The College Football Playoff Committee's First Iteration of the Final Four Teams
The 12 person College Football Playoff(CFP) committee has finally come together to release the much anticipated Top 25 rankings for the College Football Playoff. Of course, only the Top 4 teams matter with the new semi-finals and finals setup. Going forward, the CFP committee will meet every Tuesdays, and release their picks on ESPN at 7:30pm EST. It is too early to get bend out of shape on the rankings, but the committee gave some clues on how they will be selecting the Top 4 teams. Let's review their picks and their criteria for this week.
The Top 4: A Heavy Dose of the SEC West Division
Committee member and Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long explained some of the criteria that the committee emphasized in generating the rankings. First, they emphasized each team's wins, and the quality of the opponent that they beat. Next, looked at a team's losses, and if the loss was against a quality and highly ranked team. An important point, is that the committee reviews each team individually as a stand alone team without comparing it to its own conference, which could mean that a conference such as the SEC could have more than one team(hint, hint) in the final four. Head to Head competition is important as well at this point.
Here are the Top 4 that the Committee has selected for Week 10:
#1 Mississippi State: No big surprise as they are undefeated and have beaten big names such as Texas A&M and LSU. They have a tough road ahead as they play Alabama ant Ole Miss on road, and have Auburn at home.
#2 Florida State: The undefeated defending champion Seminoles escaped a close and controversial battle last week against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Again, no surprise.
#3 Auburn: Here is a surprise from the committee putting another SEC West team at #3. The committee liked their tough road win against Kansas State, while their only loss was to a very tough opponent in Mississippi State.
#4: Ole MIss: Another surprise pick here. The committee put a high value on the win against highly ranked Alabama while their only loss was a tough one to fellow SEC team, LSU.
The First 2 In: #5 Oregon, #6 Alabama: Personally, I thought Oregon should have been in the Top 4, at least over Ole Miss with signature wins against Michigan State and UCLA. I think they will jump into the Top 4 as Ole Miss and Auburn play each other this weekend. Alabama may jump into the Top 4 as well soon enough.
At first it seems ridiculous that the three out of the four teams are from the SEC, let alone from the same division! However, the committee looked at each individual team, and ranked them accordingly. As the SEC West teams start playing each other, the Top 4 will shake out soon with less SEC teams...unless there is an large SEC bias within the committee.
Rounding the out the top ten after Alabama are TCU, Michigan State, Kansas State, and Notre Dame. There were some surprises other than Ole Miss staying ahead of both Oregon and Alabama. Some fan bases were thrilled and other more traditional fan bases enraged and disappointed.
One of the surprises is the 6-1 Fighting Irish from Notre Dame. They were slotted at the #10 spot, seemingly low for a traditional power. If you look at their quality wins, the only one that stands out is the win at home over Stanford. The shutout blowout over Michigan in Week 2 was big at the time, but as the season progressed, the Wolverines are a disaster and is not helping anyone with their Strength of Schedule particularly the Big 10. Their only loss was to #2 Florida State, but the committee didn't feel that was enough to place them ahead of Kansas State, who's only loss was to #3 Auburn.
TCU sits right out side the Top 4 at #7 and can jump with a huge win over rival Oklahoma and a heart breaking loss to Baylor who was a top 6 ranked team at the time. They could jump into the top four with remaining games against the ranked West Virginia and Kansas State. Their 82-17 massacre over Texas Tech shows that they are "all-in" for style points to get into the playoffs.
The last surprise was the slotting of THE Ohio State University at #16, sitting behind Georgia, Arizona, Baylor, Arizona State, and even fellow Big 10 member Nebraska. The Buckeyes loss to Virginia Tech at home looms large as the Hokies have struggled for the rest of the season thus far. OSU needs to run the table, and decisively beat Michigan State on the road on November 8th. If the Buckeyes win the Big 10 East and face higher seeded rival Nebraska in the Big 10 West, they then may have a shot at the playoff with a lot of help. If not, Urban Meyer may start hinting that he will need to spend more time with his family.
The first iteration of the rankings were a shock to many as the SEC dominated, the Big 10 floundered, and the Big 12 surprised. Is it time to be outraged? Of course...not. Relax, America, it is much too early to get upset. At least wait until mid-November when conference play has done its damage. One team outside of the Top 10 that I like is Georgia at #11. They are the top team in the weaker SEC conference and can make it to the Final Four by winning the SEC title game arguably with an easier path than any of the teams in the brutal and hyper-competitive SEC West (Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU, and Texas A&M). The Big Game of the Week that will shake up the rankings will be the Saturday night matchup between #3 Auburn and #4 Ole Miss.
Stay tuned, and get ready to be outraged for next week's rankings.