Predicting what the second College Football Playoff ranking will look like
Not bad, I’d say.
I had 9 of the 10 teams that started in the first top 10 of the Playoff ranking. I whiffed on arguably the 2 biggest surprises of the night. BYU was out of the top 10 and Georgia was in it.
As for where I predicted each team would be ranked, well, I guessed 4 of those accurately (Miami, Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Alabama). I was within 1 spot of where the other 5 ended up.
Not great, though not bad.
So, let’s take another stab at guessing where I think the selection committee will slot the top 10 Tuesday night (a reminder that this is not where I personally would rank these teams):
Let’s start at the same place we were at last week, shall we? Miami had its game against Georgia Tech postponed because of COVID, which is why it’ll likely stand pat. The Hurricanes’ résumé is in the eye of the beholder. The pro-Miami crowd will question why a 1-loss team whose lone loss came via Clemson is ranked No. 10. They’ll point to A&M, who had the blowout loss to Alabama, and say the résumés are similar. The difference is that A&M beat a legitimate top-10 team while Miami’s best win came against unranked NC State (the Wolfpack will be ranked this week).
9. Iowa State
You could make the case that Indiana or Miami deserves this spot and they shouldn’t both get leapfrogged by Iowa State. But after beating Texas, Matt Campbell has wins vs. both of the preseason Big 12 favorites along with a spot in the Big 12 title game. Something tells me that’ll give the Cyclones the benefit of the doubt against a team like Indiana, which beat Maryland convincingly but is still lacking the quality wins, just like Miami, which also only has 1 loss but got its game postponed over the weekend. It’s easier to the selection committee to justify the Iowa State love after winning a road game at a place like Texas.
Hooooooo boy are the anti-SEC people going to hate this one. Yes, Georgia will likely move up a spot into where Northwestern was before losing to Michigan State. Why? We already saw the selection committee value that résumé despite the fact that it featured a pair of double-digit losses to quality foes. Georgia hasn’t always looked the part, but to be honest, there aren’t many 1- or 2-loss teams in the Power 5 ranks that have a ton of quality wins. Or if they do (Iowa State), they have a loss to a team like Louisiana-Lafayette on the résumé. That’s what’ll keep Georgia a hair ahead of Iowa State, but again, the Dawgs’ path to the Playoff is non-existent.
I actually think the selection committee can justify making 1 through 7 especially boring this week. That starts with Cincinnati, which didn’t play after its game against Temple was canceled because of COVID. Will that make or break the path to the Playoff? Probably not, though you can bet the Bearcats didn’t want to lose any opportunities to past the eye test. As predicted last week, Cincinnati had a more compelling résumé than BYU because of AAC competition. Unlike UCF a couple of years ago, it actually benefitted the Bearcats. Luke Fickell’s squad now has 2 opportunities to win convincingly against quality foes away from home … and hope that all hell breaks loose ahead of them.
I incorrectly predicted that Florida would start in the top 5. That didn’t happen because of A&M’s head-to-head advantage, which trumped the fact that the rest of the Gators’ résumé is probably better than the Aggies’. There’s no real need for the selection committee to switch Florida and A&M around after Florida had a somewhat mediocre showing against 1-dimensional Kentucky. The good news? Florida’s defense has shown it can make in-game adjustments and doesn’t look like some massive liability the way it was earlier in the season.
5. Texas A&M
Yes, the passing game was horrendous against a bad LSU defense. It’s 2020. For some, that’ll mean A&M isn’t passing the eye test. But for others, the fact that the Aggies nearly shut out LSU will matter a lot. A&M isn’t built like any of the top 4 teams ahead of them. Check that. There are shades of Notre Dame with the Aggies. A veteran quarterback with never-ending eligibility having his best season, an impressive ground game, a team who has a lack of options at wide receiver, a defense who continues to improve, etc. OK, there are actually a lot of similarities, including the Mike Elko connection.
The difference, of course, is that A&M has a blowout loss on its résumé and the Irish have nothing but wins. You can bet Aggies fans watched Notre Dame on Friday hoping that the latter would finally not be true.
4. Ohio State
If the selection committee wanted to blow up the entire state of Ohio, it would drop the Buckeyes to No. 6 and put them 1 spot ahead of Cincinnati. Oh, the debates that would ensue. Ohio State’s starting ranking of No. 4 was favorable considering we’re talking about a team that has played in half the games compared to the teams who surround it. And as I’ve said before, can we think about what sort of outcry there would be nationally if an SEC team with 4 games played was ranked at No. 4? Madness, it would be.
The Buckeyes are in this spot because of preseason confirmation bias above all else. Getting a game canceled because of COVID might not impact the ranking in the way that some outside the state of Ohio are hoping, but it does start to beg the question — does the selection committee have a real number in mind for total games needed to be played? I’m not talking about what they say when they provide zero context in those post-rankings interviews. They need to start preparing for the scenario that Ohio State ends the season with 6 games played.
There’s no debating 1 through 3 at this point. Clemson got Trevor Lawrence back and thumped Pitt, which was expected. It doesn’t change the reality that the Notre Dame loss happened. That Miami win also justifies ranking Clemson this high. They’ve still blown out every team they faced when Lawrence has been on the field. There’s not a person in America who should believe that Clemson is unworthy of a top-4 spot with a healthy Lawrence. Assuming Clemson rolls at Virginia Tech this weekend, this is still all going to come down to the rematch with Notre Dame. And while the rest of the college football world keeps its fingers crossed for the ACC to block its 2-team path to the Playoff, it’s becoming more and more likely by the week.
2. Notre Dame
Are there still people out there who aren’t sold on the Irish as a legitimate top-4 team? I hope they watched Friday and saw the Irish again go on the road and beat a quality foe by a couple touchdowns. By the way, they’ve yet to win a road game by less than 14 points this year. Add that in with the Clemson win and the whole “they’re still undefeated” thing and yeah, the Irish are a lock for the No. 2 spot. Notre Dame is playing its way into a much more likely scenario in which the selection committee decides that a close loss to Clemson wouldn’t be enough to knock the Irish out of the top 4. I do believe that would bump Ohio State out of the field if that scenario were to play out.
Just think about this for a second. Alabama was a 24-point favorite against a Top-25 team and it covered with ease. That was actually the closest game that Alabama has played in since the Georgia game, which it won by 3 scores. Dating to the start of the second half against Georgia, the Crimson Tide outscored 5 SEC teams by a combined 215-33. Alabama has been so dominant that there’s not even an anti-Alabama crowd loud enough to be heard this year. More importantly for a team like Cincinnati or Ohio State, Alabama has been so dominant that it has a very realistic path to locking up a Playoff bid before the SEC Championship is played.
That’d surely bring out the anti-Alabama crowd in full force.