5 takeaways from the second Playoff rankings of 2020
Hey, it wasn’t going to get weird. Not yet.
When I predicted the top 10 for the second Playoff rankings, I thought that we’d see a little bit of movement in the 8-10 range, but other than that, the selection committee didn’t really have to get cute with 1-7.
Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. The rankings didn’t indicate madness because, well, there wasn’t madness outside of Northwestern losing to Michigan State.
But yes, friends, we still have 5 worthy takeaways from these rankings:
1. Don’t hold your breath on Ohio State movement just yet
If the selection committee told us anything with that first ranking, it was that it clearly wasn’t going to knock Ohio State in the way some hoped it would. Having a 4-0 Ohio State team ranked ahead of teams with twice as many games played was easier to justify because those teams had 1 or multiple losses.
Getting 1 game canceled wasn’t going to make or break this ranking of Ohio State. Why? Think about this. If Texas A&M was put ahead of Ohio State and both teams won out, there’s nothing that the selection committee can really do to reverse that decision. Now, it sort of leaves it up to whether Ohio State gets in at least 3 more games.
This would be the worst-case scenario for the selection committee if it had to decide on Ohio State having played only 6 games compared to 10 for Texas A&M. Why? In the past, it’s always been about the most deserving teams. There have been years in which teams like 2016 Penn State and 2018 Georgia didn’t make the field despite the popular notion that they were among the best 4 teams. It’s supposed to be about the games played, not the preseason rankings.
It sets a unique precedent if Ohio State gets in having only played 6 games. It’ll call into question the desire to play against quality competition in nonconference play, and perhaps it’ll make conferences switch to 8-game conference schedules.
The selection committee does have a decision to make with Ohio State. It just doesn’t need to have its mind made up yet.
By the way, I’m not totally buying the belief that the selection committee was actually willing to move A&M ahead of Ohio State if it had beaten LSU 40-0.
CFP Chair Gary Barta on game differential: "It was talked about a lot, specifically whether Texas A&M and Ohio State flip. At the end of the day, the offensive fire power of Ohio State… and we did have an additional game with Texas A&M. Beat LSU 20-7."
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) December 2, 2020
2. The ACC is seeing the bigger, 2-team bid picture here
So this might not have been a rankings takeaway as much as it was a Tuesday takeaway. In case you missed it, the ACC nixed games for Clemson and Notre Dame that would’ve been played on Dec. 12. Sure, Notre Dame would’ve been a considerable favorite at Wake Forest, and Clemson likely would’ve been an even bigger favorite at Florida State. But the thinking in itself was smart on a couple levels.
If the goal for a Power 5 conference is to get a team in the Playoff, the ACC essentially just locked that up. Notre Dame is now in the ACC Championship, and as long as Clemson doesn’t lay an egg at Virginia Tech, it’ll be there, too. With both teams sitting at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, it’s hard to imagine them moving back before they meet in the ACC Championship. Now, both teams will have a bye week ahead of the conference title game to then showcase their best product and not risk COVID issues with any sort of pre-ACC Championship travel.
This is setting up extremely well for the ACC to get both Clemson and Notre Dame into the field. Notre Dame has yet to win a road game by less than 14 points while Clemson has yet to even play in a close game with Trevor Lawrence on the field. Even if the Tigers win by 3 touchdowns, Notre Dame could still very well have a spot in the field clinched.
Tip of the cap to the ACC for thinking like the SEC.
3. You’re still mad about Georgia? Don’t be
It’s not worth your time. Why? Because the second you start breaking résumés outside of the top 7, it’s a bit of a dead end. And don’t tell me BYU is undoubtedly some top-5 team because it beat a bunch of Mountain West teams like a drum. Want me to poke holes in every non-Georgia résumé? Sure.
Indiana? Doesn’t have a win against a team with a winning record. Miami (FL)? Has 1 win vs. a team with a winning record. Iowa State? Has 2 losses, and one of them was a blowout loss at home to a Group of 5 school. Oklahoma? Two losses and only 5 wins vs. Power 5 competition.
It’s the same thing I said last week. Georgia is not worthy of being the No. 8 team in the country, but none of those teams have a path to the Playoff anyways. Clearly, the selection committee is valuing Georgia above those other 2-loss teams because it didn’t lay an egg and it has 5 wins by double digits against Power 5 competition.
Again, I’m not saying undoubtedly that Georgia deserves it, but let’s stop pretending lie the field behind the Dawgs is full of contenders getting robbed.
4. A small thing for A&M was …
Auburn dropping out of the Top 25. If this is going to come down to the résumé, a team who doesn’t have a conference championship to play in needs all the help it can get. It would’ve been beneficial for the Aggies if Auburn could’ve actually stayed on the field and had a close(ish) loss to Alabama. UNC moved up 2 spots after a 2-touchdown loss to Notre Dame, so don’t think that’s impossible.
Even though A&M won’t get to face a ranked Auburn squad on Saturday, this will still be a key test to end the year. A pair of SEC road games against Auburn and Tennessee (with perhaps the Ole Miss game on Dec. 19) should give the selection committee a few more opportunities for them to look the part. Don’t underestimate what that means in a time when Ohio State is desperate to play games.
The Aggies need help but above all else, they’ll have to help themselves down the stretch.
5. Of the non-Pac-12 unbeaten Power 5 teams, Alabama’s résumé is absurd
There was no suspense at No. 1, but I wanted to show why there won’t be if Alabama wins out.
Consider this another reminder why the Crimson Tide is heads and shoulders above the competition:
That average margin of victory is telling. Alabama has yet to win a game by less than 17 points while 6 of Notre Dame’s 8 wins came by less than 17 points. That’s why the margin of victory is almost double.
That’s also why I continue to bang the drum that Alabama, if it can continue this streak of 3-score wins, will have a Playoff bid locked up before it reaches Atlanta.
At this point, if anybody is feeding an anti-Alabama narrative, they’ve got their head in the sand.