Eight things we learned from College Football Playoff rankings

The rankings are out, the angry tweets have been sent, and the politicking has begun. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the College Football Playoff era has begun in earnest.

The 12-member selection committee released it's initial top 25 on Tuesday, and while there were a few surprises, there were also plenty of things we can glean from them.

"It was extremely difficult, more difficult than many of us expected," committee chairman Jeff Long said. "This is the first of seven rankings that our committee will do. That means a lot more football to be played.

"The bottom line is, it's early, it's close and it's going to change."

Things will certainly change at this point next week, but here are a few thoughts coming out of Dallas:

1. Head-to-head doesn't matter as much as we thought

"It's not head-to-head alone," Long said several times Tuesday on both ESPN and at his news conference later. That's notable, and we saw a handful of examples, including Oregon seven spots ahead of Arizona and TCU six spots above Baylor. Yes, it's still early in the season, but it seems as though just because one team lost to another, it doesn't mean there isn't time for that team to do enough to eventually be ranked ahead later. File that away for when the numerous one-loss teams turn into a ton of two-loss teams in the coming weeks.

2. SEC and Pac-12 are the two best leagues

This was fairly obvious going into the committee meetings, but they confirmed what everybody else has been seeing. The SEC placed six into the top 25, and the Pac-12/Big 12 were not far behind with five each. The SEC West and Pac-12 South were pretty clearly the two strongest divisions in the committee's eyes, too, with four teams each in the poll. Again, nothing extraordinary, but it does confirm what many of us have seen so far.

In what was perhaps a subtle point of politicking, the Pac-12 quickly pointed out that every Pac-12 team was ranked higher by the committee than they were in the polls. It certainly seems as though the 12 folks involved have been staying up late while a few pollsters have not.

3. A lot of teams can make up ground

The constant refrain was the poll will change week to week, and it certainly appears there could be dramatic rises and falls for some squads. Obviously, all the SEC West teams have a number of games against each other, but it goes beyond that. Notre Dame, for example, was cited as not having a very strong schedule despite playing Florida State close, and the Irish were lower than expected. With games against No. 14 Arizona State, No. 25 Louisville and USC left on the docket, the Irish still have a chance to get into the final four.

The same could be said about a handful of other programs, but those in the No. 8 to No. 18 range have to keep an eye on their remaining games against those in the initial poll.

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4. Road wins matter

5. East Carolina is the Group of Five front-runner by a wide margin

There was only one Group of Five team in the first set of top 25 rankings and that was AAC front-runner East Carolina at No. 23. Though the Pirates have struggled lately, it does appear their two wins over Power Five programs counted quite a bit and are viewed at this point as better than anything Marshall, Boise State and Colorado State have to offer.

"We had a lot of consideration of Marshall -- obviously, they're 8-0," Long said. "Looking at who they played, we did not think they were worthy of being placed in the top 25."

That's not a great statement for Thundering Herd fans. Marshall has, at most, five games left, and just two will come against teams with winning records. Don't expect them to be a big factor the rest of the way for the Group of Five bid even if Conference USA hires a PR firm.

ECU's low placement might also bode well for Boise State if the Pirates slip up down the stretch. They played No. 4 Ole Miss competitively for three quarters and are the front-runners to win the Mountain West. The Broncos have plenty of teams on their schedule that would hold up better compared to Marshall, even if they have two losses on their resume, and they hold the head-to-head win over Colorado State. Want a surprise party crasher on New Year's? Look no further than Cinderella herself if ECU slips up.

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6. Tough climb for Michigan State

Spartans fans had to like that Oregon was narrowly out of the top four, and that it seemed as though road losses wouldn't be judged too harshly. However, they probably didn't like that Ohio State was behind Nebraska (whom they already beat) and that the Big Ten placed just three in the top 25 overall. Next week's game at home against the Buckeyes might not provide as much of a boost as they once thought it would after OSU started blowing teams out.

7. Mississippi State and Florida State are the consensus top two in the country

Long made it pretty clear in his comments that the two undefeated Power Five teams were a cut above the others. That's no surprise, but the fact that they agreed with the AP Poll, Coaches Poll and just about everybody else means the Bulldogs and Seminoles control their destiny when it comes to the Playoff.

8. Injuries can be a factor

Yes, the committee took specific note of injuries suffered by teams, and Long called out the case of Oregon specifically. He noted how much better the Ducks have played with their offensive line getting healthier and alluded to the return of left tackle Jake Fisher quite a bit. That's good news for Oregon's hopes if they win out. Their loss to Arizona isn't as big of a hindrance compared to others who might also find themselves with just a single loss at the end of the season.

That level of detail might also mean a team could advance the case that an early-season win over, say, BYU might mean more than a later one because the Cougars ended up losing quarterback Taysom Hill. Whether it be a cornerback who rolled his ankle in the second half or a running back tearing their ACL, one player can make a difference in some games, and the committee is acknowledging that.

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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