The College Football Playoff selection committee's first top 25 ranking of the 2016 season is one month away, but at present two teams project as clear favorites to make the final field.
Alabama and Ohio State rank 1-2 in the Football Four Playoff Projection, positions they've held in every vote this season, even as the teams behind them shuffle. The Crimson Tide and Buckeyes accounted for 74% of the possible points available from the 13-person projection panel. Five other teams, led by projected No. 3 seed Clemson and projected No. 4 seed Michigan, split the remaining 26%.
"All Ohio State does is win very impressively — you know, kind of like we kept expecting last season, with the previous crop of super-talented Buckeyes," said panelist George Schroeder of USA TODAY Sports. "And Clemson finally lived up to the expectations, outlasting Louisville in a flawed but very impressive display."
The Playoff Projection panel is based on the College Football Playoff selection committee's model and includes Schroeder, former FBS coaches Frank Beamer, Tommy Bowden and Rich Brooks, former FBS athletic directors Mike Alden, Bill Byrne and Jim Livengood, WWE Hall of Fame announcer Jim Ross, and USA TODAY Sports college sports staff members Nicole Auerbach, Paul Myerberg, Eddie Timanus, Daniel Uthman and Dan Wolken.
Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson appeared on every panelist's ballot this week. Last week only Alabama and Ohio State could make that claim. Michigan's vote total has grown each week, and this week Louisville became the first one-loss team to receive a vote this season. Houston continued its streak of receiving votes, and this week Washington made its Playoff Projection debut.
"The Huskies have a physical defense and explosive playmakers on offense. Totally dominated Stanford," panelist and former coach Rich Brooks said of Washington.
The Playoff Projection is in its fourth year. Each panelist enters a four-team ballot, with four points awarded for a No. 1 vote, three for a No. 2, two for a No. 3 and one for a No. 4. The projection is purely a mock selection with no bearing on the Playoff selection committee's decisions.