As you probably know, the Playoff Selection Committee went with a first four of Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson … in that order.
Let’s get into it.
1. OK, what’s up with Georgia being ranked No.1, ahead of No. 2 Alabama?
That’s the right call. Georgia has two wins over teams that are on the Selection Committee’s first Top 25 list. Alabama has played an easier schedule. But if you’re an Alabama fan, be happy. Yesterday was Nick Saban’s 66th birthday and the committee gave him a wonderful present. Saban constantly frets over keeping his players focused and fired up, can now use the initial ranking to his advantage. Alabama’s team will be crazed. I almost feel sorry for LSU, which plays in Tuscaloosa this Saturday. Georgia’s next real test comes Nov. 11 at Auburn, which is 14th in the committee’s first ranking.
2. For the millions of SEC haters out there, the committee’s debut ranking had to be about as pleasant as eating thumbtacks.
What’s this? No teams from the Big Ten, the Big 12 or the Pac 12 in the first four? At least the ACC got a nod, thanks for Clemson. I wonder if the Big Ten fans will be calling the Paul Finebaum Show today to rage about the committee’s pro-SEC bias. For weeks if not years, the anti-SEC whiners have been yelling about the SEC being down, the SEC being overrated, yap yap yap. But here we go, two SEC teams at the top of the rankings.
That’s going to change at some point for if no other reason than the likely Alabama vs. Georgia clash in the SEC Championship game. But for now, to look at the top four and not see any teams from the Big Ten … well, that’s some sweet tea right there for SEC fans. And can you even imagine the depth of bitterness outside of SEC country if Georgia and Alabama ultimately take two of the four spots when the playoff field is set on Dec. 3? Whoo, boy.
3. I like the committee’s initial message: the games matter. The body of work matters. Head-to-head games matter. Who you played matters.
Georgia won at Notre Dame, and that carried considerable weight. Third-ranked Notre Dame already has beaten No. 24 Michigan State, No. 20 North Carolina State and No. 17 USC. With quarterback Kelly Bryant injured, Clemson lost to an improving Syracuse squad coached by the up-and-coming Dino Babers. But the committee obviously didn’t forget Clemson’s three September victories over teams ranked in the top 15 at the time. Two of those teams, Virginia Tech and Auburn, are ranked 13th and respectively in the CFP ranking. Clemson has six victories against teams with winning records. Oklahoma is 5th and Ohio State is 6th, and that’s how it should be after the Sooners went into the Horseshoe and clobbered the Buckeyes by 15 points. And Penn State is a spot behind Ohio State after losing to Ohio State.
“At this point in the season that head-to-head matchup is important to the selection committee,” committee chairman Kirby Hocutt told ESPN. “And will continue to be important for the selection committee.”
4. The committee doesn’t care about your spotless record if it appears that your schedule is a snack pack of pudding cups.
Thank goodness the committee disregards the idiocy that can be spotted in the Associated Press Poll voting done by media folks. Wisconsin at No. 4 in the AP? That’s a joke. And the Miami Hurricanes 9th in the AP? That’s comical. Wisconsin may be 8-0, but No. 9 is a good spot for the Badgers right now. Beat a big-boy team, Wisconsin and we’ll talk. Even better, win the Big Ten championship.
However, let me point out one contradiction. The committee isn’t swooning over Miami’s 7-0 record … which is why Miami was slotted in at No. 10 in the debut ranking. And that isn’t much different than the Hurricanes’ No. 9 position in this week’s AP Poll. Miami’s schedule is viewed with suspicion, and that’s why the Canes are the lowest-ranked squad among the four unbeaten Power 5 Conference teams.
That said, Miami is listed at No. 2 (behind Georgia) in current Strength of Record. So why is the Hurricanes’ schedule being downgraded? I guess this nitpick of mine is irrelevant considering that Miami’s next two games are against No. 13 Virginia Tech and No. 3 Notre Dame. The committee’s initial skepticism over Miami is glaring, but coach Mark Richt’s team has an opportunity to prove its worth over the next two weeks.
5. The Pac 12 has one hope for a Playoff spot but faces a tough road to get there.
Washington, 7-1, appeared at No. 12 in the first CFP ranking. After that, you’d have to look down to No. 17 to USC, and Stanford at 21. (Arizona is 22nd, and Washington State 24th.) Because of its soft schedule Washington will need to win out, and the Huskies will need more than a few upsets of the teams ranked ahead of them. It’s possible, because we’ve seen a team (Oklahoma) start out at No. 16 and still make the playoff.
6. Let’s take a look at potentially significant new metric, projected strength of record, from ESPN research.
Why should you care? Well, projected strength of record assesses a team’s chance to have a Top 4 strength of record at the end of the regular season. And this could really matter at the end; of the 12 teams to make the College Football Playoff over the first three seasons, 11 finished in the Top 4 in strength of record.
Best Chance to Finish in Top 4 in Strength of Record:
Ohio State 48%
Notre Dame 33%
Oklahoma State 14%
7. Just for kicks, here are the fresh odds to win the National Championship, set by the Westgate (Las Vegas) SuperBook.
Ohio State 3-1
Notre Dame 12-1
Penn State 20-1
Oklahoma State 25-1
Thanks for reading …