Initial Playoff Projection: Ohio State is not the top seed

Connor Cook (18) and Michigan State are one of the FBS' most highly regarded teams partly thanks to their Week 2 win vs. Oregon.

If the College Football Playoff field were to be decided today, Michigan State, not Ohio State, would be the top seed, according to the Football Four Playoff Projection panel.

The 13-member panel made up of coaches, athletic directors, USA TODAY Sports experts and other dignitaries that is based on the Playoff selection committee’s model put the Spartans on the top seed line in this week’s initial projection for the 2015 season, with Ohio State the 2 seed, Mississippi the 3 seed and TCU the 4 seed.

“Where’s their weak link?” Panelist Jim Ross said of the Spartans. “This week they’re best team in the Big Ten.”.

The debut projection gives three Power Five conferences a berth in the playoff, with the ACC and Pac-12 left out.

The Playoff Projection is in its third year. In addition to Ross, the WWE Hall of Fame announcer, this year’s panel includes former FBS coaches Tommy Bowden, Rich Brooks and Jim Grobe, former FBS athletic directors Bill Byrne and Jim Livengood, Michigan State men’s basketball coach and football aficionado Tom Izzo and USA TODAY Sports college sports staff members Nicole Auerbach, Paul Myerberg, George Schroeder, Eddie Timanus, Daniel Uthman and Dan Wolken.

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Each panelist enters a four-team ballot, with four points awarded for a No. 1 vote, three for a No. 2, two for a No. 3 and one for a No. 4. The projection is purely a mock selection with no bearing on the Playoff selection committee’s decisions.

Ohio State received the most first-place votes from the panel, but Michigan State got the overall point edge by having three more second-place votes and two more third-place votes. The Spartans earned 41 voting points, the Buckeyes 37, Mississippi earned 21 and TCU earned 15.

“Ohio State is not very impressive early, but possesses an abundance of talent,” Brooks said. “They also have the softest schedule going forward.”.

The only team other than Michigan State and Ohio State to receive a No. 1 vote was Notre Dame, which placed fifth in this week’s overall vote. Georgia (four voting points), UCLA and Oklahoma (two) and Baylor (one) were the other teams that received votes.

“I give the Sooners a slight edge with their win at Tennessee over (TCU) beating Minnesota on the road,” said Timanus, who gave Oklahoma its only vote. “Obviously this gets reassessed as they start playing each other, but that’s where they stand as of this moment.

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