College football rankings: What to watch for from the committee
The first College Football Playoff rankings of the season will be announced Tuesday night, and we get a sneak behind the curtain of what the playoff committee is thinking. Here are five points to watch for when ESPN unveils the rankings around 8:15 p.m. Tuesday:
1. Will LSU be No. 1?
If yes, then you know the committee is rewarding teams for what they’ve done, which is what the committee should be doing. If Ohio State or Alabama is No. 1, then you know the committee has a god-complex and believes itself to be omniscient. LSU has done much more than any other team in America – victories over Texas, Florida and Auburn – and much more than Ohio State or Alabama. The Buckeyes win the eye test so far this year, and Bama always wins the history test. But LSU has done the most of any team in America.
2. How low will Baylor be ranked?
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The Bears had a miserable non-conference schedule and will be summarily punished for a slate that consisted of Stephen F. Austin, Texas-San Antonio and Rice. But Baylor has three good wins – at Kansas State, Iowa State, at Oklahoma State. Not great wins. But good wins. Few teams can claim that a home win over Iowa State is only its third-best win of the season. It will be interesting to see how the committee treats Baylor vs. Minnesota, which is also undefeated and also played no Power 5 opponents in non-conference. But the Golden Gophers have few good wins in Big Ten play – at Purdue, Illinois, Nebraska, at Rutgers, Maryland. If the committee ranks Minnesota anywhere near Baylor, it’s an affront to the Big 12.
3. How will the committee treat Alabama and Clemson?
College football’s Chamberlain and Russell, USA and the Soviet Union, beach and mountains, both are unbeaten. But neither has played a strong schedule. Each claims Texas A&M as its best win. Baylor has more good wins than do either Bama or Clemson. But will the Crimson Tide and Tigers still be treated as royalty?
4. How will the committee sort out the jumble of SEC teams?
LSU beat Florida and Auburn. Florida beat Auburn. Georgia beat Florida. Georgia also beat Notre Dame but lost to South Carolina. Auburn beat Oregon. How will the committee treat these SEC teams? Will five make the top 10? I won’t complain if it happens. I’ve got five SEC teams in my top 10.
5. How high will the Pac-12’s one-loss teams be ranked?
Oregon and Utah each are 7-1 and could be headed for a Pac-12 Championship Game showdown of one-loss teams. The Pac-12 was the big winner in college football last weekend, when the Ducks won at Southern Cal and the Utes won at Washington. If the committee gives either or both a decent ranking Tuesday night – in the 7-8-9 range – it could bode well for the most beleaguered of the Power 5 conferences.
Here are my rankings, and this week, I’ve expanded it to the top 15. Again, I rank teams based on how the committee should, and mostly does, rank teams. Who did you play, where did you play and how did you do?
1. LSU 8-0: If the Tigers win at Alabama on Saturday, they will be the most overwhelming No. 1 team of any week in the 21st century.
2. Penn State 8-0: The Nittany Lions are piling up the solid wins. Sort of Baylor strong.
3. Ohio State 8-0: The people’s choice for the nation’s most impressive team on the field, which I’ve got no gripes about. But in the end, the Buckeyes don’t have as many good wins at LSU or Penn State.
4. Georgia 7-1: The loss to South Carolina remains inexplicable, but for everyone outside the SEC, we say, thank you Gamecocks.
5. Baylor 8-0: I know, this is a surprise. But compare Baylor’s schedule heads up to Clemson’s or Alabama’s. You’ll see that the Bears have more good wins.
6. Clemson 8-0: To the Tigers’ credit, they’ve got more Power 5 wins – seven – than any other team.
7. Alabama 8-0: If the Crimson Tide beats LSU, I assume they’ll move up to No. 1, though I certainly will do my due diligence.
8. Auburn 6-2: I simply refuse to downgrade a team just because it happened to have two three-point losses on the road at top-10 teams. Especially when it beat another top-10 team on a neutral field.
9. Oregon 8-1: The Ducks have some nice wins – at Washington, at Southern Cal – and their neutral-field loss to Auburn isn’t at all embarrassing.
10. Florida 7-2: What a ride in the SEC. Every week, a major showdown, and the Gators are right in the middle of it.
11. Utah 8-1: Don’t sleep on the Utes. They finish with three teams with losing records – UCLA, Arizona and Colorado.
12. Michigan 6-2: The Wolverines have two good wins (Iowa, Notre Dame), and while the loss at Wisconsin was discouraging, the loss at Penn State was the opposite.
13. Oklahoma 7-1: Why the Sooners so low? OU has one win over a team with a winning record (Texas). That could change Saturday, of course.
14. Notre Dame 6-2: The Fighting Irish don’t have a great win, but they’ve got some good wins, and both of their losses qualify as quality losses.
15. Kansas State 6-2: The Wildcats have one of the nation’s best wins, beating the Sooners.