Breaking Down the College Football Playoff's Potential Top 10

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It's beginning to look a lot like College Football Playoff season. 

The committee released its first Top 25 rankings for the postseason, and there will be four other reveals before the list is finalized. 

The other release days are as follows, with the final selection day being the weekend all Power 5 conference championship games are played.

  • 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1
  • 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8
  • 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 15
  • 12 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20 (Selection Day)

The 2020 football season has been topsy turvy at best, featuring a stop-and-go rhythm because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Programs went through extensive testing, social distancing protocols and mask mandates to have the chance to play on Saturdays. 

However, all of the precautions weren't always enough. Some had to pause for multiple weeks, leading to a slew of cancellations and throwing off conference schedules. 

In Week 11, 57 out of 370 FBS games were postponed or canceled through Nov. 11. Each conference except the MAC has had at least one game postponed, and 66 teams have been impacted.

Twenty FBS games were canceled or postponed in Week 12, and so far for Week 13 as of Nov. 24 at 11:00 p.m., eight games have been postponed or canceled

But through it all, college football can finally see the postseason on the horizon with the release of the first round of playoff rankings, which will determine the four semifinalists and will set up the New Year's Six bowl matchups.

Here is a breakdown of the first Top 10 rankings for the 2020-21 playoff season:

No. 1 Alabama (7-0)

The Crimson Tide blew past Kentucky 63-3 after the LSU vs. Alabama game was canceled the week prior due to COVID-19 concerns. No program has come within 15 points of Alabama yet this season, and the Iron Bowl is coming up Saturday. Alabama is among five SEC teams appearing in the top 25 of the initial rankings, along with No. 5 Texas A&M, No. 6 Florida, No. 9 Georgia and No. 24 Auburn. The program faced its own COVID-19 issues earlier in the season when Nick Saban tested positive. 

As of right now, the Crimson Tide only have two games left before the SEC Championship—Auburn and Arkansas. 

No. 2 Notre Dame (8-0)

The Fighting Irish only have one game left that's expected to be a challenge for them—North Carolina. They'll travel to Chapel Hill to play the Tar Heels on Friday before continuing on to two more games, Syracuse and Wake Forest, before potentially heading to the ACC Championship. 

While Notre Dame is undefeated, the most notable win on its schedule is the upset over Clemson that led to the stadium rushing the field. However, they did not face COVID-19 problems because of that and have stayed relatively safe since 18 positives out of 273 tests at the end of September. 

No. 3 Clemson (7-1)

The coronavirus pandemic created a big problem when Clemson's starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence tested positive and missed two games. Then, a Tiger tested positive on Friday ahead of the game against Florida State, and both teams' medical personnel didn't come to an agreement on moving forward with the game. 

With only two games left on its schedule (Pitt and Virginia Tech), it's looking like Clemson will be in the ACC Championship. In the last decade, they've won six conference titles. 

No. 4 Ohio State (4-0)

Ohio State has only played four games so far this season and came close to losing to Indiana last week when the Hoosiers rallied. They're arguably the first challenging team the Buckeyes have faced so far this season, and the program only has three regular season games left—Illinois, Michigan State and Michigan. 

Ohio State was hit with a dose of reality when its game against Maryland was canceled in Week 11 after eight Terps tested positive and all team activities were paused. 

No. 5 Texas A&M (5-1)

The Aggies' only loss was to Alabama, and their best victory was over Florida. They have three games left (LSU, Auburn and Tennessee) with the most challenging being Auburn. 

The team has faced COVID-19 issues in recent weeks. A&M's Week 11 game against Tennessee was rescheduled to Dec. 12, and the game against Ole Miss was postponed in Week 12 because of players still in quarantine.  

No. 6 Florida (6-1)

The Gators' only loss this season is to Texas A&M while their biggest win was over Georgia (44-28). As they powered back from a COVID-19 breakout following the game against the Aggies, the Gators have flourished with a Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback leading the way. Even when injuries plagued the team and a concussion placed their lead receiver on the sidelines, Kyle Trask still found targets and continued to overwhelm opponents like Georgia, Arkansas and Missouri. 

Florida only has three games remaining (Kentucky, Tennessee and LSU), none of which are expected to be a big challenge. 

No. 7 Cincinnati (8-0) 

The Bearcats became the highest-ranked non-Power 5 team in College Football Playoff Committee history on Tuesday night. But that morning, ESPN college football insider Heather Dinich argued Cincinnati had a stronger case than some SEC teams. 

“If you’re looking at them on paper, they actually have a stronger case than both Texas A&M and Florida,” Dinich said of Cincinnati. “Which leads me to ask, does the committee honor the head-to-head results of the Aggies over the Gators even though Kyle Trask and the Gators have looked phenomenal lately? I think those five, six, seven spots are going to be the most interesting tonight.” 

Cincinnati's wins include two over top-25 teams and a few against notable in-conference foes like UCF, Houston and others. They only have two games left—Temple and Tulsa.

No. 8 Northwestern (5-0)

After the program started the season unranked, Northwestern has climbed its way to No. 11 in the AP Top 25 poll and now in the top 10 in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Wildcats' win over CFP No. 16 Wisconsin last weekend and CFP No. 24 Iowa seemed to solidify their place as a contender. 

Northwestern is one of five ranked Big Ten schools, and barring any wild games or coronavirus problems in the conference in its remaining three games, it could be headed to the Big Ten Championship. 

No. 9 Georgia (5-2)

Not everyone shares the same sentiment as the College Football Playoff Committee when it comes to the Bulldogs' ranking. CBS Sports analyst Danny Kanell called the top-10 ranking an “absolute joke.”

“At 5-2, to come in at No. 9 is an absolute joke. It shows the love affair that the committee has with the SEC, which is okay some years,” Kanell said on the CBS Sports HQ live-stream of the rankings reveal. “This year, Georgia’s supposedly dominant defense was shredded by both Alabama and the Florida Gators. Where is this dominant defense supposedly coming from? They have one (impressive) win, which is okay against an Auburn team that came all the way back in Week 2.

“Is the committee saying based on one game with JT Daniels that somehow this is a top-10 worthy offense all the sudden? I simply do not get it where the Georgia Bulldogs come in as a top-10 team. It is ridiculous. The only thing they could possibly say is it is brand recognition and a blind love affair with the SEC. This year, if you’ve watched the entirety of the conference, is not as good as it has been in years past.”

According to selection committee chair, Gary Barta, Georgia's win over Auburn caught their eye, and as mentioned by Kanell, the team's only losses are to Alabama and Florida. However, there have been inconsistencies on both sides of the ball and at the quarterback position. The Bulldogs have just two games left on their schedule—South Carolina and Vanderbilt. And, the only COVID-19 problems the team has faced that interfered with their schedule was when Missouri canceled in Week 11. 

No. 10 Miami (7-1)

The Hurricanes' three remaining games have been postponed due to COVID-19 problems within the team and coaching staff, the latest being head coach Manny Diaz. Miami was down 13 players in its 25–24 win over Virginia Tech, and hasn't played since. The Canes are scheduled to play Georgia Tech on Dec. 19; however, the game will not be played if the Hurricanes qualify for the ACC Championship or if the game's result could directly impact the determination of the two qualifying title game teams.

The three remaining games on Miami's schedule are Wake Forest, UNC and Georgia Tech. The program's only loss is to Clemson on Oct. 10.