College football rankings: How far will Alabama fall?
The College Football Playoff committee’s second rankings of the season will be released Tuesday night, and the rankings were quite instructive. The committee still loves the eye test. Having Ohio State over LSU, and ranking Alabama and Clemson 3-5 despite weak schedules, shows that the committee still evaluates teams based on pedigree and dominance of outmanned opponents.
Things have changed, of course. LSU won at Alabama. Minnesota beat Penn State. Baylor needed three overtimes to win at TCU. So now comes another set of rankings. Here are five things to watch for Tuesday night:
1. Is Minnesota or Baylor ranked higher? Last week, the Bears were 12th and the Golden Gophers were 17th, despite both being unbeaten. Minnesota’s schedule was ghastly. Baylor’s wasn’t bad, but wasn’t respected, either. The Bears won at Oklahoma State and Kansas State. The committee thought enough of those teams to place in the top 25, but not enough of Baylor beating them, on the road, to put the Bears in the top 10.
The Minnesota and Baylor schedules come down to this. Minnesota has the marquee victory – 31-26 over Penn State in Minneapolis. But Baylor has more good wins. Which will the committee value more?
2. How far does Alabama fall? The Crimson Tide won at Texas A&M, but after that, Bama is hurting for a quality victory. At South Carolina? Duke in Atlanta? The Tide plays at Auburn in a few weeks, and that would be a great win for Bama. If the committee keeps Alabama high (top five, say), that’s a great sign that Bama could stay up there and make the four-team playoff with an 11-1 record.
3. How far does Penn State fall? The Nittany Lions were ranked fourth last week, one slot behind Alabama. Does a five-point road loss to a good (at least) team mean Penn State will be penalized more than a five-point home loss to a great team?
4. Does Oklahoma tumble down the scale? Minnesota, at least, figures to rise above OU. Will the Sooners be downshifted due to a 42-41 escape of Iowa State? The Sooners were ninth last week. If they fall out of the top 10, it makes it that much harder to make up ground in the precious few remaining weeks.
5. Do the one-loss Pac-12 teams – Oregon and Utah, each 8-1 – make up ground? The Ducks and Utes are looming as contenders for the playoff. They were seventh and eighth, respectively, last week. Do they scoot past Alabama or Penn State? If so, that’s excellent news for the Pac-12.
Here are my rankings for the week, and remember, I base my rankings strictly on résumé. Who did you play? Where did you play?
1. LSU 9-0: Victories over teams I’ve got ranked 9, 11 and 12 – and which the committee almost surely will rank higher – make LSU the easiest No. 1 in years.
2. Ohio State 9-0: A solid résumé (Cincinnati, Indiana, Wisconsin) has a chance to get much better, since Penn State and Michigan loom.
3. Georgia 8-1: Two excellent wins (Notre Dame and Florida) overcome one of the most inexplicable losses in the nation (home vs. South Carolina).
4. Baylor 9-0: The Bears’ victories are quite underrated – at Kansas State, Oklahoma State and TCU, plus the home win over Iowa State.
5. Minnesota 9-0: The Golden Gophers finally were tested, and they delivered, in a rousing victory over Penn State. Now comes Iowa and Wisconsin, so the résumé can get much better.
6. Penn State 8-1: The Nittany Lions have a good résumé – wins at Iowa and over Michigan, a close road loss to an undefeated team – that can get better, since Indiana and Ohio State loom.
7. Clemson 9-0: The Tigers are in search of a marquee win. It might not be forthcoming.
8. Oregon 8-1: The Ducks have some decent wins, and a really good loss (Auburn on a neutral field), but to get a really good win, Oregon needs Utah to reach the Pac-12 title game.
9. Florida 8-2: The victory over Auburn is really paying off for the Gators, who have lost to my first- and third-ranked teams.
10. Utah 8-1: The Utes, at 12-1, wouldn’t have quite the same résumé as a 12-1 Oregon, since Utah lost at good-not-great Southern Cal.
11. Auburn 7-2: The Tigers already have played quite a schedule – Oregon, Texas A&M, Florida, LSU – and Georgia and Alabama still are to come.
12. Alabama 8-1: The difference in Bama and OU is that the Crimson Tide lost to a much better team.
13. Oklahoma 8-1: Baylor arrives just in time for a Sooner squad in desperate need of quality wins.
14. Michigan 7-2: The Wolverines are playing much better. Can they stand up to Ohio State?
15. Notre Dame 7-2: Several solid wins for the Fighting Irish, and two good losses.