The Game Before the Money Radio Show researched how teams ranked #1 in the first week of the College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings fared by the end of the season. The show airs on the SportsMap Radio Network on Saturday mornings at 11 am Eastern, 8 Pacific and is hosted by football historian Jackson Michael.
Ranked #1 in the First Week of CFP Rankings
I wanted to find out how teams ranked #1 in the College Football Playoff rankings the first week fared by the end of the season. Remember, the playoff dates back to 2014. How important is it to be ranked #1 in the first CFP rankings? The table below shows that the team ranked #1 in the first week of the CFP rankings has made the College Football Playoff seven out of the first eight years of the playoff.
Has a #1 Ranked Team Ever Missed the CFP?
Only one time from 2014-2021 has a team missed the CFP after starting at #1 in the CFP rankings. Seven out of the eight teams ranked #1 in the first college football playoff poll made the college football playoff. The only time that didn’t happen was in 2014, the very first year of the playoff, when Mississippi State, led by Dak Prescott, was ranked #1 but didn’t make the playoff.
So far, every other year, the team ranked #1 in the first CFP poll made the College Football Playoff. And every year except for two, the team ranked #1 in the first poll made the championship game. That’s really surprising. Only the aforementioned Mississippi State team and the 2019 Ohio State Buckeyes didn’t make the College Football Playoff Championship Game after being ranked #1 in the first College Football Playoff poll of the year.
Teams Ranked #2 in the CFP
How about #2? Just like being ranked #1, seven out of the eight years of the College Football Playoff, the team ranked #2 in the first playoff rankings has landed in the College Football Playoff. The only exception was in 2015. LSU was ranked second and then lost three straight games. Every other year, the team ranked second in the first College Football Playoff poll made the CFP. In fact, the team originally ranked second in the first playoff poll has won exactly half of the championship games in the playoff era. Teams ranked second in the first poll won four straight championships from 2016-2019 and have played in five of the last six championship games.
Teams ranked 3 and 4 in College Football Playoff
Being ranked third is a totally different story. For whatever reason, only one team ranked third in the first College Football Playoff rankings has ever made the four-team playoff. Clemson in 2020 is the only one to do it. That really surprised me. Teams ranked fourth in the first rankings have made the playoff half of the time, a much better success rate than the third-ranked teams.
Teams Ranked Lower than #4
What’s the lowest ranked team to make the CFP? Ohio State in 2014, the first year of the playoff, was ranked 16th and are the lowest ranked team to make the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes won the championship game that year. Oklahoma started at 15 the next year and made the playoff. Since then, no team outside of the top 10 in the first playoff rankings has made the playoff. (That will change once the CFP expands to 12 teams.)
Teams originally ranked fifth have made it four of the first eight years, and teams originally ranked sixth and seventh have made it three of the eight years.
How Top Teams in CFP Rankings Have Done in the Playoff
Key points to remember
· The #1 ranked team in the poll the first week has made the CFP seven out of eight times.
· Teams ranked #2 in the original CFP rankings have also made the CFP seven out of
· Combined, teams ranked #1 and #2 in the first week of the College Football Playoff Rankings have won six out of the eight championships in the playoff era.
· Going into this year’s CFP, only five schools have EVER won the championship.
· Combined, Alabama and Clemson have won five of the eight championships.
· LSU, Ohio State, and Georgia have won the remaining three.
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