Undefeated Clemson made its debut in the first College Football Playoff rankings at No. 2, but the real drama going into the release surrounded Louisville.
Where would the Cards end up Tuesday night, and would they have a shot at sneaking in as an at-large team that carries one loss?
Well, in this one snapshot, the news was pretty disastrous for Louisville. The Cards opened at No. 7 and, at least for the moment, appear to be a long shot to make the playoff. They have to contend with two one-loss teams ranked ahead of them (No. 4 Texas A&M and No. 6 Ohio State), and Pac-12 front-runner Washington (8-0) is at No. 5.
Given the selection committee's metrics, the ranking is not a major surprise (even though Louisville is No. 5 in the AP and coaches polls). The committee heavily weighs quality wins and strength of schedule, and that was obvious in these first rankings. This is where Louisville lags behind both Ohio State and Texas A&M.
Louisville's best win is over No. 22 Florida State (5-3). At this point in the season, the Cards have played no Power 5 nonconference games, giving them zero quality nonconference victories. Plus, Louisville has struggled recently against Duke and Virginia, two teams that sit at the bottom of the ACC Coastal standings. Ohio State may have struggled last week against Northwestern, but the Buckeyes have a nonconference win over No. 14 Oklahoma and a top-10 win over No. 8 Wisconsin. Louisville cannot compete with that.
Nor can it compete with what Texas A&M brings. The Aggies' lone loss came to the No. 1 team in the nation, and Texas A&M also has a win over No. 9 Auburn and a Power 5 victory over UCLA. Granted, the Bruins are slumping, but right now, the Aggies are getting credit for having played them. ESPN strength of record lists Texas A&M at No. 3, while Louisville sits at No. 8.
Obviously, Louisville needs help to move into the top 4. The best scenario would have Alabama, Michigan and Clemson winning out, and Texas A&M, Ohio State and Washington losing (probably twice). Here's the other problem for Louisville: its upcoming schedule. There are few opportunities to make a statement on a national stage in the final four weeks, especially if Houston continues to struggle. The Cougars are unranked and not playing well, another blow to the Louisville schedule.
Boston College, Wake Forest and Kentucky are the other teams that will face Louisville before the regular season ends. If Louisville struggles in these games, the way it did against Virginia last weekend, that won't do the Cardinals any favors.
As for Clemson, all the Tigers have to do is win and they are in. They have three wins over top-25 teams, including two in the top 10 (Louisville and Auburn), earning them the No. 2 spot.
In all, the ACC has five teams ranked: No. 19 Virginia Tech, No. 21 North Carolina and No. 22 Florida State join Clemson and Louisville.
The past few Novembers have seen a fair share of upsets. The first committee rankings never look like the last. But at this point, it's not likely that the ACC will become the first conference to get two teams into the playoff.