The College Football Playoff selection committee releases its first rankings of 2015 at 6 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN. And unlike last year, the LSU Tigers figure to be in the mix right from the start.
At 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the Southeastern Conference, LSU has worked its way up to No. 4 in both The Associated Press Top 25 and the coaches’ poll.
Unlike in years under the BCS system, neither of those polls factors into the CFP equation. But for LSU, they could be good indicators that the Tigers will start inside or near the top four.
A CBSSports.com writer argued that LSU deserves to be the No. 1 seed.
“LSU, in a way it wasn’t quite able to do last year, has been able to maximize its talent rating with on field production going 7-0 on the season,” Chip Patterson said. “Obviously this is going to be big with the Alabama game coming up, and we may have a different opinion then. But for right now, LSU is the only undefeated team in the SEC, and that’s as good a case as anything else.”
Still, in the CFP system, it isn’t vital to be No. 1 — only to be able to grab one of the top four spots in the final rankings Dec. 6. Those will be the four teams that will play in the CFP semifinals.
One semifinal will be in the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The other will be at the Miami Dolphins’ Sun Life Stadium in the Orange Bowl.
Both games will be Dec. 31, a controversial twist to the new CFP format following New Year’s Day semifinals in the Sugar and Rose last season.
Though LSU has a gauntlet to run in November — at Alabama, vs. Arkansas, at Ole Miss and vs. Texas A&M — at least the Tigers will be considered a serious CFP contender from the starting gun.
That wasn’t the case in 2014. LSU debuted at No. 19 in the first CFP rankings Oct. 28, peaked at No. 16 the following week and wound up No. 23 in the final rankings Dec. 7.
Coach Les Miles said last week that his players understand the task before them.
“There’s a real honesty in this room that we deserve what we earn,” he said while speaking to reporters in LSU’s team meeting room. “This room understands they have to earn it. There are still a couple of games left to play.”
This year, the Sugar and Rose remain on New Year’s Day, while the Fiesta and Peach, which will host CFP semifinals next season, are on New Year’s Eve.
After seeding the four teams in the CFP semifinals, the 13-person selection committee will place teams in the other four bowls.
The Sugar is what is called a “contract bowl,” guaranteed in a non-semifinal year to pair the SEC and Big 12 champions or the next highest-ranked teams from those conferences if their champions are in the CFP semifinals. It’s a formula modeled on the longstanding Big Ten versus Pac-12 matchup in the Rose Bowl.
Another factor to consider for the Peach and Fiesta: The highest-ranked champion from the “Group of Five” conferences — Conference USA, Sun Belt, American Athletic, Mid-American and Mountain West — must receive a bid. The Peach, Fiesta and Cotton in non-semifinal years are called “access bowls” because of this provision. The Sugar, Rose and Orange are not required to take a “Group of Five” champion unless it qualifies for the semifinals.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.