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WSU Cougars make their CFP debut at No. 8

In a surprising twist, WSU leaps UCF and Ohio State.

NCAA Football: Washington State at Stanford Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The fairytale season continues as the Washington State Cougars debuted at No. 8 in the first College Football Playoff rankings of the year, unveiled tonight on ESPN.

That’s a bit higher than the Associated Press poll, in which the Cougs are ranked No. 10 nationally. WSU also is ranked No. 11 in the coaches poll. Unlike the major polls, which tend to be a move up/move down based on results proposition, the CFP committee takes a look at the entirety of a team’s resume, essentially starting from scratch each week, which can create some volatility and notable diversion from the traditional polls.

In this case, the committee liked WSU’s win over the Utah Utes and that the Cougs’ only loss was a tight one at the USC Trojans.

Some have wondered if maybe the officiating debacle at USC played into the ranking, but Mullens said no.

The Cougars’ resume was more compelling than either the UCF Golden Knights or Ohio State Buckeyes, both of whom are ranked behind the Cougars in the initial CFP rankings but ahead of WSU in the traditional polls.

Strength of schedule is a major factor in the CFP selection process, and there was some thought that the Cougs wouldn’t quite stack up in that regard after a weak nonconference schedule against the Wyoming Cowboys, San Jose State Spartans and Eastern Washington Eagles. Beyond that, the Cougs’ quality wins look less quality these days, given what happened last weekend to the Oregon Ducks and the overall resume of the Stanford Cardinal. Additionally, the loss to the USC Trojans looks worse each week.

About the only result that still looks really good at this point is the four-point victory over the Utah Utes, who are ranked 15. No other Pac-12 teams are ranked in the CFP top 25. That, apparently, was enough to impress the committee.

WSU won’t have much of an opportunity to impress the committee this weekend, as a win over the California Golden Bears is unlikely to move the needle. Same could be said for the games after that against the Colorado Buffaloes and Arizona Wildcats. However, if the Cougars keep piling up wins, it seems possible that the Cougs are in line to move up into a final four position.

Here are the full rankings:

1. Alabama (8-0)
2. Clemson (8-0)
3. LSU (7-1)
4. Notre Dame (8-0)
5. Michigan (7-1)
6. Georgia (7-1)
7. Oklahoma (7-1)
8. Washington State (7-1)
9. Kentucky (7-1)
10. Ohio State (7-1)
11. Florida (6-2)
12. UCF (7-0)
13. West Virginia (6-1)
14. Penn State (6-2)
15. Utah (6-2)
16. Iowa (6-2)
17. Texas (6-2)
18. Mississippi State (5-3)
19. Syracuse (6-2)
20. Texas A&M (5-3)
21. NC State (5-2)
22. Boston College (6-2)
23. Fresno State (7-1)
24. Iowa State (4-3)
25. Virginia (6-2)