What fourth College Football Playoff rankings should look like

I initially set out to see what a BCS-style formula might do differently than the College Football Playoff committee. Instead, I found a formula to predict the committee’s actions.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have used a formula similar to the old BCS format — two-thirds derived from poll averages (the AP and coaches polls) and one-third from computer averages (FPI and SP+ to simulate “best, “strength of record and résumé SP+ to simulate “most deserving”) — as an alternate way of ranking teams for playoff selection purposes. (I am ever-so-creatively calling it The Formula.) Last week, the CFP committee agreed with The Formula’s top 14 teams. It’s been a heartening exercise for both making sense of the committee and accepting its rankings, but it’s also admittedly been pretty easy. The top four are pretty obvious at the moment, and last week’s top 14, via The Formula, matched the straight poll averages.

Now, however, things get trickier. Tennessee’s shocking blowout loss to South Carolina created a bit of a free-for-all at the No. 5 spots. So let’s once again check out what The Formula has to offer, then we can see if the committee departs from the script in Tuesday night’s rankings release.

A Week 12 recap

Before we dive into this week’s rankings, let’s look again at last week. The top four teams were all unbeaten heading into Week 12, and with a loss only to top-ranked Georgia, Tennessee slotted in as a pretty easy No. 5. With Oregon’s stock dropping after its loss to Washington, the No. 6 spot was a tight battle between 8-2 LSU, 9-1 USC and 8-2 Alabama, with Clemson a bit further back at No. 9.

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