Ohio State (6-1) checked in at No. 16 in the inaugural rankings, 12 spots from the top four – where the Buckeyes will need to be when the final rankings are released at 11:45 a.m. Dec. 7 to play in the first playoff.
The rankings, decided by a 12-team selection committee made up of current and former college administrators and one former reporter, were released in a half-hour show on ESPN Tuesday night with Mississippi State claiming the top spot. Florida State, Auburn and Mississippi round out the top four.
The committee is directed to emphasize win-loss records, strength of schedule, conference championships won, head-to-head results and results against common opponents.
While the committee is not directed to consider margin of victory, the fact that the rankings are decided by humans and not computers may make that statistic hard to ignore. Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said style points still matter.
"I think style points are real," the coach said. "Does that affect the way we go about our business, not at all. I have no idea what their criteria is. But I imagine, everything I hear is it's very similar to the (Bowl Championship Series) and the playoffs are the same thing. Instead of the Top 2 you got to get in the top four."
Michigan State (7-1) is the top-ranked Big Ten team at No. 8. The Spartans and Buckeyes will play Nov. 8 in East Lansing.
Nebraska (7-1) is the only other conference team ranked in the top 25, coming in one spot ahead of OSU at No. 15.
Meyer said that the Big Ten should be a factor when it's all said and done.
"I think so," the coach said at his Oct. 27 press conference. "Michigan State is playing great football right now. They're the top team in the Big Ten right now. They're playing great. Not good. So I don't know."
Oregon, Alabama, and Texas Christian check in at ahead of Michigan State at No.5-7. Kansas State, Notre Dame, Georgia, Arizona, Baylor and Arizona State are ranked ninth through fourteenth. Utah is one spot behind Ohio State at No. 17. Oklahoma, LSU and West Virgnia round out the top 20. The final five teams in the rankings are Clemson, UCLA, East Carolina, Duke and Louisville.
The No. 1 team in the final rankings will play the fourth ranked team while the No. 2 and No. 3 teams will square off. Those teams will be placed in the Rose and Sugar Bowl. From the remaining teams the Playoff Selection Committee will select schools for the Cotton, Fiesta, Peach and Orange Bowls.
The rankings will be announced each Tuesday for the rest of the season. ESPN will air a half-hour show releasing the Top 25 at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 4-11 and at 7 p.m. Nov. 18-Dec. 2.