Takeaways from the second Playoff rankings
If you thought the first Playoff poll made people mad online, hop on Twitter and see what kind of reaction the second Playoff poll got.
Just kidding. Don’t do that.
And I actually don’t think the second Playoff poll made people that mad. In my opinion, they got the top 4 correct. As long as there isn’t an out-of-nowhere team cracking the top 4, there’s no reason to lose friendships, right?
So, friends. Let’s get into it:
1. Alabama at No. 5 seems …
I assumed the Crimson Tide would be in the 5-6 range after suffering the loss to LSU. Dropping out of the top 4 for the first time since Nov. 2017 wasn’t a surprise when you consider the résumé. You can give Alabama the benefit of the doubt when it didn’t have a loss because it had blown out everyone on the schedule.
But when that quality foe finally shows up and you don’t win, yeah, it’s a knock. A significant knock. If Alabama had several wins against current top-25 teams like LSU, it’d be a different story. Instead, Alabama has just 1 win against a Power 5 team with a winning record (Texas A&M).
Had the selection committee left Alabama in the top 4, you would’ve heard nothing but “the selection committee is gonna do whatever they can to make sure Bama gets in the Playoff.” That would’ve been awfully tough to justify when the résumé simply isn’t there. The “eye test” is an extremely subjective element that can’t be Alabama’s biggest ace in the hole.
2. Why Georgia deserved that No. 4 spot ahead of Alabama…where it could stay for awhile
I predicted that the Dawgs would be at No. 4 as the top 1-loss team for an obvious reason. They have the quality victories and the other 1-loss teams just don’t.
Want a comparison? Sure, let’s do it:
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See what I mean?
For the millionth time, this is not about how good your loss is. It’s about how good your wins are. The selection committee isn’t going to put Alabama ahead of Georgia because LSU is far better than South Carolina. The Playoff isn’t about that. It’s about how you stack up to quality competition.
While Georgia hasn’t always looked the part — mainly on offense — this is still a team with a pair of wins that are significantly better than Alabama’s best win. And you know what? That’s not changing anytime soon.
Georgia has to travel to Auburn this weekend. Alabama’s last chance for a quality win is … also at Auburn. In other words, that game is the only way Alabama can suddenly have a better résumé than Georgia, who is a win or a Florida loss away from clinching a spot in the SEC Championship.
Georgia could be locked in at No. 4 for awhile because LSU, Ohio State and Clemson all look plenty capable of running the table. The path for Georgia is still the same as ever — win out and get in. Alabama’s path isn’t that anymore. It needs craziness.
Tuesday night was a good reminder of that.
3. LSU has a loss to give
I know LSU was the obvious No. 1, but can we just take a second to appreciate how good this résumé is?
- 4 wins vs. teams in current Playoff Top 25
- non-conference road win vs. current top-25 team
- win at Alabama
- 4 wins vs. Power 5 teams with winning records
Y’all. That’s “loss to give” good. Like, if LSU lost to Ole Miss, I’d still have the Tigers in the top 4. That’s how good the résumé is. In my opinion, that Alabama win is more impressive than any victory in college football this year. It’s crazy that you could take that away and still make a case for LSU at No. 1.
Remember last year when all the talk going into the SEC Championship was about whether Alabama had a loss to give? LSU could easily find itself in similar position. In fact, that’s what I expect to happen.
That’s what feels like is the key for the SEC’s 2-team Playoff bid. Granted, I highly doubt LSU would actually treat a conference title game like it isn’t a must-win game, but if Georgia can run the table in the regular season, it’s something to remember as it relates to the 2-team bid from the SEC.
4. Some numbers to remember
One thing I like doing on a weekly basis to prep for the selection show is I crunch the numbers for 3 metrics for the Power 5 teams with 1 or fewer losses (AKA the teams with a Playoff path):
- Wins vs. Power 5 teams with winning records
- Wins vs. teams in the current AP Top 25
- Margin of victory vs. Power 5 competition
I like doing this because it keeps me honest. Based on what we’ve seen from the selection committee in years past, I believe they put a lot of stock into those things to come up with their rankings. My goal is always to get inside their minds and to try to get away from any possible subconscious bias I might have (preseason rankings, recruiting rankings, if I saw a team dominate in person, etc.).
When I crunched those numbers this week, here’s what stood out to me:
- Alabama, Clemson, Oregon and Utah all have 0 wins vs. current Top 25 teams
- LSU and Ohio State are the only teams with more than 2 such wins
- But Oregon and Utah each have 3 wins vs. Power 5 teams w/ winning records
- So does Baylor
- Clemson has 1 more win vs. a winning Power 5 team than Alabama
- Clemson also has an average margin of victory vs. P5 of +31.4 compared to +24 for Alabama
- Minnesota’s margin of victory vs. Power 5 teams is 23.2
Speaking of that last note…
5. One thing about Minnesota as it relates to 1-loss teams like Alabama, Utah and Oregon
I realize that Minnesota isn’t going to get the benefit of the doubt from the selection committee because the nonconference schedule was atrocious and up until Saturday, it didn’t have a win against a Power 5 team with a winning record.
But now that it does and it’s still unbeaten but ranked behind the likes of 1-loss teams like Alabama, Oregon and Utah, I think this is worth noting:
- Minnesota has more wins vs. current Top 25 teams (1) than Alabama (0), Oregon (0) and Utah (0)
- Minnesota’s margin of victory is +23.2, which is better than Oregon (+14.1) and Utah (+20.2)
- Like Minnesota, Utah and Oregon didn’t get a Power 5 win in nonconference play
Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
I knew Minnesota’s win against Penn State wasn’t suddenly going to vault the Gophers into the Top 4 after they opened at No. 17 last week. That would’ve been the ultimate “we beefed up” moment from the selection committee.
What I think is interesting is that Minnesota is believed to be this team that doesn’t have a loss to give to make the field. Obviously the Gophers would be on the outside looking in if they lost the Big Ten Championship. But if a 1-loss Minnesota team beat Ohio State or Penn State to win the conference title, the selection committee would jump the Gophers again.
Will this all play out? Probably. It usually does. We’ve still got essentially 4 weekends of football left including conference championship weekend.
But hopefully this made you smarter or at the very least, gave you some ammo for your Playoff battles on Twitter.