The College Football Playoff selection committee will unveil the first set of rankings in one week.
That made-for-television drama is going to kick-start heated debates about those top four spots and questions about the selection process are coming.
Do the rankings matter? Consider this statistic: 16 of the 28 teams that were in the top four in the initial set of CFP rankings the last seven seasons went on to make the CFP. Last year, all four teams went on to the Playoff. The lowest ranked teams to work their way back into the playoff? Ohio State was initially ranked No. 16 in 2014 and got in. Oklahoma started at No. 15 and went to the playoff in 2015.
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Still, the committee is going to have to grapple with the following four debates in the first set of rankings, and perhaps to the end:
CFP Rankings schedule
|9||Tuesday, Nov. 2||7 p.m.|
|10||Tuesday, Nov. 9||9 p.m.|
|11||Tuesday, Nov. 16||7 p.m.|
|12||Tuesday, Nov. 23||7 p.m.|
|13||Tuesday, Nov. 30||7 p.m.|
|FINAL||Sunday, Dec. 5||12 p.m.|
Where will Cincinnati be ranked?
The Bearcats opened at No. 7 in the CFP rankings last year and finished at No. 8 despite not losing a game.
Assuming Cincinnati takes care of business against Tulane on Saturday, they would likely maintain their spot at No. 2 in the AP Poll. The CFP rankings rarely match the AP, however. If the committee puts Cincinnati in the top four to start, then what would be the justification for knocking them down?
This is about the time when CFP chairman Gary Barta starts talking about a “starting with a blank canvas each week”, one that could hurt the Bearcats’ strength of schedule down the line.
Cincinnati should pay attention to where Notre Dame and SMU are ranked and hope the Irish and Mustangs keep winning, but ultimately that might not matter. They need Oregon to take a second loss and the Big Ten to become dysfunctional in November to have a chance.
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How will they address Ohio State-Oregon?
Ohio State and Oregon both have one loss. The Ducks beat the Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium 35-28 on Sept. 11, but Ohio State is ranked two spots higher in the AP Poll.
Does that head-to-head matter? Oregon should be ranked ahead of Ohio State in the first set of rankings based on that head-to-head victory, but there is the notion that the Buckeyes are the better team right now.
Ohio State leads the FBS with an offense that averages 49.3 points and 559.7 yards per game. The Buckeyes also have a string of ranked Big Ten opponents left on the schedule, including Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and perhaps Iowa in the Big Ten championship game.
Oregon, meanwhile, might not face another ranked opponent the rest of the season. The Ducks should be ranked ahead of the Buckeyes based on that victory, but this debate isn’t going away.
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Will there be ‘SEC bias?’
We hear that dreaded term every year, but brace yourselves for the following realities.
If Georgia beats Florida, then the Bulldogs will be No. 1. Alabama, which has a bye week, will probably be ranked No. 2 despite the loss to Texas A&M.
Ole Miss, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Auburn will all be ranked higher in the CFP rankings than they will be in the AP Poll. The Rebels could be as high as No. 6 if they beat the Tigers on Saturday knowing they have the one loss to Alabama. The SEC likely will have the most teams in the top-10.
Is this “SEC bias?” It’s more a reflection of the committee’s past treatment of the conference in the rankings. The SEC contenders will be ranked ahead of the Big Ten contenders if the records are equal.
Should two-loss teams bother watching?
It’s too early for that, but keep in mind that no two-loss team has ever made the College Football Playoff. We mentioned Cincinnati, and no Group of 5 team has made the playoff. San Diego State, SMU and UTSA are also unbeaten, but those teams are not making the four-team playoff.
It really comes down to that group of teams with one loss or less. Here are the teams that are technically still in the hunt if you abide by that two-loss-or-less rule:
Power 5 teams with one loss or less
|ACC: Wake Forest (7-0), Pitt (6-1)|
|Big 12: Oklahoma (8-0), Baylor (6-1), Oklahoma State (6-1)|
|Big Ten: Michigan (7-0), Michigan State (7-0), Ohio State (6-1), Iowa (6-1)|
|Pac-12: Oregon (6-1)|
|SEC: Georgia (7-0), Alabama (7-1), Kentucky (6-1), Ole Miss (6-1)|
|IND: Notre Dame (6-1)|
Michigan plays Michigan State in Week 9, which will automatically drop the number of Power 5 unbeatens down to four. Georgia, Oklahoma and Wake Forest are the others remaining.
It will be interesting to see how the committee treats the ACC, which doesn’t have Clemson in the mix, and the Big 12, which is Oklahoma-or-bust at this point. A one-loss Sooners team also would be thrown into that messy debate given their string of close calls in 2021.
Keep that in mind as the season barrels into November. It’s unlikely that a team with two losses gets in, and these teams have to react to that pressure.