0943 PST 05NOV16 - Author’s Edit: Fixed an error that misrepresented Nebraska as a Big 12 team, because I am old, and it used to be that way. You kids these days with your conference shuffle.
The initial 2016 College Football Playoff rankings were released last night. This is the third year that the CFB Playoff rankings have been used to determine the four teams that will participate in the playoff. This year both semifinal games will be held on December 31, 2016, at the Fiesta Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona and the Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia. The winners of those two games will meet in the College Football Championship Game to be held in Tampa Bay, Florida, at the Raymond James Stadium, on January 9, 2017.
One of the things I appreciate about the initial Playoff rankings is that they wait until deep into the season to make their assertions. In all three years that the Playoff Committee has existed they have waited until week ten to determine their first rankings. Thus, the committee can often generate rankings that are not necessarily reminiscent of the AP Poll or the USA Today Coaches Poll. This year is no different, but more on that later.
For the Virginia Tech Hokies and their fans, this year’s opening CFB Playoff rankings are a bit different, in a very special way. For the first time, in its existence, the Fighting Gobblers are represented in the CFB Rankings. VPI is currently ranked No. 21 in the Coaches Poll and No. 23 in the AP Poll, behind UNC, who the Hokies defeated 34-3, and the Florida State Seminoles, who are a three-loss team, including a loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels. That ranking is not reflected by the Playoff Committee’s decision. The Virginia Tech Hokies debut, in the College Football Playoff Rankings at No. 19. UNC slides in at No. 21, and FSU finds themselves at No. 22. Directly behind VPI are their old rivals the West Virginia Mountaineers. Leading the Hokies, at No. 18, are the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
The ACC is well represented in the rankings. In total five teams make an appearance. The Clemson Tigers are ranked slightly higher than they are in the AP and Coaches polls, at No. 2. The Louisville Cardinals are also in the top ten, but have dropped a few spots, compared to the other national polls, and find themselves in the No. 7 spot. Clemson has a few significant quality wins over CFB ranked teams. In fact, two of their quality wins are over teams that find themselves in the top ten of the playoff rankings. Clemson defeated the No. 7 Louisville Cardinals, 42-36, and the No. 9 Auburn Tigers, 19-13. Their third, and most recent win, came last week against the No. 22 Florida State Seminoles.
The biggest surprise of the night came when the committee decided to rank the one loss Texas A&M Aggies over the undefeated Washington Huskies. The preseason buzz around this year’s playoff was the potential that, for the first time, a Power Five conference may have two representatives in the final top four, and these initial rankings also seem to imply that possibility. Currently, you must look all the way down at No. 14 to find the first Big 12 team represented (Oklahoma) and the only undefeated team in the PAC 12 finds themselves at No. 5.
The ACC has two teams in the top ten, and five total in the CFB Playoff Rankings. The SEC has three in the top ten (Alabama No. 1, TAMU No. 4, and AUB No. 9). The Big Ten has four teams in the top ten (No. 3 MICH, No. 6 OSU, No. 8 WIS, and No. 10 NEB). The Pac 12 only has a single team in the top ten, while the Big 12 is wholly unrepresented.
Sitting here looking at the remainder of the VT schedule it is hard to imagine a situation where the Hokies find themselves in the CFB College Football Playoff. Regardless, it is exciting to realize that a ten-win season, a spot in the ACC Championship, and consideration in the Playoff Rankings is a reality for the Hokies. It is a truth beyond what even the most optimistic of us thought was possible for the Virginia Tech football team.