College Football Playoff Rankings vs. AP Poll: Tracking the Difference

By Amy Daughters -

How different are the first-ever College Football Playoff Rankings from the latest AP poll?

While a lot can happen between the initial release of the new poll and the end of the season, the first rankings are critical because they set the opening position for each team, a starting point where they can move up or down from.

In other words, it’s a big deal that Ole Miss is at No. 4 while Oregon is at No. 5. Since both teams are at 7-1, if they both win out and the rankings hold, Ole Miss has a 100 percent better chance of making the playoff.

Further down the line, one-loss teams like Notre Dame (No. 10), Georgia (No. 11) and Ohio State (No. 16) will have to win out and jump six to 12 spots in the rankings to make the Playoff.

Here’s a breakdown of this week’s AP poll vs. the new Playoff rankings.

Mississippi State (7-0)
CFB Playoff: #1    AP: #1
Difference: 0

Florida State (7-0)
CFB Playoff: #2   AP: #2
Difference: 0

Auburn (6-1)
CFB Playoff: #3   AP: #4
Difference: +1

Ole Miss (7-1)
CFB Playoff: #4   AP: #7
Difference: +3

Oregon (7-1)
CFB Playoff: #5   AP: #5
Difference: 0

Alabama (7-1)
CFB Playoff: #6   AP: #3
Difference: -3

TCU (6-1)
CFB Playoff: #7   AP: #10
Difference: +3

Michigan State (7-1)
CFB Playoff: #8   AP: #8
Difference: 0

Kansas State (6-1)
CFB Playoff: #9   AP: #11
Difference: +2

Notre Dame (6-1)
CFB Playoff: #10   AP: #6
Difference: -4

Georgia (6-1)
CFB Playoff: #11   AP: #9
Difference: -2

Arizona (6-1)
CFB Playoff: #12   AP: #14
Difference: +2

Baylor (6-1)
CFB Playoff: #13   AP: #12
Difference: -1

Arizona State (6-1)
CFB Playoff: #14   AP: #15
Difference: +1

Nebraska (7-1)
CFB Playoff: #15   AP: #17
Difference: +2

Ohio State (6-1)
CFB Playoff: #16   AP: #13
Difference: -3

Utah (6-1)
CFB Playoff: #17   AP: #18
Difference: +1

Oklahoma (5-2)
CFB Playoff: #18   AP: #19
Difference: +1

LSU (6-2)
CFB Playoff: #19   AP: #16
Difference: -3

West Virginia (6-2)
CFB Playoff: #20   AP: #20
Difference: 0

Clemson (6-2)
CFB Playoff: #21   AP: #22
Difference: +1

UCLA (6-2)
CFB Playoff: #22   AP: #25
Difference: +3

East Carolina (6-1)
AP: #21 CFB Playoff: #23
Difference: -2

Duke (6-1)
CFB Playoff: #24   AP: #24
Difference: 0

Louisville (6-2)
CFB Playoff: #25   AP: NR (with eight points, technically #30)
Difference: +5

Marshall (8-0)
CFB Playoff: NR   AP: #23
Difference: -3

The biggest winner in the initial poll is Louisville, which wasn’t even ranked in this week’s AP, but grabbed the No. 25 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings.

Next up are three teams who gained three spots: Ole Miss jumped from No. 7 in the AP to No. 4 in the Playoff (and into the bracket), TCU went from No. 10 to No. 7 and UCLA moved from No. 25 to No. 22.

The biggest overall loser is 8-0 Marshall who was No. 23 in the AP, but got totally ditched by the Playoff brain trust, left completely out of the rankings. Though it’s logical to assert that the Thundering Herd schedule isn’t on par with say Auburn’s, leaving them out illustrates how the FBS level of college football is really two distinct levels masked and marketed as one big happy family.

Next up is Notre Dame, which despite its highly-touted schedule dropped four spots from No. 6 to No. 10.

That leaves three teams that lost three spots vs. the AP: Alabama dropping from No. 3 to No. 6 (out of the bracket), Ohio State falling from No. 13 to No. 16 (below Nebraska which moved up to No. 15) and LSU, which dropped from No. 16 to No. 19.

The top one-loss team in the new Playoff poll is 6-1 Auburn (it lost to Mississippi State) at No. 3, replacing now No. 6 Alabama (it lost to Ole Miss) which at 7-1 held that spot in the latest AP.

The top two-loss program in the Playoff poll is 5-2 Oklahoma (losses to TCU and K-State) at No. 18, replacing now No. 19 LSU, (7-2, losses to Mississippi State and Auburn) which had held the top spot in the latest AP.

  1. Richard
    October 30, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Actually, the playoff committee is suppose to start with a clean slate each week, so being #4 now doesn’t mean Ole Miss will be ahead of Oregon in the final committee rankings, per se (though it is likely).

  2. larry0555
    November 1, 2014 at 8:39 am

    As far as I’m concern those who are undefeated should be at the top. Isn’t it about playing fair and ranking them as to number games won and total points to determine who’s number one,two,three and so on down? I guess it’s all political.

  3. art v
    November 2, 2014 at 1:30 am

    “is supposeD to” and “as far as I’m concernED.”

  4. Walter
    December 10, 2015 at 11:13 am

    Why do we need the fbs poll? Ap and coaches poll are the same on the final 4 teams.

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