Takeaways from the pre-conference championship Playoff rankings
Smell ya later, Tuesday Playoff rankings shows.
That was the last one of the year. Thankfully. I’m all for mid-week college football talk — it’s something that’s pretty important here at SDS — but the over-dramatic reveal and nonsense breakdowns are absurd.
I’m just glad we’re not sitting here talking about if a 3-loss team should make it in the Playoff. Shoutout to 2016 USC.
It feels like this is all about the fourth spot and not too much else. Could that impact an SEC team? If LSU gets to No. 1 next week, yes.
But let’s dig into some important takeaways from the latest Playoff poll:
1. The battle for No. 1
They’re both in. Yeah, the Buckeyes and Tigers are both Playoff-bound without a loss heading into conference championship weekend.
Ohio State is still No. 1, and frankly, that’s not a surprise. Yes, LSU had a complete win. But all Ohio State did was go on the road and beat a top-15 team like a drum.
So I’ve changed my tune on this a bit. After last week’s poll, I said that I thought Ohio State, if it won out, would have the No. 1 seed. I pointed to Ohio State’s opportunity to rack up a pair of quality, top-15 wins away from home as opposed to LSU, which ended the season with unranked Texas A&M and had No. 4 Georgia in the SEC Championship.
Based on what we’ve seen from the selection committee and how they reward Ohio State for being the more “complete” team, I think that if both teams have standard wins this weekend, I think the Buckeyes get the No. 1 seed, especially after Wisconsin got moved all the way up to No. 8.
But can LSU make a louder statement than Ohio State? Absolutely. We’ve seen the selection committee value conference championship weekend statements a ton in years past. If Ohio State has to grind out a win and LSU beats Georgia 35-10, that’s going to matter in the selection committee room. The Tigers will have beaten every elite team from the SEC.
We know that the selection committee holds Georgia in a high regard because of the quality wins. That’s why the Dawgs have been the top-ranked 1-loss team in the poll week after week. If LSU blows the doors of that elite Georgia defense, don’t be surprised if some last-minute shuffling atop the poll happens.
2. Why that Alabama-Auburn shakeout is fascinating for a non-Playoff reason
After the Iron Bowl, I tweeted this:
Interesting overlooked debate: Is 9-3 Auburn gonna get a New Year’s 6 Bowl bid over 10-2 Alabama?
Auburn has the head-to-head and wins over 2 current Top 25 teams compared to none for Alabama.
— Connor O’Gara (@cjogara) December 1, 2019
I was extremely interested in that because the New Year’s 6 Bowls come down to Playoff rankings. This isn’t a selection process, so it doesn’t matter if one team is a bigger brand than another, and matchups are totally out of the bowl executives’ control.
That’s why Auburn getting the ranking ahead of Alabama was incredibly significant. It would be strange to see those teams flip after conference championship weekend, which would mean that the Tigers would have the inside track to a New Year’s 6 Bowl.
Good for the selection committee for giving Auburn credit for actually beating Alabama. They didn’t just take the lazy way out with the records and give Alabama that spot. That stuff matters for someone like Gus Malzahn, who is now in favorable position to go to his third New Year’s 6 Bowl in 4 years.
And to be fair, I don’t think this means as much to Alabama as it does to Auburn. A non-Playoff New Year’s 6 Bowl isn’t going to be much different for Alabama than going to the Citrus Bowl.
If you’re Auburn, you’re rooting for Wisconsin to get smacked by Ohio State to fall out of the top 10 and become another 3-loss team.
3. The numbers you need to know for Playoff hopefuls
As I always say, I do these every week. Here are the numbers I track and believe the selection committee puts a lot of stock in.
(I changed it from “Power 5 teams with a winning record” to “Power 5 teams with bowl eligibility” because the regular season in the books.)
WINS VS. POWER 5 TEAMS WITH BOWL ELIGIBILITY (6 WINS)
- Georgia: 7
- Clemson: 6
- LSU: 6
- Ohio State: 5
- Baylor: 4
- Oklahoma: 4
- Utah: 4
WINS VS. TEAMS IN CURRENT PLAYOFF TOP 25
- Ohio State: 4
- Georgia: 3
- LSU: 3
- Oklahoma: 2
- Baylor: 1
- Clemson: 0
- Utah: 0
AVG. MARGIN OF VICTORY VS. POWER 5 TEAMS
- Ohio State: +35.6
- Clemson: +33.5
- Utah: +25
- LSU: +20
- Georgia: +16.9
- Oklahoma: +16.2
- Baylor: +13
The Ohio State margin of victory through 12 games is stupid. Just stupid. A team that has more AP Top 25 wins (current) than anyone also having the highest margin of victory vs. Power 5 teams is wild.
Do I think LSU has a better win? Yes, but throttling Michigan like that certainly added to the belief that the Buckeyes are better than the second half against Penn State showed.
Also, Utah’s margin of victory is huge right now. That’s what happens when the Pac-12 lacks elite teams and you don’t face a Power 5 opponent in nonconference play.
Also, I’m not gonna sit here and debate if Clemson would make the field with an ACC Championship loss because if the Tigers lose as a 28-point favorite, we’d have plenty of time to talk about that. For now, though, it’s not worth my time.
(But seriously, that strength of schedule continues to baffle me.)
4. Predicting the field
I’m not picking against LSU or Ohio State. And I’m also not betting on LSU to blow out Georgia, which is what the Tigers would need to just to have any shot at the No. 1 seed. And like I said earlier, I’m not going to waste time thinking about Clemson losing on Saturday, either.
That makes 1-3 fairly easy for me, as boring as that is. The question everyone wants to know is what happens at No. 4. With Georgia eliminated in that scenario, the battle would obviously come down to Utah and the Big 12 winner. By putting Utah at No. 5 ahead of both Oklahoma and Baylor, I’d say there’s no guarantee that it’s simply “win and in” for anyone (assuming there’s a Georgia loss).
This, however, is interesting:
Good news for No. 5 Utah. In four of the previous 5 CFP seasons, the No. 5 team going into championship weekend has made the Football Four.
— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) December 4, 2019
Oregon at No. 13 compared to either Oklahoma at No. 6 or Baylor at No. 7 doesn’t make for that drastic of difference in terms of quality wins. That’s interesting considering Utah has 0 wins vs. the current Top 25 compared to 2 for Oklahoma and 1 for Baylor.
But the selection committee’s theme all Playoff long has been looking like a complete team. Ohio State got rewarded for it, as did Alabama. Utah is, too. Since suffering that 7-point loss to now-Top 25 USC, Utah has only played in one, 1-possession game. They have an average scoring margin against Power 5 opponents of +25, which is incredibly impressive.
There’s 1 reservation I have to this before I pencil Utah in. The Pac-12 Championship is going to be played on a Friday night, and it’s at 5 o’clock local time in Santa Clara. That usually makes for a half-empty stadium that becomes somewhat of an afterthought by Saturday night. If Utah grinds out a win and then Oklahoma pounds Baylor in a packed house in Jerry World, might be see the Sooners get the bump? I would guess yes.
I’ll say that happens and that Jalen Hurts gets another crack at a national title.
So to recap, here’s what I think the selection committee will rank on Sunday:
- Ohio State
One. More. Poll.