It’s Tuesday, which means it’s College Football Playoff rankings day, which means the CFP committee is getting ready to royally screw things up again, because that’s how this works.
This week, we don’t have to worry about Oklahoma as a playoff contender anymore after the Sooners’ loss at Baylor, but there’s still the matter of undefeated Cincinnati, which seems likely to remain No. 5 after all of the top four teams won on Saturday.
Does that mean we don’t have a lot to talk about? Absolutely not. So let’s talk about it!
Jesse: We can safely say that Georgia is No. 1. They’re the only undefeated Power 5 team, they’re finished with their conference schedule now, and they’re playing like the Borg from Star Trek: you can get a couple of early shots in on them, as Kentucky and Tennessee have shown, but they adapt quickly and then, well, resistance is futile. And I think, because of that, I see the rationale for Alabama being No. 2. The Tide might not really be the second-best team, but they do have an opportunity to beat Georgia in the SEC title game (assuming they make it), and if that does happen, you need to be able to keep Georgia in the four. And if and when Alabama loses in Atlanta, well, the Tide will be out of the playoff.
Grace: They would have to be, right? As many bizarre decisions as the committee makes, I can’t see them putting in a two-loss Tide team, especially given this year’s field. Oregon and Ohio State, at No. 3 and No. 4 respectively, both had convincing victories this weekend over teams that a lot of folks — myself included — thought might give them trouble. I honestly see Ohio State jumping Oregon this week — the committee has already shown us that they’re not valuing head-to-head matchups with the same consistency that other polls do, and the Oregon win over the Buckeyes was so long ago that I think it could even be a fair ranking (though I’m still not happy with the Michigan-Michigan State rankings deal).
Jesse: Ohio State probably is the second-best team. Or Cincinnati is. Somebody from Ohio is. They’ve still got Michigan State and Michigan to deal with, so all of that will sort itself out. Oregon was less impressive against Washington State than Ohio State was against a better Purdue team, so I can see the rationale if that’s what the committee does. But, knowing that the top four will be the same as last week’s top four, maybe or maybe not in the same order at 3-4, is that how it should be? A big part of me — and maybe this is something we come back to next week, assuming Ohio State beats Michigan State and ends that concern about the Spartans’ head-to-head win over Michigan — says go Georgia-Bama 1-2, Ohio State-Michigan 3-4, then the losers of those matchups fall to the side, and in come Cincinnati (assuming they win out, which… Houston is good!) and Oregon (assuming they don’t gag at the Pac-12 title game) at the end. And if they’re trying to pump up the sport, giving us 1 vs. 2 and 3 vs. 4 matchups is good TV business.
Grace: Definitely agree that someone from Ohio should be clocking in at No. 2 right now, and I do wonder if we’ll see the Buckeyes hop to that spot as early as this week. They’ve got an unusually tough two weeks ahead of them, and I’m not prepared to assume any further wins against two very good Big Ten teams with real talent and a chip on their shoulders from more recent losses. Ohio State has definitely found its stride, but I’m not sure that they won’t end up a two-loss team by the end of the month. Cincinnati’s next two weeks are also looming large — I think SMU might give them some trouble this weekend, and they haven’t played a legitimately good team since Notre Dame in the first week of October. And let’s talk about Notre Dame, because as they plan to close out their schedule with games against Georgia Tech and Stanford with three Big Ten teams ahead of them in the rankings, their slow climb to the top looks poised to continue.
Jesse: They’ll move up a spot this week thanks to Oklahoma! I said it last week: Notre Dame is going to make it, and it’s not even going to be controversial, and the path is very much there. Only one Big Ten team is going to make it. It depends on Georgia knocking out Alabama, I guess, so that there are still two spots left. Either Cincinnati or Oregon drops a game, and, hey, there’s the Irish. And I looked ahead to Houston without even thinking about SMU… and honestly, East Carolina might give Cincinnati some problems. But for now, Notre Dame at 8 makes sense?
Grace: Okay, this may seem far-fetched, and maybe they won’t do it because of the TV ratings for this weekend’s OSU-MSU matchup, but I could see Notre Dame jumping Michigan State as early as tonight. Hear me out — if we’re talking “quality losses,” ND dropped one to top-five Cinci, and MSU lost badly to Purdue, who Notre Dame beat. I think that if the committee already doesn’t have a moral qualm about putting Michigan ahead of MSU, they’ll be willing to drop them even further. I could be wrong about this one, but I think it’s a real possibility. Oklahoma State and Ole Miss should close out the Top Ten.
Jesse: I don’t think you’re wrong. The AP poll — remember the AP poll? — already has Notre Dame at 6, ahead of both Michigans. It’s funny, though, and not ND’s fault, that their schedule this year has turned out to be pretty bad. Their best wins are over Purdue and Wisconsin, but they’re also pretty comprehensively beating the lousy teams in front of them. If I’m the committee, I’d rather see a team doing that after early struggles (I’m not ignoring that the Toledo and Florida State games happened) than staggering to the finish line and tempting fate on a weekly basis. Knowing how much is going to sort itself out on the field, I think I’m okay with the same top 4 as last week, but I do have to ask: is there any shot for Oklahoma State to sneak in here at the end?
Grace: There is a shot — such a small one it’s almost impossible to see — with losses from two of three teams (Oregon, Cincinnati, or Alabama) and Ohio State winning out, it would come down between Oklahoma State and Notre Dame for the final spot. And to be honest, I’m not sure I see the committee putting Oklahoma State in ahead of Notre Dame, unless they can make an incredibly convincing closing campaign, which won’t be easy with their final weeks. Oklahoma, of course, will be foaming at the mouth for a victory over the Cowboys, but I wouldn’t count out Texas Tech, who gave Iowa State trouble last week, to at the very least give Oklahoma State a run for their money. It’s a tough toss-up in that scenario — do you go with the “better” team or the team that “deserves” the spot? And what are the answers to those two questions?
Jesse: Well, I think the answer is that the Big 12 gets shut out, and that it also probably works itself out on the field. I have a hard time seeing Oklahoma State beating Oklahoma in both Bedlam and a conference title game, but I guess my question hinges on them doing that — or beating Oklahoma and then Baylor, thanks to the Bears’ all-important garbage time field goal for that tiebreaker. If two teams have the same amount of losses, I tend to think that “better” wins out over “deserves,” but it’s subjective on both counts as to what that means. For now, what are we thinking for what it ought to look like tonight? Here’s how I’d go:
- Ohio State
- Michigan State
- Notre Dame
- Oklahoma State
- Ole Miss
That’s absolutely not what it will be, but what I’d say if I were in that conference room. How about you?
Grace: Here’s my top ten (which I also expect to not be even the slightest bit reflected in the rankings tonight).
- Ohio State
- Michigan State
- Notre Dame
- Oklahoma State
- Ole Miss
Jesse: Cool. Either way, Alabama is such a funny case, because they’ll either wind up in and deserving it, or out and deserving it, but right now they exist in a Schrodinger’s playoff. Until we open it, we all get to keep arguing!