What will UNC be ranked in the new College Football Poll

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After thinking the Tar Heels would be ranked much higher when the first College Football Poll was released, we’ve nailed North Carolina’s rank each following week by doing one simple task … counting the teams ahead of them and seeing if those teams won or lost. It’s completely understandable to break down strength of schedule, margin of victory, comparison between opponents’ opponents, etc., but there’s one simple truth that we’ve come to learn about the Playoff rankings:

Resume comparison actually takes place for the top 5 or 6 teams, but beyond that, it’s a win-and-move-up-lose-and-move-down world, with the final say given to the bowls completely based on ticket sales and TV ratings.

So with all due respect to the fans and writers who have spent extensive time and effort crunching numbers, here’s our lazy guess that’s been right on the money so far.

There were 16 teams ranked ahead of North Carolina last Tuesday night. Of those 16, LSU, Utah, Oklahoma State, and Ohio State lost. That puts UNC’s ceiling at #13. Both Oklahoma State and Ohio State had “good losses”, which is reason to believe they’ll be ranked ahead of North Carolina. We project the Tar Heels to move up two spots to 15th, with the potential of Ole Miss leap-frogging the Heels with their win over LSU (which we don’t expect to happen because that, even by the committee’s standards, would be embarrassing).

What does that mean for New Years Six hopes for the Tar Heels? It’s not great, barring a win versus Clemson in the ACC Championship Game that would guarantee a spot in the Peach Bowl.

Per the ACC’s Associate Commissioner Mike Finn, here’s how the hopes for a spot in one of the four non-Playoff New Years Six plays out for this season:

  • There are 8 non-Playoff spots in the New Years Six
  • The Rose Bowl is guaranteed to be Big Ten vs. Pac 12
  • The Sugar Bowl is guaranteed to be SEC vs. Big 12
  • The Fiesta Bowl will have a “Group of 5” team
  • This leaves three “at-large” spots from the top 12
  • The 5th, 6th, and 7th ranked teams are guaranteed a spot if not already included in the guaranteed Group of 5 or non-ACC Power 5 spots.

So North Carolina, and Florida State for that matter, are fighting for a spot in the top 12, and once there, are fighting for position as at-large bids. Here are the teams they’re fighting against:

Big Ten

The Big Ten is in serious danger of not getting their conference champion into the College Football Playoff if Iowa doesn’t win the Big Ten title game. If the conference champion plays in the Rose Bowl, the Big Ten could easily scoop up two of the three at-large bids available by either being ranked 5th through 7th, or just by being more attractive of a bowl guest than UNC.


Only Alabama and Florida are really threatening to take New Years Six spots, and the conference champion will almost assuredly be in the College Football Playoff, meaning the runner-up will be in the guaranteed Sugar Bowl spot. There’s not much of a threat here unless Ole Miss ends up winning the SEC West. Definitely keep an eye on Ole Miss’ rank tonight  because if they do jump UNC, the SEC fix is in and there’s nothing that can be done to stop it.

PAC 12

The only way the PAC 12 takes an at-large bid is if Stanford doesn’t win the conference championship game, and even then, they may not be ranked in the top 12 to be eligible for a bid.

Big 12

Here’s where it gets scary for the ACC. Last week, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Baylor were all ranked in the top 10. The conference champion SHOULD play in the playoff, but when the rankings come out tonight, it’s doubtful that any will be in the top 4. Even if the top of this group makes the Playoff, the third place team will be in the top 12, likely taking that final at-large bid.


Notre Dame is a major factor as a loss against Stanford or a committee decision to exclude the one-loss Irish would guarantee them an at-large bid.

Group of 5

No threat for an at-large bid.