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College Football Playoff Rankings: Alabama the New No. 1; Mississippi State Still in Top 4

The Tide takes over the top spot after knocking off the Bulldogs, but State doesn't go too far. The question remains whether they can hang on

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The big question for the college football playoff selection committee to answer this week was how far Mississippi State would fall after losing to Alabama, and who would take their place at No. 1. The answers were not very, and Alabama.

Rank Team Last week
1 Alabama (9-1) 5
2 Oregon (9-1) 2
3 Florida State (10-0) 3
4 Mississippi State (9-1) 1
5 TCU (9-1) 4
6 Ohio State (9-1) 8
7 Baylor (8-1) 7
8 Ole Miss (8-2) 10
9 UCLA (8-2) 11
10 Georgia (8-2) 15
11 Michigan State (8-2) 12
12 Kansas State (7-2) 13
13 Arizona State (8-2) 6
14 Auburn (7-3) 9
15 Arizona (8-2) 14
16 Wisconsin (8-2) 20
17 Utah (7-3) 23
18 Georgia Tech (9-2) 22
19 Southern Cal (7-3) NR
20 Missouri (8-2) NR
21 Oklahoma (7-3) NR
22 Clemson (7-3) 19
23 Nebraska (8-2) 16
24 Louisville (7-3) NR
25 Minnesota (7-3) 25

I said on Twitter this evening that if Alabama and Mississippi State are already in the Top 4, then it's hard to see them falling out. A few people pointed out that saying that was taking things a step too far, given the fact that we don't yet know how much actually winning a conference championship will matter -- and I agree. So let me rephrase it: I think it's far more likely now than I thought it would be that both teams get in.

My reasoning for saying that: I initially thought that Mississippi State would probably end up at No. 5 or so, and would have to jump past a conference champion to get back into the Top 4. Obviously, it's far preferable to be in the Top 4 and trying to hold onto that spot than to be outside of that group and trying to get back in. If the selection committee is going to heavily weigh conference championships, then someone -- probably the Big 12 champion -- could very well move past Mississippi State or, if the Tide loses to Auburn, Alabama. But it's going to take that team jumping the Bulldogs, not the other way around.

The biggest winner in these rankings is Georgia, which jumps up five spots and puts itself in position to possibly snag an invitation to one of the playoff-aligned bowls, though Utah actually moved up more than the Dawgs over the last week. But that might be reading too much into the movement, because it's pretty obvious that the committee doesn't quite the way normal pollsters do. Minnesota was ranked No. 25 last week, lost respectably to the No. 6 team, and stayed the same -- which is as it should be. The committee doesn't move teams down or up simply based on whether they win or lose. That makes the rankings more volatile and less predictable.

This week's bowl pairings actually fell together pretty easily.

Sugar: (1) Alabama vs. (4) Mississippi State
Rose: (2) Oregon vs. (3) Florida State
Orange: Georgia Tech vs. Ohio State Ole Miss
Cotton: Baylor vs. Ole Miss Ohio State
Peach: Georgia vs. Marshall
Fiesta: UCLA vs. TCU

I'm still unsure of how to read the intersection of the clauses guaranteeing a bowl spot to an SEC or B1G champion and the Orange Bowl contracts, but I think the most logical conclusion is that B1G-winning Ohio State would go there to face Georgia Tech.

Because a Baylor-TCU rematch can't take place, one of them will go to the Cotton and one of them will go to the Fiesta. I personally think that a Baylor-Ole MissOhio State game on one hand and a UCLA-TCU game on the other is more attractive than vice versa, but the committee's mileage may vary on that. Georgia faces Marshall in the Peach Bowl, both because that makes the most geographic sense and because that makes the other pairings more attractive.

NOTE: I became aware later that the B1G and SEC champions are actually ineligible for the Orange Bowl, which seems like the kind of stupid thing that you might expect from the successor to the BCS. I think most of my reasoning for Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl also works for Ohio State -- plus, it would be an exciting, new match-up for both the bowl and Ohio State fans -- so I just switched the two.