4 takeaways from initial College Football Playoff rankings
The first installment of the College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday, and there’s already controversy afoot.
Nos. 1-3 came as no surprise. Alabama, Clemson and Michigan all have near-bulletproof résumés as undefeated teams hailing from Power 5 conferences, plus each has passed the proverbial eye test to this point.
However, No. 4 came as a shock to most everyone who follows the game closely. Texas A&M, 7-1, got the nod over 8-0 Washington. The Aggies are owners of perhaps the best defeat among the one-loss programs, having been handled by top-ranked Alabama. Still, why the unbeaten Huskies ended up on the cutting-floor is a mystery.
SEC conspiracy theorists will have a field day with this one. Expect to hear the loudest complaints from Pac-12 officials out West, and to a lesser extent the Big 12 in flyover country. The committee better be prepared.
Here are my initial four takeaways — see what I did there? the Final Four? — from the first version of the CFP standings.
being undefeated isn’t good enough
Like most people, I expected the Top 4 to be Alabama, Clemson, Michigan and Washington, if not necessarily in that order.
The fact that the committee chose to go with Texas A&M over Washington means it didn’t take the easy way out and simply put the four undefeated teams from the Power 5 conferences atop the standings and call it a day.
That being said, perhaps the CFP is trying a bit too hard here. The Aggies just beat New Mexico State 52-10 at home, while the Huskies upended Utah — No. 16 in these rankings — 31-24 on the road. There’s no reason whatsoever to come to the conclusion that A&M was more impressive the last time out than U-Dub.
The Aggies have wins over UCLA, Arkansas and Tennessee. None of those victories look as good now as they did then based on what’s happened since. Plus, their W over Auburn came before the Tigers really hit their stride.
Maybe the Huskies are being penalized for the general weakness of the Pac-12. Regardless, this feels like a mild injustice.
five sec team still in the hunt
With No. 1 Alabama, No. 4 Texas A&M, No. 9 Auburn, No. 11 Florida and No. 13 LSU, the SEC was well represented in the rankings.
The Crimson Tide are clearly the best team in the country, so much so that there couldn’t have been much debate amongst the committee about putting them atop the primary standings. The defending champs are again dominant.
With two-loss Auburn being ranked ahead of one-loss Florida, it’s safe to assume that the relative strength of the West is being taken into consideration. Also, the Tigers have only lost to No. 2 Clemson and No. 4 Texas A&M. Apparently, having “good losses” factored into the decision-making process, as well.
Most of these teams will knock each other off at some point. All of the aforementioned five squads play at least one of the others down the stretch. LSU, as a matter of fact, still has to face three of the other four.
More than likely, ‘Bama is the only one that can afford a mistake the rest of the way. Another loss eliminates the remaining four.
big ten hanging right with the sec
It’s pretty admirable that the SEC had five schools in the Top 13, but the Big Ten actually put five in the Top 12.
With No. 3 Michigan, No. 6 Ohio State, No. 8 Wisconsin, No. 10 Nebraska and No. 12 Penn State, the Big Ten is valued just much as the SEC by the committee. The Nittany Lions really helped themselves with their upset of the Buckeyes.
Between the SEC and Big Ten, they hold a commanding 10 of the Top 13 positions. The ACC has two of the other three with No. 2 Clemson and No. 7 Louisville, and then the Pac-12 owns the final spot with No. 5 Washington. The Big 12, unquestionably the red-headed stepchild of the Power 5, did no better than No. 14 with two-loss Oklahoma.
Don’t expect any party crashing from a non-Power 5 school, as the lone representatives were No. 23 Western Michigan and No. 24 Boise State. Neither will get anywhere near the playoff, although a New Year’s Six bowl game is attainable.
The SEC sees itself as the best conference in America. But in the committee’s eyes, it’s neck and neck with the Big Ten.
committee trying to stir the pot
To repeat, common sense indicated that the four teams at the top of the rankings would be Alabama, Clemson, Michigan and Washington.
Instead, the committee threw quite the curveball with the inclusion of one-loss Texas A&M ahead of unbeaten Washington. As a result, column inches are being filled at a furious pace at every news outlet in the country.
Perhaps the voters in that room do believe the Aggies are more deserving than the Huskies. The SEC is light-years more competitive than the Pac-12. Losing to Alabama is nothing to be ashamed of, either. With the likes of Stanford and Oregon down in the dumps this season, they’re not helping U-Dub’s case.
Or maybe, just maybe, this is intentional by the CFP. With Washington at No. 4, there wouldn’t be much to talk about Wednesday at the water cooler. But with Texas A&M at No. 4, message boards are crashing nationwide.
In the end, this is a television show. What better way to generate ratings than by manufacturing drama out of thin air.