Projecting each top 10 team’s final record as a starting point for the 2022 College Football Playoff rankings.

The College Football Playoff selection committee now has more than half a season’s worth of notes to go through before the first seedings reveal next week as we enter the stretch before conference championship weekend. Now that we’ve established a sample size and have some semblance of predictability for the sport’s presumptive national championship contenders, why don’t we take a peek at the rest of the schedule and project definitive entries for the current top 10?

The elites we expected to be here in the preseason are mostly up front, but several others have dropped out to make room for potential Final Four busts, including an unexpected undefeated exit from the SEC. For many teams near the top of the standings, the meat-and-potatoes part of the roster begins as tough games loom in the final weeks of the regular season.

Depending on where your program is right now, one loss might not eliminate you from the playoff picture, but it would certainly leave the margin for error at zero, considering that in the eight-year history of the CFP, no team has been selected with two losses.

Let’s take a look at the leaders in the AP Top 25 and predict how their records will look by the time the committee meets one last time in December to make its decisions.

You get the feeling the defending national champions have been waiting in the weeds for over a month waiting for a break into the national spotlight. It’s been a long time for Georgia since beating South Carolina in September. That could come Saturday against Florida looking to leave a mark. Next up are games against Tennessee, Mississippi State and nationally ranked Kentucky. The Bulldogs are the best team in the SEC and will show it until the end.

Expected final record: 13-0 (SEC Champion over Alabama)

Cruise control. Even when there’s a potential hole like the ugly first half against Iowa, the Buckeyes can quickly hit the gas and run around the Big Ten competition. At least that’s how it feels this season. Ohio State will send Penn State on the road to conquer its penultimate significant challenge before the Nov. 26 showdown with Michigan. This is where the Buckeyes will get revenge en route to the Big Ten crown.

Expected final record: 13-0 (Big Ten Champion over Illinois)

3. Tennessee (7-0)

Josh Heupel will never admit it, but it’s safe to assume that Tennessee’s second-year coach at least took a look at the remaining avenues for non-SEC teams in the early Final Four conversation. Of course, one-loss scenarios are meaningless if the Volunteers continue to score points at a program-record pace with Heisman Trophy candidate Hendon Hooker leading the way. We’re picking Tennessee’s only upset to come between the hedges on Nov. 5. From there, it will take chaos to make it to the playoffs without a conference title as a one-loss non-SEC champion.

Expected final record: 11-1

4. Michigan (7-0)

Ground and pound is Michigan’s calling card, and it’s hard to argue with Jim Harbaugh’s philosophy when you have a group that commits penalties at the line of scrimmage every weekend. At some point, the Wolverines will need to throw the football to win, and that may not become necessary until the trip to Columbus, Ohio. This season looks like it’s ending with a Rose Bowl appearance for Michigan after a loss to Ohio State in the regular season finale, but the Wolverines were giving off the same vibes this time last year. And we all know what happened there.

Expected final record: 11-1

You discover the true identity of the team when misfortune strikes and how you deal with it. For the Tigers to overcome four losses to beat a previously undefeated opponent with a record hitting streak on the line is truly impressive. Clemson is the only team in the top 10 with three wins over currently ranked teams and will be at least a touchdown favorite in every game the rest of the season.

Expected final record: 13-0 (ACC Champion over North Carolina)

6. Alabama (7-1)

Nick Saban’s team will do everything in their power to follow the same script that led to a playoff berth last fall: win. Upcoming road games against nationally ranked LSU and Ole Miss may be tricky, but giving the Crimson Tide the benefit of the doubt to get to Atlanta seems like a smart bet. However, this team may not be disciplined enough to beat Georgia for another conference title this time around, and that would almost certainly prevent a CFP berth unless chaos ensues.

Expected final record: 11-2 (SEC runner-up)

7. TCU (7-0)

Each week, the Horned Frogs continue to find ways to win. That’s the sign of a great team, but at what point does the brutality of the Big 12 finally wear this team down? It will be tough to get through the two road games with Texas and Baylor next month after beating Oklahoma State for the second time in the Big 12 Championship Game. Let’s predict the Frogs go 1-2 in those games falling to the Longhorns and in the league title game. Either way, an 11-win season would be an incredible start to Sonny Dykes’ tenure in Fort Worth, Texas.

Expected final record: 11-2 (Big 12 runner-up)

Could one or two committee members put the Ducks in their personal top four next week? It’s possible when you consider that Oregon’s only loss came to No. 1 Georgia in Week 1 with a new coach in Dan Lanning leading Oregon — coupled with the performance of that group since then. The matchup against Utah at Autzen Stadium on Nov. 19 could be something of an elimination game at the top of the conference, with UCLA-USC just as important next weekend. There’s still a ton of work to be done in an impressive top tier, but Oregon can certainly go the rest of the way without suffering a second loss.

Expected final record: 12-1 (Pac-12 Champion over USC)

9. Oklahoma State (6-1)

What other tricks does Mike Gundy have up his sleeve this season? Oklahoma State looked dead in the water (still) midway through Saturday’s comeback win over Texas before a three-play, 85-yard touchdown before halftime regained some of the momentum. There are problem areas with this team, but top-10 teams not listed in Georgia or Ohio have flaws. A win would put the Cowboys in line for a possible No. 4 seed after missing the playoffs last fall.

Expected final record: 12-1 (Big 12 Champion over TCU)

Double-digit wins in Lincoln Riley’s first season on the West Coast? He would take it. The loss to Utah prematurely ended the undefeated aspirations, but the Trojans have played just one ranked team (UCLA) in their last five games. Reaching the Pac-12 title game looks good for USC as long as the Trojans avoid another hiccup and Oregon beats Utah for the Utes’ second conference loss.

USC’s Projected Final Record: 11-2 (Pac-12 runner-up)

There’s a chance a double-overtime loss to Clemson in Week 4 is what will ultimately keep the Demon Deacons out of the playoff picture. Dave Clawson’s team has been on the rise since then, ranking second in the ACC in scoring offense (41.4), Wake Forest’s highest mark this century. The rest of his slate is full of tough games, including three in a row against NC State, North Carolina and Syracuse in November, before ending up at Duke, a likely bowl team. It’s hard to imagine 11 regular season wins for the Demon Deacons, so we’re projecting a 3-1 mark in those games with a UNC loss.

Wake Forest projected final record: 10-2

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