5 teams that should be angry about the fourth Playoff rankings
The top 12 teams in the College Football Rankings all won last week, so of course there was little movement in the rankings when the committee met this week. Miami jumped Clemson for the No. 2 spot, but if they both win this weekend (a big if with Clemson facing rival South Carolina) it won’t matter because the Tigers and Hurricanes will meet for the ACC Championship Game with the winner punching its ticket to the CFP semifinals.
Other than that, the top 12 stayed the same, which means teams on the outside looking in are really running out of time to impress the CFP committee.
So, which teams are getting more nervous and perhaps have a right to be angry with the rankings?
No. 4 Oklahoma (10-1)
OK, wait. How can a team with a ticket to the semifinals complain? Because that ticket is printed in pencil, not pen.
The Sooners have pretty much played one bad half all season, the second half in its loss to Iowa State. But consider the following scenario: Oklahoma, which beat No. 12 TCU on Nov. 11, beats the Horned Frogs again in the Big 12 championship game. Auburn beats both Alabama and Georgia (again) on its way to the SEC title. Wisconsin beats Ohio State convincingly in the Big Ten title game to cap an unbeaten season as a champion in a Power 5 league. Isn’t it slightly possible that Oklahoma will get left out of the Playoff if all those things happen? The Sooners should not even be in a position to worry about it — they should be ahead of Clemson, whose loss to Syracuse looks worse every week.
No. 5 Wisconsin (11-0)
Yes, yes, the Badgers played a cupcake non-conference schedule. Yes, the Big Ten West is weak. But Wisconsin has had two of its best wins of the season in the past two weeks — rolling past Iowa and Michigan, both ranked at the time they played — and is second in the country in total defense at 246.4 yards a game, behind only Alabama (244.1).
Jonathan Taylor is receiving very little attention despite being third in the country in rushing with 1,657 yards. Again, the strength of schedule is an issue for Wisconsin, but it seems inconceivable that an unbeaten Power 5 champion could be left out.
No. 6 Auburn (9-2)
The Tigers can solve a lot of their own problem by defeating Alabama on Saturday, of course. This is a team with two losses, both on the road against ranked teams, by a total of 12 points. And Kerryon Johnson, their best player, didn’t play at Clemson. Meanwhile, while in the best division in college football according to both popular opinion and the numbers from computer guru Jeff Sagarin, the Tigers have earned their nine victories by an average of 43-16.
At the end of the day the CFP committee’s task has a lot of complex components, but one simple goal: Pick the best four college football teams in the country. If Auburn closes its season by defeating Georgia, then Alabama, then Georgia again in the final month, that whole “no two-loss team has ever made the Playoff” thing simply must go out the window.
No. 7 Georgia (10-1)
In a way, Georgia’s task as a one-loss team is harder than Auburn’s task as a two-loss team. First, there’s that head-to-head meeting between the teams on The Plains, which did not go well for the Bulldogs. The other problem is, other CFP contenders have two solid chances to impress the committee — Auburn and Alabama play each other, then the Bulldogs for the SEC title; Clemson faces No. 24 South Carolina and No. 2 Miami — but Georgia only has one: The SEC title game.
Bulldogs fans might be enjoying Georgia Tech’s struggles this season but their annual finale will do Georgia no favors in terms of schedule. Even a convincing win won’t move UGA up in next week’s rankings, and it does not help that, according to Sagarin’s ratings, the SEC East is rated worst among all Power 5 divisions (each of the four two-division leagues plus the Big 12).
No. 20 Memphis (9-1)
I have argued for UCF for weeks, but now it’s time to recognize another American Athletic Conference team. Memphis lost to UCF at home, but the Tigers have averaged an astonishing 48.2 points a game in their nine victories — including one over UCLA, and it’s too bad for the Tigers and their strength of schedule that the wheels have come off in Westwood. Yes, Memphis a Group of 5 program, but this is worth paying attention to because a two-loss Boise State team is on the rise and only three spots behind Memphis.
Here is the issue: Memphis not only has one fewer loss than Boise State, but the AAC West is rated as the best division among the G5 conferences. This should not even be close. If Memphis takes care of East Carolina and beats the winner of this Friday’s USF-UCF game on Dec. 2 for the AAC championship, there should be no question that the Tigers are the most deserving G5 team for a New Year’s Day 6 bowl bid.