Predicting what the Week 12 College Football Playoff Rankings will look like
What we meant was …
The initial Playoff rankings were about as realistic as Bobby Boucher. As I wrote Wednesday morning, they never had a chance to survive November. Turns out, they didn’t even survive the weekend.
Fortunately (?) the Playoff selection committee gets a redo. Will they get it right in Round 2?
Here’s what I expect the top 10 to look like when the rankings are released Tuesday night (7 pm, ESPN).
Just admit you made a mistake. It’s OK. Keeping Ohio State at No. 1 after LSU just knocked off a 4th top 10 team would be peak stubbornness. Worse, it would signal that this committee still isn’t sure what matters most: eye-test vs. terrible opponents or quality wins over much better opponents.
They’ll adjust and have LSU No. 1.
2. Ohio State
No harm done. Ohio State probably would prefer to play its semifinal out West, anyway, in the Fiesta Bowl.
The committee’s lack of respect for Clemson was puzzling. The Tigers became the first reigning champ not included in the top 4 of the next season’s first poll. Bygones (or, rather, be gone, Penn State). There is zero justification for anything other than being No. 3 Tuesday night.
The committee will choose between 3 1-loss teams for this spot: Alabama, Georgia and Oregon.
Georgia has the most horrific loss, to a South Carolina team that almost assuredly won’t make a bowl, and the Dawgs have the least explosive offense. (Not to mention consecutive losses to Alabama with largely the same key personnel, which subjectively will come into play.)
Oregon lost to an SEC team that could finish 4th in its own division. Ultimately, what Alabama does against Auburn will determine the Tide’s Playoff hopes — and end Oregon’s. The Tide can’t just win, though. It needs to be convincing.
As much as you might be dealing with Alabama fatigue and hoping on hope that the LSU loss knocked them out, the reality is Alabama would still be undefeated and unquestioned with Georgia’s schedule, Oregon’s schedule, Clemson’s schedule and Ohio State’s schedule.
Georgia also has the best nonconference win in the group: a victory over Notre Dame. But does the committee truly believe this Dawgs offense can keep pace with Alabama? Georgia’s offense seemingly has regressed from last year. Alabama’s is every bit as dangerous.
I can’t get past the fact that Oregon would finish no better than 4th in the SEC and possibly as low as 6th, but that obviously didn’t bother the committee last week. The Ducks were idle in Week 11.
Do I believe the Gophers have any chance to run the table? No way. But I believe the committee will reward them handsomely for the narrow victory over Penn State. A 1-week jump from 17 to 7 (or 8, where I have them) would be significant, but the Gophers are undefeated with a signature victory.
The knock? There are several you probably won’t hear a lot about amid the hysteria: The Gophers didn’t play a nonconference Power 5 team. Penn State was the first ranked opponent they’ve played, and they won their first 3 games against mid-majors by a combined 13 points. They have 5 wins by a TD or fewer. There are a lot of Baylor similarities. Heck, if you compare the recruiting rankings, there are a lot of 2017 UCF similarities.
It’s a fun story, but there’s no need to get worked up about it or ridiculous rankings like this one. It’s simple: The Gophers have to go 13-0.
Utah also was idle last week. There’s not a lot to like about the résumé, but the committee started them at 7.
Interestingly, Utah probably has a cleaner path to the Playoff than Oregon, though, because it doesn’t have to explain how it lost to the SEC’s 4th- or 5th-best team but jumped 2 of them for the final spot.
The Gators are the only team in the top 10 without a Playoff path, but they’re another step closer to locking up a NY6 bowl game. They were No. 10 last week and won big.
The Sooners sure know how to make it interesting. They had a chance to make a move and instead were fortunate to survive. Could they win and fall out of the top 10? I believe in them more than I think the committee will. Being outscored 20-0 at home in the 4th quarter and needing to stop a 2-point conversion just reinforces all of those narratives about how they can’t play defense. I could see the committee putting Penn State at 10 and dropping Oklahoma to 11.
Outside the top 10?
How far will Penn State fall? I’d push them to No. 11, not so much because the Nittany Lions lost, but because of how they lost. Every team in the top 10 has a QB who would light up that secondary.
This committee has new members, so I hesitate to put too much emphasis on history, but last year the Nittany Lions also fell 6 spots in the second Playoff poll. Anything higher than 10 would be just as egregious as starting them at No. 4 ahead of Clemson and Georgia.
Baylor was No. 12 last week. The Bears won to stay undefeated, but they didn’t do enough to against a below-average TCU team to merit a move into the top 10. Baylor needed a 51-yard FG in the final seconds just to force OT. Give them credit for improving to 9-0, but also realize 5 of those wins have been by 1 score.