Another crazy week of college football means an incredibly difficult job for the CFP Committee. I do not envy anyone on the committee.
- Oklahoma (11-1, #4)–The Sooners are my #1 team. My guess is that the committee will take Clemson though. I have to look at their one loss and compare them: Syracuse and Iowa State. Clemson could change my mind next week with a big win over Miami for the ACC title (Oklahoma has TCU, a team they already beat up on two weeks ago).
- Clemson (11-1, #3)–A pretty dominating win over South Carolina. They will almost definitely get the #1 spot from the committee. It is hard to argue against them. But seriously, they lost to Syracuse!
- Wisconsin (12-0, #5)–What a weird world we live in, when an undefeated Big Ten school does not get the #1 spot. I will not be shocked if the committee puts them lower than this though. If they beat Ohio State, they get into the playoff and that is all that really matters.
- Auburn (10-2, #6)–They beat Alabama, they destroyed Georgia, they seem to have no problem taking down those top ranked teams. And yet they fall to LSU (I will not hold the Clemson game against them), who lost to TROY AT HOME!
- Alabama (11-1, #1)–This is a weird one. It is hard to imagine a scenario where the Tide get into the playoffs. I suppose if Georgia beats Auburn and Clemson or Oklahoma (or more likely both) lose, then I guess you could really justify squeezing them into the top four.
- Miami (10-1, #2)–They lost to Pitt, but as we saw last year with Clemson, losing to Pitt does not mean your season is over. All is not lost for the Hurricanes, they are still good enough to beat Clemson.
- Georgia (11-1, #7)–Meh, they beat Georgia Tech. Know who else beat GT? Tennessee. Yep, the same Tennessee that is firing coaches and losing games to Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Mizzou, and just about everyone else. The Georgia Bulldogs were exposed by the Auburn Tigers and it will seriously be hard to consider them a playoff team, unless they can avenge that loss.
- UCF (11-0, #15)–Okay, this is the one where the playoff committee is going to disagree with me the most. Central Florida won a crazy game against South Florida (a team that was ranked in the top fifteen at one point). They are undefeated and as we can tell, going undefeated is very hard. If they can beat down Memphis again, I think they deserve to be in the top ten. They put up a ton of points, maybe not the best on defense, but we could say the same thing about Oklahoma.
- Ohio State (10-2, #9)–The Buckeyes could make the biggest jump. If Clemson and Oklahoma were to lose, and they beat Wisconsin, it would be very hard not to consider them one of the four best teams in the country.
- Penn State (10-2, #10)–They destroyed Maryland, it was pretty awesome, especially since so many second and third string guys were able to get into the action. I really hope that Tommy Stevens stays with the team. They have no possible way of making it into the top four, so tenth is really just a nice spot to end the season and prepare for the bowl game (come on, who doesn’t want that Oklahoma State/Penn State Offensive Explosion?).
So there you have it. My top ten. Like I said in some of the comments, I think this will be different than what we see on Tuesday (my guess is we get Clemson, Oklahoma, Auburn, Wisconsin, Alabama, Miami, Georgia, Ohio State, Penn State, TCU).
If I were on the playoff committee, what would be my criteria? I mean, we always hear a bunch of nebulous phrases such as “strength of schedule, key injuries, eye test, etc.” But which of those things do I value more? So here is my list:
- Record. For the most part, your record is the most important thing. You cannot be 6-6, but be in the top five because you looked really good at the end of the year or something silly. In some cases an undefeated team can be trumped by a one loss team (as is the case this year), but it should only happen if the undefeated team comes from a non-Power Five conference, OR the undefeated has an almost laughably easy schedule compared to a one loss team.
- Strength of Schedule. Now this where I differ from some people. I do not think that you have to schedule all powerhouse teams for your non-conference games. Nor should you be punished for how good a team is now as compared to when you scheduled them. Last year people mocked the Huskies from playing Rutgers, but when that deal was set up, the Scarlet Knights were coming off some very good seasons and people thought they would be a decent team in the Big Ten. That was probably a good non-conference game for Washington. Not their fault that Rutgers sucks now. Same goes for Alabama this season. They played Florida State back in week one. Not the Crimson Tide’s fault that the Seminoles were pretty bad this year.
- Losses. If you lose, you need to lose to a conference opponent on the road. There is a reason conference play is hard, teams get amped up to play each other and the crowd does come into play. Look at Iowa…they almost beat Penn State this year, they have knocked off how many top five teams at home? Or look at teams coming to Penn State. You also have to factor in whether it was a night game, the home team is going to feed of the electricity of the crowd (it sounds crazy, but how many times do we have to see it happen?). Oklahoma State and LSU have three losses. The Cowboys lost at home to a very good TCU and Oklahoma (arguably the best team in the country), but their third loss was also at home to Kansas State. LSU lost at Mississippi State and Alabama, but lost at home to Troy. In my eyes, that puts Oklahoma State above LSU.
- Perception of Conference. This is a weird factor, but it definitely comes to mind when I try to compare two schools. As the year goes, you watch enough games and you get a feel for which conferences are better than others. I mean from top to bottom. This year, I think the Big Ten and Big 12 are probably the best two conferences, with the SEC & ACC following them, and the PAC-12 being the worst of the Power Five. In the past you looked at the SEC and just knew those schools were a step above the other conferences. So with that being, my perception of the Big 12 being a harder conference this year than the ACC is one of the big reasons I have Oklahoma above Clemson.
- Common Opponent. When comparing two teams, it can be great to look at a common opponent. This year Penn State and Oklahoma State both beat Pitt. Penn State beat them 33-14 in week two, whereas Oklahoma State destroyed them 59-21 the next week. Does that mean Oklahoma State is better than Penn State? Not really. Pitt & PSU are a major rivalry game and the Panthers came to Happy Valley with every intention of pulling off another victory. They seem like they practice and plan for that game, but then are almost mentally exhausted by the time they play the Cowboys. Maybe that was a bad example. What I am trying to say is that I look at the context of the games and if I see a blowout and a close one, in similar situations, then yeah, I will give the nod to the team with the blowout. Let me use a made up example. If Penn State had not lost to Michigan State and they were sitting there with just one loss and we were comparing them to the Sooners, I would give the edge to Oklahoma because they both played Ohio State and each team had a different result. Now, if say for example, Saquon Barkley missed the Ohio State game with an injury and the score ended up the same, I would toss it out because the context of the game has changed dramatically. Does that make sense? It makes sense in my head.
Okay, so those are my criteria. If the College Football Playoff Committee is looking for another member, I am definitely available. I would probably be willing to expand this list to like ten things and actually follow it more closely.