Let’s examine the second edition of the College Football Playoff Rankings.
First things first, Georgia over Alabama is a twofold commitment - first, a commitment to signal that only 2017 on field results matter in these rankings. Second, this is a commitment to giving Notre Dame every opportunity to get into the playoff. Personally, I am hesitant at Notre Dame’s path to the playoff, as I believe they’re given undue prestige as an independent, but I’ll discuss more of that dynamic below.
Some of these rankings are getting hard to defend, but also atrophy is playing a role. How is UCF, who beat a decent SMU team on the road, still so low, yet, Mississippi State sits at 16? You know, that Starkville team who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat at the hands of giant-killer… UMass? We are kind of at a weird point in the season, though - there are about 14 really good teams, and then a bunch of about 30 just ok teams mashed up behind them. The only reason those late teens rankings are irksome is that they will end up being the reference points for strength of schedule. MS State still sitting so high gives a one loss Alabama or Georgia an edge over TCU in terms of schedule, almost at the whimsy of the committee. Other exceptions I have will be taken care of, like the Big 10 mid-teens logjam and Memphis still down at 22.
More importantly, Miami staying behind TCU is puzzling. Miami, undefeated with a win against now 17 Virginia Tech, was a prime candidate to jump TCU. The fact that they held steady affirms the theme of this week’s rankings: it’s all going to get figured out soon enough. This week, we have the following match-ups:
- #1 Georgia vs #10 Auburn
- #5 OU vs #6 TCU
- #3 ND VS #7 Miami
- #2 Bama vs #16 Miss State
- #8 Wisky vs #20 Iowa
- #12 Mich St vs #13 Ohio State
- #15 Ok State vs #21 Iowa State
And hell, Washington vs. Recently-Unranked Stanford could get weird. All this to say, we again have these clear groupings of paths to the playoff. The survivor out of Georgia-Alabama-Auburn and out of Clemson-Notre Dame- Miami will get a spot. These teams are so easily comparable due to common opponents and head to head match-ups. Treating the Irish as a part of the ACC would be prudent, as they essentially play an ACC schedule (with some noted upgrades - a one loss ND this year could perhaps eclipse the Pac-12’s playoff hopes). That’s two spots spoken for, pretty cut and dried.
The other two spots is where it gets murky. OU-TCU will be an elimination game this week, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the loser of that game fall behind the Penn State-USC tier. If either one of TCU or OU wins out, clearly now they have a spot waiting for them in the Playoff, which is not something that could’ve been said for the last few Big 12 champs.
That fourth and final spot is the most volatile. Washington and Wisconsin are currently the only two occupants of that race, but once the winners and losers of this weekend get sorted out, that fourth spot gets clear as mud. A one loss Miami, a one loss Georgia/Alabama, and a two loss Auburn all could have claim to this spot. (With so many wins left on the table, you’d have to at least acknowledge two loss teams in this discussion.) Go with me for a second - Miami loses to Notre Dame and beats Clemson. Who keeps them out of the playoff? Does undefeated Wisconsin get precedent over any one loss team, strictly? What would UCF have to do to sneak into this spot? (Ok, well, that was reaching. Sorry, #PowerSix.)
Hypotheticals abound, and hypotheticals affirm that the rankings are still in flux until the last week. As for now, we have the Thunderdome to look forward to this weekend, which should offer some glimpses of clarity towards that final playoff.
PS - I’d be remiss if I didn’t shout out Boog for giving TCU’s defense some love last night. Thanks, Boog.