College Football Playoff Rankings reactions: Clemson overrated, Michigan underrated in first top 25

The first edition of the College Football Playoff Rankings for the 2022 season was released on Tuesday night, and for the first time since the birth of this current format, Tennessee was tabbed as the top team in the nation. The Volunteers, currently 8-0 and with a win over No. 6 Alabama under their belts, now stare down crucial meeting with No. 3 Georgia on Saturday in the SEC on CBS Game of the Week at 3:30 p.m. ET. 

It was anticipated, however, that both the Vols and Bulldogs would be slotted within the initial top four. Coming into the release on Tuesday, most of the intrigue centered around the positioning of three other undefeated teams: Michigan, Clemson and TCU. Well, the Tigers and Wolverines chimed in at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively, while the Horned Frogs were — controversially, to some — behind the Crimson Tide at No. 7.

So who’s overrated and who’s underrated in the first edition of the CFP Rankings? Let’s have a look. 

Overrated: Clemson

It’s been hard to pin down the identity of the Tigers this season. One game, they look like world-beaters. The next, they look like pretenders. Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei has significantly improved from last year but is still nowhere near the superstar he was touted to be when he came out of high school. Matter of fact, the last time we saw the Tigers, Uiagalelei was benched in favor of heralded freshman Cade Klubnik

They have wins over No. 20 Syracuse, No. 21 Wake Forest and No. 22 NC State, which is nice but not terribly noteworthy. The out-of-conference schedule so far has been Furman and Louisiana Tech, which doesn’t do much to bolster the Tigers’ case. Clemson got in the top four because of its history of success in the CFP era. In reality, it’s impossible to trust this team through the eight-game sample.

Underrated: Michigan

What’s the knock against Michigan? The easy schedule that includes out-of-conference wins over Colorado State, Hawai’i and UConn? OK, but it has rolled through that slate with relative ease. It’s important that teams don’t play down to their competition, and the only one-score game the Wolverines have played is the 34-27 win over Maryland on Sept. 24. Oh, and it has a much better win than Clemson, too. The Wolverines dominated No. 15 Penn State 41-17 on Oct. 15, which is far more impressive than anything that Clemson has done. 

In the end, it won’t matter. Michigan has games against No. 15 Illinois and No. 2 Ohio State to close out the regular season, which will truly tell the tale on just how good Jim Harbaugh’s team really is. 

Overrated: LSU

I have nothing but love for the Tigers and the job coach Brian Kelly has done in Year 1 at the helm, but they should not be the top-ranked two-loss team at this point. The committee likes to harp on how complete teams are, and LSU is still far away from being mentioned in that discussion. The special teams have been atrocious and were the primary reason the Tigers lost to Florida State in Week 1. The passing attack is still rounding into form, but quarterback Jayden Daniels has to show that he can light up the stat sheet through the air a little bit more before this offense can be trusted. 

The Tigers’ signature win is the 45-20 romp over No. 11 Ole Miss. Don’t get me wrong, coming back from a 17-3 deficit to dominate the Rebels was impressive, but that’s the only thing on which LSU can hang its hat. 

Underrated: North Carolina

The college football world seemingly wrote off the Tar Heels in Week 1 when they gave up 40 points in the fourth quarter to Appalachian State yet still found a way to win. That is totally unfair. They’ve scored 35 or more points in seven of their eight games, and coach Mack Brown has developed first-year starting quarterback Drake Maye into a legit Heisman Trophy candidate. 

The 45-32 loss to unranked Notre Dame on Sept. 24 is the only blemish, and while that isn’t ideal, it’s not like I’m lobbying for the Tar Heels to be a top-10 team. No. 17, however, is too low for a one-loss, Power Five team that dictates its style on its opponent virtually every week.

Need more college football in your life? Listen below and subscribe to the Cover 3 Podcast where we break down the initial College Football Playoff Rankings for the 2022 season. 

Just right: TCU

I had TCU at No. 7 in my CBS Sports 131 ballot, and that’s where the committee ranked the Horned Frogs as well. Yes, they have wins over No. 13 Kansas State and No. 18 Oklahoma State, while No. 6 Alabama’s signature win is over No. 24 Texas in Week 2. One could argue that the best bullet point on Alabama’s resume is its three-point, last-second loss to top-ranked Tennessee.

That’s fine, but TCU dug itself massive holes against the Wildcats and Cowboys, which is no way to live — at least, not for championship-caliber teams. “Game control” is something that the committee will consider, and TCU’s game control over the last three weeks has been shaky at best. 

“We’re looking for a balanced team, offense and defense, and [TCU] has gotten behind in some games,” CFP selection committee chair Boo Corrigan said. “They’ve been able to come back and win those games. But when you look at Alabama — in the wins against Mississippi State, at Arkansas, at Texas and obviously the three-point loss at Tennessee — as a committee, we decided to go Alabama No. 6 and TCU No. 7.”

In the end, it doesn’t matter. If TCU runs the table, it’ll get in. 

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