The College Football Playoff committee released their first rankings of the season, which means we’re getting closer to decision time, and we have our first glimpse of the contenders for the playoffs. Alabama, Clemson and Michigan are unsurprisingly the top 3 teams, in that order. However, Texas A&M sitting above Washington at number 4 wasn’t something most people expected.

College Football Playoff Rankings – Week 9

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Table via the CFP official website

Before Husky fans get out their pitchforks, hold on. This is just a snapshot, mostly based on strength of schedule. Considering the committee loves the SEC and the Aggies only loss came against Alabama, it’s not surprising they’re the #4 team in the nation. Washington have “only” been beating up on the lowly Pac-12, with two more teams in the rankings, while the SEC has five teams in the top 13. It’s not surprising that the committee gave A&M a surprising bump compared to the AP Poll.

But these things change. We’ve learned how much winning a conference championship means. Putting it this way, if Washington win out, which means winning the conference, they’ll be in the playoffs ahead of A&M. Obviously, Alabama might lose to LSU or Auburn, both in the top 13, but assuming it doesn’t, they go to the SEC championship game against what looks like Florida at this point. This leaves Texas A&M out of the discussion, even if Alabama lose that game.

Just like Washington, Clemson and Michigan are in pole position in their conference. Win out, win the ACC and Big Ten, and they’re in. But the committee is giving Louisville, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Auburn and Nebraska a way into the final four mix, if things go their way and they somehow end up playing for the conference title, and obviously needing to win it. The Big 12 has Oklahoma in the best position at #14, but with two losses, they won’t just need to finish the season undefeated (still are in conference play), but for quite a few teams ranked above them to start losing.

If the season ended today, the playoff and big bowl game matchups would be:

Peach Bowl (semifinal): #1 Alabama vs #4 Texas A&M (not going to happen)

Fiesta Bowl (semifinal): #2 Clemson vs #3 Michigan

Rose Bowl: #5 Washington vs #6 Ohio State

Sugar Bowl: #9 Auburn vs #14 Oklahoma

Orange Bowl: #7 Louisville vs #8 Wisconsin

Cotton Bowl: #10 Nebraska vs #23 Western Michigan