5 teams with a right to be angry about the second Playoff rankings
The second College Football Playoff poll, released Tuesday, had no movement at the top, but that doesn’t mean there is no room for debate. Georgia is still No. 1, Alabama is still No. 2, and that debate among SEC fans still will rage. As long as both teams keep winning they will settle it on the field in Atlanta in the league title game. If both enter 12-0, and as long as their clash is reasonably close, both should make the CFP semifinals, with the winner at No. 1.
Which leads to this: One of the beautiful things about every college football season is that teams usually get a chance to go on the field and fix injustices, or perceived injustices, inflicted upon them in the rankings. For instance, last week I argued that Oklahoma and TCU were ranked too low. I still think that at least Oklahoma could make a pretty good argument for the top four, but this Saturday the Sooners and Horned Frogs meet in Norman and the winner will be the undisputed leader in the Big 12 (and I believe that winner definitely should be above No. 4 Clemson).
But let’s deal in the here and now — as in, which teams have the most reason to gripe after the committee decided on the second set of rankings which will determine the four-team playoff field?
Miami (ranked No. 7)
I have been a Hurricanes skeptic all season. They kept pulling out close wins, often in the final seconds, rather than displaying any dominance. And with Florida State way down and Louisville somewhat down, the question was, who is stepping up in the ACC? After Saturday, Miami is the definitive answer. A decisive win over a darn good Virginia Tech team was The U’s best yet.
Now that Clemson and Miami have the same solid win in common, one might ask why unbeaten Miami is three spots below one-loss Clemson. The non-conference schedule was a demerit for the Canes … except that Toledo team they beat is 8-1 and is the class of the MAC. Not a huge feather in the cap, but when that early Group of 5 victim turns out to be really good, it has to count for something.
Michigan State (ranked No. 12)
The top two-loss team in the CFP rankings is Auburn. That’s logical. The Tigers’ only blemishes are one-score defeats to Clemson and LSU, both on the road. The second-highest two-loss team is … USC? Why? The Trojans rose six spots from last week. I guess that is a solid reward for blowing a 28-6 lead at home against Arizona, right? OK, the Trojans rallied to win but their spot at No. 11 — with no wins over currently ranked teams — is inexplicable. What I’m saying is, a few teams ranked below the Trojans have a right to wonder why, and Michigan State just happens to be the next team down, so let’s start there.
The Spartans just beat a fine Penn State team and own victories over Iowa, which just entered the rankings, and a Michigan team that started Florida’s downward spiral this year. MSU lost at home to Notre Dame pretty handily, but the Fighting Irish beat USC even worse. Honestly, it’s not so much that MSU is that great, it’s just that any team at No. 12 would have an argument over a vastly overrated USC, including any two-loss SEC team. Especially one in the SEC West. Actually, that leads us to …
Mississippi State (ranked No. 16)
Why is this team below USC? The Bulldogs own a 30-point win over LSU and a 21-point win at Texas A&M. They also ran roughshod over BYU, but it’s too bad for MSU’s resume (and LSU’s and Wisconsin’s) that the Cougars forgot how to play offense this year. That’s a game that a program schedules years in advance, thinking that a victory would look really good, and then when the time comes … not so much.
Anyway, MSU’s only losses were both on the road, against No. 1 Georgia and No. 10 Auburn. Neither game was close, but then neither was USC’s loss to Notre Dame.
UCF (ranked No. 18)
I argued for the Knights to be higher last week and I will do so again. The consensus seems to be that the American Athletic Conference is the best Group of 5 league and the evidence supports that thought.
UCF is the last unbeaten G5 team left. Only three one-loss G5 teams remain and two, Memphis and USF, are in the AAC. (Again, Toledo is the other.) UCF already has beaten No. 23 Memphis and gets a shot at the Bulls for the AAC East title Nov. 24 in Orlando. That winner should take on Memphis for not only a conference crown but almost certainly a spot in a New Year’s Day 6 bowl. UCF is No. 5 in total offense and, unlike a lot of AAC programs, plays at least some defense (No. 38).
Iowa State (ranked No. 21)
The Cyclones own a pretty dismal loss to Texas, no doubt. But their other losses were in overtime against now-ranked Iowa and a four-point road loss at a pretty solid, albeit unranked, West Virginia team. That WVU loss on Saturday perhaps proved, just as much as Iowa State’s two epic wins over Oklahoma and TCU, that these are not your dad’s Cyclones anymore. Or your grandfather’s, or your great-grandfather’s.
ISU fell behind 20-0 to the Mountaineers, who came in No. 8 in total offense in FBS (they rose to No. 7 after this one). Most previous Cyclone teams would have folded their tents and lost 45-0, but this bunch roared back to get within 20-16 and had a chance to win late until the final drive stalled. And despite that loss, a program that infamously has not won a conference title since 1912 still has a shot at winning one in 2017 in a wild Big 12 race.
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