Takeaways from the fourth Playoff poll of 2022
Yep. I also thought 19 minutes was too long to give us a relatively straightforward ranking.
Thank you, ESPN, for that.
Thank you to the selection committee for giving us things to debate. As in, why is Clemson still not getting much love as a 1-loss team? Also, why is Alabama still getting so much love?
We got answers to those questions and more. Here was what the top 10 looked like:
- Ohio State
Here was the rest of the Top 25:
The NEW #CFBPlayoff top 25 rankings heading into rivalry week‼️
Which matchup are you looking forward to? ? pic.twitter.com/HPRCgNRmbd
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) November 23, 2022
What did we learn? A few things:
1. Tennessee falling to No. 10 means what exactly?
The most significant faller within the top 10 was Tennessee, who decided that the Playoff wasn’t in the 2022 plans and took a beating at the hands of South Carolina. So the Vols falling from No. 5 to No. 10 means a couple things.
It means that the selection committee actually valued “what have you done for me lately” more than head-to-head. Remember, Tennessee beat Alabama AND LSU. All of them have 2 losses, yet Tennessee is ranked behind them because of the 2 losses in the last 3 games.
The Tennessee ranking becomes more significant for Georgia if we’re debating whether the Dawgs are worthy of the No. 1 overall spot. That’s going to become a discussion after the Michigan-Ohio State game. Personally, I think the Dawgs have been the better, more consistent team. They also have 2 wins against current top-10 teams, which includes Tennessee. Michigan and Ohio State don’t have any currently.
But that can change in a hurry because Penn State, who lost to both Ohio State and Michigan, is at No. 11. And if Oregon slips up either against Oregon State or in the Pac-12 Championship to USC, that no longer makes Oregon a top-10 win.
Oh, and if Tennessee can beat Vandy without Hendon Hooker to hold onto that top-10 ranking, the Dawgs would greatly appreciate it.
2. Don’t convince yourself that LSU-USC decision matters for LSU
It’s pretty simple for LSU at this point. Win and you’re very likely in. The only way that wouldn’t happen is if Michigan-Ohio State is a thriller for the ages and TCU wins out. Then, it gets a little dicey. Personally, I’d have no problem putting 2-loss LSU in over a potential 1-loss Michigan/Ohio State loser. Beating Georgia on a neutral site, if LSU could do that, would be the best win of the year in college football.
LSU, based on what the selection committee is telling us, isn’t battling USC at this point. The selection committee has told us time and time again that LSU beating Alabama and dominating Ole Miss was more significant than anything USC had done, which now includes a wild win at UCLA.
USC still needs a few things to go its way to make the field, whereas LSU’s path is a bit more straightforward, especially after seeing the selection committee keep LSU and USC in lockstep on Tuesday. USC obviously needs to win out, it needs an LSU loss and a TCU loss. That’ll be no small task with games against Notre Dame and Oregon to close out the slate.
3. Clemson is … still toast
Man, still behind Alabama? That’s a tough pill to swallow for Clemson for a couple reasons.
At No. 8 heading into the regular season finale, Clemson is trying to do something that’s never been done before. That is, be ranked lower than No. 7 at this point and make the field. The 2019 Oklahoma squad was ranked No. 7 going into the regular season finale, but it had a road matchup against a ranked Oklahoma State squad and then a Big 12 Championship against No. 7 Baylor.
I say that because Oklahoma, who got destroyed by LSU in the semifinal, had the quality wins necessary to get there. With Clemson still sitting at No. 8, those quality win opportunities are gone. UNC losing to Georgia Tech as a 3-touchdown favorite ruled out any possibility that the Tar Heels would be a top-10 team in the ACC Championship. It seems all but certain that Clemson won’t have a single win against a top-10 team.
No matter what, Clemson’s best win will be against a 3-loss team. That’s brutal, especially with how lopsided the Notre Dame loss was.
Yeah, Clemson is going to need some unprecedented chaos to make the field … and that’s probably still not gonna be enough.
4. Prepare for the likely scenario that the Michigan-Ohio State loser is at No. 4
In the ideal world for entertainment purposes, the selection committee won’t have to show its hand until after conference championship weekend. So what does that mean? It means that by keeping the Michigan-Ohio State loser at No. 4, we can continue to ask those all-important questions about LSU, USC and even Clemson. As in “would a conference championship vault them past the Michigan-Ohio State loser?”
Like I said, this is about entertainment. Part of that equation is TCU winning this weekend against an Iowa State team who isn’t going to a bowl game, but only plays in close games. But if TCU wins, you essentially have 4 “meaningful” conference championship games with the lone exception being the Big Ten Championship because if the Michigan-Ohio State winner falls in that game to a 4-loss Big Ten West team, they’re probably still in.
So yes, mentally prepare yourself for Michigan AND Ohio State both being in the top 4 at this time next week.
5. Oh, one more thing? Alabama’s path is gone
I had to talk my guy Aaron Murray off the ledge. He’s worried. Real worried.
He fears that Alabama still has a Playoff path. To a certain extent, I get it. The selection committee putting the Tide at No. 7 shows that it continues to get the benefit of the doubt, which makes sense considering we’re talking a program who has been to 6 of the last 7 national championships.
But Murray’s doomsday scenario for Alabama to make the field has a hole:
- Clemson loss to either South Carolina or UNC
- USC loss to either Notre Dame or Oregon
- LSU loss to Georgia
- Michigan blowout loss to Ohio State
In that scenario, I agree that the top 3 spots are Georgia, Ohio State and TCU. Murray’s concern is that Alabama would get the No. 4 spot over 1-loss Michigan.
That’s where this scenario falls apart. One-loss Michigan absolutely makes the field over 2-loss Alabama, no matter how lopsided the Michigan-Ohio State game is (remember that a 2-loss LSU team lost by 27 at home to Tennessee).
Think what you want about Michigan. Personally, I think the selection committee overvalued the résumé to get to this point. Having said that, the Wolverines are still sitting at No. 3 heading into a game at No. 2 Ohio State. Meanwhile, Alabama plays 5-6 Auburn without a chance at a conference title.
Do we honestly think that the first time the selection committee EVER rewards a 2-loss team, it’ll be a 2-loss, non-division champ who has just 2 wins against the current Playoff Top 25? Absolutely not. There’s no way that team gets the nod over a 1-loss Michigan team who, admittedly didn’t play anybody in nonconference play, would still have a better win than Alabama (blowing out Penn State) with 1 fewer loss.
Alabama’s Playoff chances died in Death Valley. Don’t tell yourself anything different.