College Football Playoff rankings: Michigan State projection

Disregard the “College Football Playoff” part of the College Football Playoff rankings, if you can.

Michigan State (7-3, 5-2) isn’t going. It clung to slim hopes before the weekend, but after a 48-3 thrashing from Ohio State on Saturday those hopes were rudely ripped away. Barring a miracle, the same has happened to its Big Ten title hopes.

Don’t turn away though, Michigan State fans. When those rankings come out around 9 p.m. ET after Michigan State’s men’s basketball game against Duke on Tuesday, they’ll still be relevant to you.

A conference championship may be out of the picture, but Michigan State still has high hopes for a 10-win season and a good bowl bid. These rankings will indicate where they stand.

At No. 12, Michigan State finished one spot ahead of Ohio State and two ahead of Penn State in the rankings last week. The Spartans will fall below both now. But the more telling part of the Tuesday release will be where they stand in relation to Michigan and Northwestern, 5-2 Big Ten teams that won over the weekend.

That’s where we could see a bit of a surprise. Both the AP and Coaches polls ranked Michigan before this weekend, but not Northwestern. Both put Michigan ahead of Michigan State after the weekend, but still didn’t rank Northwestern.

The CFP rankings, on the other hand, have Northwestern ranked No. 25 but shunned Michigan. What will change after both teams beat lower-tier opponents and Michigan State got smacked by the Buckeyes? There would have to be a serious shakeup for the Spartans to fall behind either one.

Michigan State’s only losses come against teams in the CFP rankings. Michigan can say the same, but Northwestern can’t. And Michigan State has beaten two teams in the rankings. Northwestern can say the same, but Michigan can’t.

These rankings focus more on teams beaten than teams lost to, which favors Michigan State and Northwestern over Michigan. But can the Wildcats pass the Spartans? With a 13-spot gap to close, it seems very unlikely.

Look for Michigan State to continue garnering more respect from the CFP selection committee than the other polls. It should place right around No. 20, fourth among Big Ten teams.

Not bad for a team coming off a 3-9 year. That disappointment fans feel about the Saturday loss? It wouldn’t have been that strong had the Spartans not overachieved so much this season.

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