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The College Football Playoff: Our Top Four and First Two Out Prior To Rankings Release

Like all previous football seasons, the 2021 football season is moving fast. Every year, most football enthusiasts, fans, players, and coaches wait anxiously for the season to begin, some of us wish our spring and summer away in order to get to football faster. So here it is, the reality of the season and its actual direction taking shape as we enter the month of November.

Our Top 4 Preseason Projections

We began the 2021 college football season with our preseason top 4 teams: Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Ohio State. It is apparent that Clemson is not the Clemson of recent years, and Oklahoma, at least in my opinion so far, is not deserving of their top 4 ranking in the AP.

The Analysis

So as we enter the College Football ranking season, we will throw out revised top ten rankings based on the data points we now have available. The essential data points will come from the eye test and the numbers using Football Scout 365's college football tools and charts. In addition, we are going to mix in some ESPN FPI strength of schedule data.

Check Out All Football Scout 365 Tools and Research

Click here to check out all available Football Scout 365 tools and research, including our exclusive CFB team stats used for today's analysis, NFL Draft, NFL Advanced Team and Player Stats, NFL Betting and Best Bets, and more on the way.

#1 Georgia 8-0

AP RK: 1st

Football Scout 365 Preseason Rank: 5th

Key Wins: Clemson, Florida, Auburn, Kentucky

Key Losses:


Remaining SOS: 11th

Key Opponents Left: SEC Title Game


The Georgia Bulldogs are easily the top team in the country because of their defense. The Georgia defense ranks 1st in points per game allowed (6.6), 1st in points per play (0.24), and they rank atop the country in leaving their opponents with more empty yards than any other team in the country according to our yards per point efficiency measure that we use to ID overall scoring efficiency.

Georgia Schedule Strength

Georgia doesn't have any true threats left on their schedule, yet they have the nation's 11th most difficult remaining SOS, according to ESPN FPI. Their win against Clemson feels empty; with Auburn being their best win (my opinion), they beat a decent Florida team. Still, none of these teams are comparable on the talent scale to Georgia, and until the SEC championship game, Georgia might coast the rest of the way.

#2 Alabama 7-1

AP RK: 3rd

Football Scout 365 Preseason Rank: 1st

Key Wins: Florida, Ole Miss

Key Losses: Texas A&M


Remaining SOS: 8th

Key Opponents Left: SEC Title Game


Everyone has had the Cincinnatti Bearcats in this spot, and the reason is that they have a win against Notre Dame, but that's all they have, and it would be foolish to believe that the Bearcats would defeat Alabama on a neutral field. The Crimson Tide are not the same as they were a season ago. The loss of talent to the NFL has affected the 2021 team, but the reality is, they are still the team with the most talent and upside.

Alabama does allow 20 points per game on defense which is okay when your offense averages 46 pts per game which is 2nd to Ohio State. The Crimson Tide rank 4th in the country in yds per point efficiency, scoring a point per every 10 yards gained in 2021. They are top ten in explosive play rate (18%). Their single loss came on the road against Texas A&M, a team that ranks top 5 in scoring defense. Alabama still managed to double more than their 16 points per game average allowed; while the Crimson Tide defense played well enough to win, it was their special teams and two turnovers that would keep the game close enough for the Aggies to win at home.

Alabama Schedule Strength

Except for their loss to a tough Texas A&M on the road, Florida was the only other team that tested the Crimson Tide. The win against Miami is notable but lost its luster, while the win against a potent Ole Miss offense deserves credibility. With games against LSU, Arkansas, and Auburn left, the Crimson Tide are in a position to enter the SEC title game, with maybe Auburn being the only challenging game left.

#3 Ohio State 7-1

AP RK: 6th

Football Scout 365 Preseason Rank: 4th

Key Wins: Penn State

Key Losses: Oregon


Remaining SOS: 9th

Key Opponents Left: Michigan State, Michigan, Purdue, Big Ten Championship Game


Ohio State lost early to a good Oregon team. Since then, they have not faced a massive challenge until this past weekend against Penn State. The Buckeyes eventually took control of the game against Penn State on their way to a 33-24 victory. Ohio State is similar to Alabama; they lead the nation in scoring (47ppg), yet their defense has struggled but has improved since they struggled vs. Minnesota in the opener and their loss to Oregon. The talent level on this team is at the top with Georgia and Alabama. That talent will be tested in November with a playoff scenario ahead of them against Michigan State and Michigan.

Ohio States' offense, as mentioned above, averages 47 pts per game. They score a point every 12 yards they gain on average; they are a very potent offense that thrives from the explosive plays ranking 6th in that category (23%). The defense will get tested with games against Michigan State and Michigan; they do have Nebraska and Purdue on the schedule, so we are going to find out if Ohio State figured out their woes in due time.

Ohio State Schedule Strength

With a near loss on the road to Minnesota in their season opener and a loss to Oregon behind them, Ohio State didn't face another test until Penn State this past weekend, where they won 33-24. The Buckeyes have outscored their opponents since their loss to Oregon 305-88, or per game 50.8-14.6 against the likes of Tulsa, Akron, Maryland, Rutgers, Indiana, and Penn State. The defense will get tested with games against Michigan State and Michigan; they also have Nebraska and Purdue on the schedule, so we will find out if Ohio State figured out their defensive woes in due time. The defense played well against Penn State, but Penn State is an average but still a very talented team with a good defense.

#4 Cincinnati 8-0

AP RK: 2nd

Football Scout 365 Preseason Rank: 11th

Key Wins: Notre Dame, Indiana

Key Losses:


Remaining SOS: 81st

Key Opponents Left: SMU, AAC Championship Game


The Bearcats have a SOS problem, but to be accurate, they did beat a top ten Notre Dame at Notre Dame, and they beat Indiana at Indiana. So the Bearcats need to dominate their remaining AAC opponents, and with one potential ranked team left (SMU), they could cruise to an undefeated regular season.

The Bearcats play sound defense while being led by their Heisman trophy contending QB Desmond Ridder, who is getting some good praise in the NFL Draft scouting realms. Coach Luke Fickell has done a great job in his short time in Cinci and has the Bearcats on the forefront of potentially breaking through as a nonpower five playoff team.

The Bearcats defense leaves their opponents with empty yards ranking near the top of CFB in total yards per point allowed (19.4); they also rank near the top in explosive play rate defense (9%). They match their strong defense with an efficient offense that scores a point every 10.5 yards, just behind the likes of Oklahoma and Alabama. If you don't like the points per yards efficiency stat, Cinci is 2nd in pts per play average (1.72), and they rank third in explosive play rate (24%). The Bearcats are a complete team but need to be dominant the rest of the way to hold on to their shot at the college football playoff.

Bearcats Schedule Strength

With wins against Notre Dame and Indiana, the Bearcats only have one more potential ranked opponent left in SMU. The Bearcats will then have to face off against the 2nd ranked team in their division, which right now appears to be the Houston Cougars. They will have plenty of opportunities to remain in the playoff conversation but will need to stay unbeaten.

First Two Out

#5 Michigan State 8-0

AP RK: 5th

Football Scout 365 Preseason Rank: NR

Key Wins: Michigan, Miami

Key Losses:


Remaining SOS: 7th

Key Opponents Left: Purdue, Ohio State, Penn State, Big Ten Championship Game

#6 Oregon 7-1

AP RK: 7th

Football Scout 365 Preseason Rank: 11th

Key Wins: Ohio State, UCLA

Key Losses: Stanford


Remaining SOS: 38th

Key Opponents Left: Utah, Pac 12 Championship

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