I’m gonna be honest. I’m guilty.

I’m guilty every year of saying that I won’t get worked up about Playoff rankings, and then don’t ya know it, my opinions come out and I feel the need to correct the selection committee.

I’m not guilty, however, of leading you, reader of this column, down the wrong path. I accurately predicted spots 3-8 with my lone misses being Ohio State and Tennessee flipped (which was the right decision) and I had Ole Miss at No. 9 with USC at No. 10.

Here’s what the first top 10 looked like:

  1. Tennessee
  2. Ohio State
  3. Georgia
  4. Clemson
  5. Michigan
  6. Alabama
  7. TCU
  8. Oregon
  9. USC
  10. LSU

This was what the first Playoff poll of 2022 looked like:

So yes, I have plenty of takeaways. Five, actually.

1. The contender with the biggest gripe was ____________.

It’s gotta be TCU.

Nobody expected to be getting upset about the Horned Frogs in Year 1 with Sonny Dykes. Well, let me rephrase that. I expected to be upset about where TCU was ranked in the first Playoff poll, which was behind 1-loss Alabama. I whole-heartedly disagreed with that.

If your argument is “well who would be favored if they played on a neutral-site” this isn’t the discussion for you. If your argument is “TCU got robbed because it has a better résumé than Alabama,” well, you’ve come to the right place. TCU has 2 wins against current Playoff Top 25 teams (No. 13 Kansas State and No. 18 Oklahoma State) compared to 1 for Alabama (No. 24 Texas). On top of that, TCU has 4 wins against current Power 5 teams with winning records compared to 3 for Alabama.

Oh, and there’s the whole “TCU is undefeated thing,” if you’d like to split the tie. But I digress. Instead, let’s here what the selection committee had to say about somehow ranking the Horned Frogs dead last among the remaining unbeatens:

I mean, Alabama needed a game-winning field goal against Texas and while the MSU win was dominant, Arkansas was within a touchdown in the 4th quarter. I’m just sayin’.

Look. It’d be weird if Alabama didn’t get a favorable ranking considering the Tide have played in a national championship 6 of the last 7 years. But man, TCU got the 2021 Oklahoma treatment with that first ranking. One loss could be all she wrote for the Horned Frogs.

2. The contender who got the most fortunate ranking it could’ve asked for was ___________.

Is it basic to say Tennessee? I’ll say Tennessee with some thoughts on Clemson at the end.

Remember that if the Vols lose at Georgia on Saturday, they’re likely going to be hoping for a Playoff bid without the benefit of playing in a conference championship game. You know how non-division winners make the field? By having an elite résumé that’s actually recognized by the selection committee. Tennessee has that. In spades.

The Vols have 2 wins over CFP top-10 teams (No. 6 Alabama and No. 10 LSU) with 3 wins against Power 5 teams with winning records. It’s really not much of an argument. Georgia is the only other team in the top 10 who has a win against a fellow top-10 foe (Oregon). It was obvious that Tennessee deserved to be No. 1, but the question was whether the selection committee would give them the 2014 MSU treatment. That is, reward the best résumé even if it came from a team who didn’t start the year ranked.

Did Clemson also get the benefit of the doubt? Mostly yes and a little no.

The Tigers are tied with TCU for the most wins against Power 5 teams with winning records (4). Well, at least among the unbeaten and 1-loss Power 5 teams. Clemson has 3 wins against current CFP Top 25 teams, too. That’s the most among contenders.

Of course, Clemson just looked extremely vulnerable against Syracuse and the Tigers’ best win is probably at No. 21 Wake Forest. You can poke holes in that résumé … but it was still better than Michigan’s. The Wolverines’ nonconference slate didn’t hold up and the quality wins are lacking (vs. Maryland and vs. No. 15 Penn State). Hence, why Clemson got the perceived benefit of the doubt.

3. The SEC makes history with Tennessee at No. 1

Fun fact: The SEC has had 5 different teams earn a No. 1 ranking in the CFP Poll. Tennessee joined that club on Tuesday, which previously consisted of Alabama, Georgia, LSU and of course, MSU.

Other fun fact: No other conference has had multiple teams earn a No. 1 ranking.

Call me crazy, but that’s telling. If you think it’s “telling” from a bias standpoint, remember that the SEC is 12-3 in Playoff games against non-SEC teams. Meanwhile, the Big 12 hasn’t ever won a Playoff game, the Pac-12 hasn’t won a Playoff game since 2014, the Big Ten has 1 Playoff victory in the last 7 seasons and the ACC is Clemson and everyone else.

Sooner or later, claims of bias will fade.

4. Let’s talk about Ohio State getting the No. 2 spot instead of Georgia

To a certain extent, I get it. The Buckeyes have looked like the complete team many speculated that they would be in the preseason, and they reached this point without their top offensive weapon, Jaxon Smith-Njigba. The defense looks immensely improved and Jim Knowles deserves a lot of credit for that.

But if we’re just basing this off résumé, Georgia would’ve had my vote to get the No. 2 spot.

In addition to having that blowout win over No. 8 Oregon (Ohio State doesn’t have any wins vs. current CFP top-10 teams), Georgia also has just as many wins vs. Power 5 teams with winning records as Ohio State (2). And for all the talk about UGA playing down to its competition, the average margin of victory against Power 5 competition is still +33.3, which is nearly a touchdown better than Ohio State’s +27.8.

Don’t forget the significance of this ranking. Georgia and Ohio State could both find themselves on the outside looking in of a conference championship game potentially at 11-1. It matters what the selection committee is telling us about each team through the first 9 weeks. Clearly, the Oregon win isn’t being held in the same regard as Ohio State’s win at Penn State. Recency bias? Or perhaps venue bias? Maybe.

Whatever the case, Georgia just got all the motivation it needed heading into Saturday’s monumental showdown against the top-ranked Vols.

5. How many teams can actually make the Playoff?

By my count, there are 13 who will at least have a chance if they win out:

  • Tennessee
  • Ohio State
  • Georgia
  • Clemson
  • Michigan
  • Alabama
  • TCU
  • Oregon
  • USC
  • LSU
  • Ole Miss
  • UCLA
  • Illinois

Yes, even Illinois has a shot with 1 loss and a potential Big Ten Championship against Ohio State or Michigan. Oh, and we should never rule out the idea of a 2-loss team winning the SEC and making the field, which LSU can do if it beats Alabama and potentially Georgia or Tennessee in the conference championship.

Obviously there are certain situations that are trickier than others. For example, if Oregon wins out but Georgia is 11-1, can the Ducks still get in? We don’t know that yet. One would think a 49-3 neutral-site game would break the tie, but who knows?

Welcome to the chaos, friends.