Way-too-early College Football Playoff Picture: Key Dates, Top Contenders entering Week 3
We’re barely halfway through September, and there’s plenty of college football left to come, with many of the top teams yet to face major tests. Even this early in the season, however, fans nationwide are thinking about the college football playoff picture – defending champions Georgia lead the way so far in 2023, but there’s lots of action still to come. Can Texas keep the momentum after a breakthrough win over Alabama? Is Florida State for real? Do Michigan and Ohio State have the Big Ten locked up, or can surging Penn State break through? Keep reading for an overview of playoff structure, ranking timing and key dates to know, as well as how the playoff picture stands entering Week 3.
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When do College Football Playoff rankings come out?
The first CFP rankings of the 2023 season will be released on Tuesday, October 31, after Week 9 of play. From then on, new CFP rankings will come out every Tuesday for the remainder of the regular season.
Rankings are determined each week by the College Football Playoff committee, a 13-member group that includes people with experience as coaches, student-athletes, college administrators, journalists, and athletic directors.
The CFP rankings – which go up to #25 – are based on the committee’s assessment of each team. The committee looks at head-to-head results, strength of schedule, and conference titles, among other factors.
How many teams make the College Football Playoff?
Four teams will qualify for the College Football Playoff in the 2023 season. The four teams will be selected by the College Football Playoff committee and announced on December 3, the Sunday after all conference championship games have been played.
In 2024, the playoff will expand to 12 teams, with [some] less subjective selection procedures. For now, the top four teams in the final CFP rankings make the playoff.
When is the College Football Playoff?
Two semifinals will be played on New Year’s Day (Monday, Jan. 1) – the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA, and the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, LA.
The national championship game takes place a week later on Monday, January 8, in Houston.
College Football Playoff Picture Entering Week 3
Entering Week 3 of the college football season, almost no teams are out of the playoff race. Many teams haven’t begun conference play, and most top teams haven’t faced tough competition yet.
Without the CFP rankings for the first eight weeks of the season, the AP rankings are the best guide to how things may shake out down the road. The current AP rankings list the top four as follows:
These teams are followed by USC at No. 5 and Ohio State at No. 6.
Top-ranked Georgia, the reigning back-to-back national champions, have yet to face a formidable opponent and are largely ranked at No. 1 thanks to their resume and talented roster. Georgia begins conference play this weekend, hosting South Carolina at home. The Dawgs should roll past the Gamecocks in Athens and hang onto the No. 1 spot for another week.
Michigan is in a similar situation as Georgia, having made the CFP the last two years (losing in the semifinals each time) and riding those achievements along with a deep roster of returning players for their No. 2 spot. The Wolverines open conference play at home in Week 4 against Rutgers. If they play to their ability on paper, it’s unlikely Michigan is challenged until Week 11, when the team travels to take on an ascending Penn State (currently No. 7).
Betting every matchup of the Big Ten Week 3 slate
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Unlike the top two, Florida State and Texas have already proven their strength in big games this season. Florida State opened the season against LSU and stomped the Tigers 45-24, led by Heisman hopeful Jordan Travis at QB.
As an ACC team, FSU won’t have the strongest schedule on the CFP committee’s list, so statement wins will be important for them. They can earn another one Week 4 at Clemson, the only ACC team to have made the playoff since it began in 2014.
Texas earned their No. 4 ranking by knocking off the previous number four, Alabama, last week in Tuscaloosa. A strong Texas defense combined with a great game from QB Quinn Ewers earned the Longhorns the win and their highest AP ranking since 2010, when they opened the season at No. 5.
While Alabama was Texas’ toughest opponent on paper, the Longhorns have to get through several tough teams if they want to win the Big 12 – a likely requirement for them to make the playoff. Weeks to watch for Texas include Week 6 against Oklahoma, Week 10 against Kansas State, and Week 11 at TCU, who last season became the first Big 12 team to make the national championship game (lost to Georgia).
With four conferences represented in the current top four, the odd man out is the Pac 12 – ironic because the Pac 12 is the strongest it’s ever been. This week, eight Pac 12 teams are ranked in the AP top 25, the most in conference history for a single week. Those eight are led by No. 5 USC, with 2022 Heisman winner Caleb Williams under center. The Trojans may be sitting at No. 5 now, but should they run the table in the Pac 12, it’s hard to think they wouldn’t have a case for top four given the gauntlet of their upcoming schedule: vs. Colorado, at Notre Dame, vs. Utah, at Washington, at Oregon, vs. UCLA (all currently ranked).
The bottom line is that entering Week 3, nearly every team still controls its own destiny to make the playoff. Any conference champion will have a chance to be in, and with so few games having been played, no team is out of the running to win its conference yet.
How to Watch Week 3 College Football on NBC and Peacock
Washington Huskies vs. Michigan State Spartans
Syracuse Orange vs. Purdue Boilermakers