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A Look Back at All the Previous #7s in the Initial College Football Playoff Rankings

So what happened to the previous teams who started at #7?

Michigan State v Penn State Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

As you should be well aware by now, the initial College Football Playoffs were released on Tuesday with Penn State coming in at #7, following a heartbreaking loss at Ohio State.

If Penn State were still undefeated, it would simply come down to them continuing to win to secure their spot in the playoffs. Now their path becomes quite murky.

It’s still quite possible though. If Penn State can win out its last four regular season game, and heck, maybe a fifth game (go Iowa and Michigans!), they could be ranked among the top four with a little help. There’s plenty of football to be played, with limitless possibilities of combinations that will ultimately decide college football’s final four.

While we wait for the season to unfold and see where the dust settles for the playoff picture on Dec. 3, let’s take a look back at the previous teams who started at #7, and where they ended up.



The 2014 Horned Frogs were by far the most notable of the #7 club. TCU started seventh with a 7-1 record, with their only loss being a 61-58 defeat at the hands of fellow Big 12 mates and playoff contender Baylor. TCU would work itself into playoff position, making it to #3 in the penultimate rankings. Then controversy set in. The Horned Frogs walloped a 2-10 Iowa State team 55-3 in the final game of the season. Unfortunately for TCU, Ohio State would win the Big Ten Championship later that night by a tune of 59-0 against Wisconsin- despite starting Cardale Jones at quarterback, who was third on the depth chart to start the season.

Not only were they jumped by Florida State in the final ranking, the committee decided Ohio State should be #4 and take the final spot in the playoff. Despite the blowout win to end the season, TCU plummeted to #6 where they would remain at the end of the season following a 42-3 victory against Ole Miss in the Peach/Gross Chicken Sandwich Place That Closes on Sundays Bowl.


Michigan State

Despite being undefeated, Michigan State was still at #7 when the committee released their initial rankings. In fairness to the committee, 2015 was an unusually competitive season with many teams remaining undefeated late in the to the year. There was also the thought that Michigan State was likely to lose an upcoming battle with Ohio State.

Things would get weird from here. Despite losing a game to Nebraska, Michigan State still managed to do the improbable and make the playoffs. How? By taking destiny in their own hands and beating the Buckeyes in Columbus, despite being forced to rotate two completely inexperienced quarterbacks with Connor Cook out with an injury. After that, they crushed Penn State 55-16, then outlasted an undefeated Iowa team in the Big Ten Championship with an absolutely epic 11-minute drive, winning 16-13. They would enter the playoffs as a four seed. Although they played #1 Alabama tough for the first half, the Spartans would end up getting crushed by the Crimson Tide 38-0. The yended up close to where they started, and just like TCU, were #6 in the final rankings.



Louisville had the least amount of drama of the previous teams who started at #7. At the time, they were 7-1 and seemed to be a legitimate contender, led by Heisman frontrunner Lamar Jackson. The one loss was a close call on the road against Clemson. If they kept winning, it seemed the committee would have a tough time leaving them out of the top four.

Then the wheels came off. In the penultimate game of the regular season, Houston had a crazy thought- “What would happen if we kept Lamar Jackson in the pocket, took away his scrambling ability that makes him so dangerous, and turned him into a quarterback who had to beat us with his arm?” Well, it worked out quite well for the Cougars that Thursday night in front of a raucous home crowd. Not only did they dash Louisville’s playoff hopes, they also gave their next two opponents a blueprint on how to slow down a quarterback who had looked like a Tecmo Bowl version of Randall Cunningham for most of the season. Louisville would suffer another upset the following week to Kentucky, before being destroyed by #19 LSU 29-9 in the Citrus Bowl. They would finish 9-4 and ranked #21 to end the season.