The College Football Playoff committee has never had a more complicated job than the one it'll face in the 2020 season. So many variables have added complexities to the process given the COVID-19 pandemic, from shortened seasons to canceled games to matchups devoid of star players.
It will be a tall task to identify the top four teams this year. That makes it difficult to predict how it might all shake out, too. But let's give it a shot anyway.
Below, we'll break down the four teams that look the most likely to reach the CFP this season after Tuesday night's rankings drop.
The Crimson Tide are 7-0, they have quality wins against Texas A&M and Georgia, they have a Heisman candidate in Mac Jones and they've basically been considered the top team in college football all year.
This is the easiest pick of the bunch.
Granted, a loss against Auburn on Nov. 28 could change the math here. And a likely showdown with Florida in the SEC Championship Game will present a potential pitfall as well. But the Tide have been good enough that even one loss might be enough to get them in. Barring an utter meltdown, Alabama looks like a lock.
Notre Dame (8-0)
Like Alabama, Notre Dame is in the driver's seat. A win over Clemson, even without Trevor Lawrence playing, is the feather in Notre Dame's cap, while beating North Carolina on Friday would also be a quality win. Notre Dame has the benefit of having eight games in the books without a loss, while other teams have far more limited resumes because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Fighting Irish have looked like one of the four best teams this season. They deserve to be favorites for a playoff spot at this point.
Ohio State (4-0)
OK, now it gets interesting.
Ohio State has played just four games, and its best win was against Indiana. There's little doubt this team is brimming with talent, but Ohio State's pretty weak schedule—Illinois, Michigan State and Michigan remain, all with losing records—means it may need to run the table to absolutely guarantee a playoff berth.
A potential meeting with Northwestern or Nebraska in the Big Ten title game could bolster the resume somewhat. But for now, the Buckeyes are fighting against a pretty spotty resume given their weak schedule.
And then there's Clemson.
The Tigers lost their biggest matchup this season against Notre Dame, but again, they did so without the likely No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, Lawrence. The CFP committee will surely take that into consideration, at least somewhat, especially since it was only a seven-point loss.
Clemson did beat a good Miami team, however, and might get another crack at Notre Dame in the ACC title game. It just wouldn't be a College Football Playoff without the Tigers in the mix. Expect them to find their way into the Top Four yet again.
Other Teams to Watch: Florida, Texas A&M, Cincinnati, BYU, Oregon, USC, Northwestern, Miami