU team that was ranked No. 5 in the preseason AP poll and notched a huge road victory at Clemson this past weekend. I think the committee would reward FSU for these big-time victories with a No. 1 ranking.

Meanwhile, Georgia has mostly mowed through weaker competition so far to open the season. While there’s definitely an #AintPlayedNobody element with the Dawgs’ schedule, they’d most likely get the respect from the committee as the two-time defending national champion by clocking in at No. 2.

When taking strength of schedule into account, Texas and Ohio State already have victories in highly anticipated heavyweight fights and that’s why they show up at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively. The Longhorns went into Tuscaloosa and handed Alabama a double-digit home loss while Ohio State went into South Bend and survived a big-time battle against Notre Dame. Those two performances warrant a playoff berth for both powerhouses.

On the outside looking in are Michigan and Penn State and in the Wolverines’ case, it’s a function of #AintPlayedNobody. This will eventually settle itself when Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan all play each other later in the season. The same goes for Pac-12 powers like USC, Oregon, and Washington, who will be getting into the thick of their league schedules in the coming weeks.

Based on these rankings, here is how the College Football Playoffs would look if the season ended today:

Rose Bowl, January 1, 5 p.m. ET

No. 2 Georgia vs. No. 3 Texas

Sugar Bowl, January 1, 8:45 p.m. ET

No. 1 Florida State* vs. No. 4 Ohio State

*The top-ranked team gets to elect where it will play in its semifinal game. In this scenario, FSU would elect to go just over five hours from Tallahassee to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl.