Picture a scenario where the sole undefeated team was excluded from the top four positions in the College Football Playoff rankings.
This scenario could have unfolded if Mississippi State, ranked at No. 10, managed to secure a victory over Ole Miss, positioned at No. 12, during last week’s highly anticipated Egg Bowl matchup.
Last week’s Top 6 of the CFB Playoff rankings:
- Florida State
- Mississippi State
- Ohio State
This week’s Top 6 of the CFB Playoff rankings:
- Florida State
- State Baylor
While the top two spots remained unchanged, a rather dramatic shift unfolded in the third and fourth positions of the rankings.
Texas Christian surged ahead of Florida State to secure the third spot, all thanks to their impressive 48-10 victory over Texas in Austin. It’s worth noting that the Longhorns entered the game with a 6-5 record in the relatively average Big 12 Conference.
The Horned Frogs left no room for doubt regarding their proficiency on both offense and defense. Still, one question lingers: does this win merit a third-place ranking, especially when considering the presence of the sole undefeated team in the country?
The answer seems to be a resounding “no!”
Florida State’s victory came against a 6-4 Florida team with a strength of schedule ranking that stands at 20th in the nation. While the Seminoles’ margin of victory may have been narrow, they faced a more formidable opponent in a heated rivalry game.
Anyone acquainted with big rivalry games understands rankings become inconsequential; the primary goal is simply winning.
Emotions run sky-high, and these games often culminate in closer outcomes than the odds makers can predict (as evidenced by the FSU-Florida game being a “pick ’em”).
How could Florida State have been displaced from the coveted top four spots?
Even if Mississippi State had emerged victorious last weekend, the Bulldogs would have likely maintained their position at No. 4 and, perhaps, ascended to No. 3.
The TCU victory was set to push Florida State down the rankings, irrespective of the Egg Bowl’s outcome, potentially leaving the Seminoles at fifth despite their impressive win.
This scenario encapsulates a long-standing fear of many concerning the College Football Playoff committee’s decisions. It would have been an enormous blunder!
Regardless of personal opinions about the now-defunct Bowl Championship Series, that system had a knack for pitting the top two teams against each other in the national title game.
If that system were still in place, there’s little doubt that Florida State would be ranked first or, at the very least, second.
Downgrading a Power 5 Conference team in this manner is disrespectful and, in the case of the Seminoles, rather cruel. After all, they’ve maintained an impeccable record for two consecutive regular seasons, boasting an astonishing 28-game winning streak.
One of the most recent instances of a team achieving such a remarkable feat occurred during the 2004-05 seasons when Southern Cal made their mark.
I had the privilege of speaking with Matt Leinart, the quarterback who led those Trojan teams, delving into their challenges while striving to maintain an unblemished record.
He revealed that when you belong to a prominent school, you become the target of every opponent’s best efforts, and this intensity only heightened as the winning streak extended.
Teams would go to great lengths to pull off an upset, leaving no stone unturned in their pursuit.
The pressure wasn’t just external; it weighed heavily internally as well. As games grew tighter, the strain of maintaining perfection became increasingly exhausting, and this insight comes from a player who personally experienced the journey.
This week’s rankings should undoubtedly ignite a fervor among Baylor fans. TCU’s ascension to the third spot effectively shuts the door on any hope for the Bears to surpass the Horned Frogs in the final ranking next week.
It’s unprecedented to witness a team making such a significant leap in the rankings after defeating a team positioned lower in the list.
Baylor, currently ranked at No. 6, is slated to face off against No. 9 Kansas State in its upcoming regular-season finale.
As previously emphasized, establishing specific criteria at the season’s outset and then seemingly abandoning them when ranking teams appears contradictory.
Baylor managed to secure a victory over TCU, and beyond a team’s overall record, head-to-head matchups were initially presented as an integral part of the committee’s evaluation process. There’s every reason for Baylor’s fan base to voice their discontent.
Opinions on the significance of rankings vary, with some arguing that they hold little weight. However, I beg to differ.
How teams stack up against each other is pivotal in determining the national champion. Each group possesses its unique strengths and weaknesses, and during clashes, they seek to exploit these vulnerabilities, making the disparities in rankings highly relevant.
The College Football Playoff committee seems to be attempting to balance two contrasting viewpoints concerning Florida State’s rightful place in the rankings.
On one side, some firmly believe that the Seminoles should occupy the top spot, given their unblemished record—a view I happen to share.
Under this scenario, if the rankings remain unchanged next week, Florida State would contend in the Sugar Bowl against the fourth-seeded team, primarily due to its top seed and proximity to New Orleans.
However, the committee appears to represent the opposing perspective—those who contend that Florida State may not necessarily be the best team but should be in the playoff by being undefeated.
Thus, for the sake of this discussion, let’s position the Seminoles at No. 4. In this scenario, they would face off against the No. 1 team, Alabama, in the Sugar Bowl, courtesy of the Tide’s top ranking and geographical proximity to New Orleans.
According to the committee’s perspective, Florida State can’t secure the No. 1 position not necessarily because they don’t deserve it (though the committee’s view may lean that way) but more so because Alabama is undeniably the second-best team in the nation.
This creates a situation where if the rankings align as follows:
#1 Florida State vs. #4 TCU in the Sugar Bowl
#2 Alabama vs. #3 Oregon in the Rose Bowl
Florida State, as the top seed, would confront TCU in the Sugar Bowl, which theoretically aligns well due to the Seminoles’ proximity to the game site and their top ranking.
However, Alabama, ranked second, would find itself playing in the Rose Bowl, potentially giving an advantage to No. 3 Oregon, given the Ducks’ geographic proximity to the game site.
This arrangement, from a competitive advantage perspective for the higher seed (Alabama), doesn’t quite make sense, considering the considerable distance they’d need to travel.
Hence, the current rankings appear to reflect what the committee perceives as the ideal Top Four teams, all set to compete on nearly neutral grounds.
To maintain the integrity of this theory, the rankings must adhere to this order. Even if Baylor were to ascend to the third spot, the idea remains technically valid.
However, given the current landscape, it seems increasingly unlikely to occur if the Bears haven’t overtaken TCU thus far. As for Ohio State, it’s a harsh reality that the committee factors in injuries.
The unfortunate injury to quarterback J.T. Barrett raises doubts about the Buckeyes’ playoff prospects.
In the grand scheme, the committee appears to have made at least one commendable decision. For the first time, this week’s rankings feature the top five teams representing each Power 5 conference.
The upcoming weekend promises another thrilling dose of intrigue, but the committee may have inadvertently revealed their strategy in attempting to predict the eventual rankings.