The initial College Football Playoff rankings come out Tuesday night, and it would be easily to wave them away as a meaningless spectacle created solely to fill television hours with zero impact to the actual college football season. And that’s not exactly wrong. But it’s not exactly right, either.

We’re now in Year 5 of the CFP system, which gives us a decent sample size for how the committee thinks and how the field stands roughly two-thirds of the way through the season.

I combed through the initial CFP rankings from each of the four previous seasons and found the CFP committee’s predictive powers are better than you might think:


CFP Seed Initial CFP Ranking
1. Alabama No. 6
2. Oregon No. 5
3. Florida State No. 2
4. Ohio State No. 16


CFP Seed Initial CFP Ranking
1. Clemson No. 1
2. Alabama No. 4
3. Michigan State No. 7
4. Oklahoma No. 15


CFP Seed Initial CFP Ranking
1. Alabama No. 1
2. Clemson No. 2
3. Ohio State No. 6
4. Washington No. 5


CFP Seed Initial CFP Ranking
1. Clemson No. 4
2. Oklahoma No. 5
3. Georgia No. 1
4. Alabama No. 2

Sixteen teams have reached the promised land, and 14 of them were in the committee’s initial Top 7. All eight of the teams in the last two seasons were No. 6 or higher in the initial rankings. No one has ever been lower than No. 16 and climbed all the way up to the top four.

As a point of reference, here’s the Associated Press top 10 from Sunday:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Notre Dame
4. LSU
5. Michigan
6. Georgia
7. Oklahoma
8. Ohio State
9. UCF
10. Washington State

There are still five weeks of football between now and Selection Sunday. That’s five opportunities for the CFP favorites to slip up, and five opportunities for a dark horse from the back of the pack to join the field.

But precedent says we’re probably safe to draw a red line in between No. 8 and No. 9 above and that the four names announced on Dec. 2 will be among those eight.

National columnist - Zach joined the staff in 2012...and has been attempting to improve Doug and Scott's writing ability ever since (to little avail). Outside of football season, you can find him watching the San Antonio Spurs reading Game of Thrones fan theories.