How will the Playoff committee rank Alabama, Ohio State and other one-loss teams?

  • College football reporter
  • Joined ESPN.com in 2007
  • Graduate of Indiana University

Finishing the regular season with a loss isn’t just normal, it’s expected — even of College Football Playoff semifinalists, as 17 of the past 28 playoff teams finished the regular season with one loss.

So no, Michigan isn’t out of it after Saturday’s loss at Michigan State. Oregon still has a chance in spite of its bad loss to Stanford earlier this year, and Ohio State can make a case after its loss to Oregon on Sept. 11. The list goes on — and it’s time for the College Football Playoff selection committee to sort it out.

When the group meets this week in Grapevine, Texas, to determine its first of six rankings, which will be released Tuesday, how it regards the one-loss contenders will be very revealing about what is valued this fall. Does Oregon’s head-to-head win over Ohio State put the Ducks ahead, or has the Buckeyes’ improvement and win against Penn State now outweighed that? How high is Alabama after what was one of the most shocking upsets of the first half of the season?

How many one-loss teams, if any, are ranked ahead of undefeated Cincinnati?

The committee will use side-by-side statistical comparisons of these teams, along with cut-ups of game film, common opponents, head-to-head results and strength of schedule to help them decipher the order. Whom they lost to, where they lost, how they lost and when will all be a part of the conversation. Knowing the committee’s strong standard for schedule strength, it’s unrealistic to think the group would seriously consider one-loss Group of 5 teams like Coastal Carolina, Louisiana, SMU and Houston for a top-four finish, so they’re not included here.

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