Tramel: Cancellations will loom large in college football rankings
In “Bull Durham,” Crash Davis taught Nuke LaLoosh well.
“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes it rains.”
College football’s COVID version of that is sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes the game is called because of contact tracing.
December arrives with the College Football Playoff very much undetermined. Usually, the committee announces the pairings the day after the first Saturday of December. This year, the sport will play two additional December weekends, meaning no announcement until December 20.
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Even more strange. The pairings will be determined not just by who teams played and how they fared, but by games NOT played.
Ohio State, scheduled to play eight games plus a likely Big Ten title game, has been denied two games by COVID. The 4-0 Buckeyes have two games left, plus a potential championship game. Seven games probably are enough to get Ohio State into the field. But six? Maybe not. Five? Definitely not.
Washington and Southern Cal each are 3-0 in the Pac-12, but each is down a game to cancellation, and nothing is assured out West, where schedule disruptions have become the norm. Both UW and USC have two scheduled games remaining, plus a potential conference championship. Is six games enough to get either into the field? Almost certainly not.
And 8-0 Cincinnati has only one scheduled game remaining, at Tulsa on December 12, with a likely rematch the next week against Tulsa. Is that enough to get the Bearcats into playoff consideration?
Texas A&M has played seven games and has two scheduled, with no likely SEC title game. If the Aggies end up with only eight games played, and finish 7-1, are they viable contenders?
Notre Dame has a shot at 12 games. Clemson at 11.
Heck, getting games played is the key for teams waging a longshot bid for the playoff. If the Big 12’s trio of two-loss teams -- OU, OSU or Iowa State -- want to make a case, getting all its games to finish 9-2 is required.
With games getting canceled or postponed on a daily basis, this season is being defined as much by what games are played as much as who wins.
Let’s get to my rankings for this week:
1. Alabama 8-0: Nick Saban, with a positive COVID test, was reduced to yelling at the television as the Crimson Tide rolled Auburn. Probably was a relief for the Bama guys.
2. Notre Dame 9-0: The Fighting Irish passed a big hurdle by winning in Chapel Hill. Don’t begrudge Notre Dame. It is 9-0 against a schedule more difficult than OU’s schedule, and the Sooners are 6-2.
3. Texas A&M 6-1: The Aggies have an interesting closing schedule -- at Auburn, at Tennessee.
4. Clemson 8-1: Does anyone really think we won’t have an Alabama-Clemson title game?
5. Florida 7-1: The Gators are good, but how they scale Mount Bama remains unclear.
6. Cincinnati 8-0: The Bearcats are in a funny situation. They need to beat Tulsa, but don’t need to beat Tulsa too badly, because that could negate the effect of beating the Golden Hurricane twice.
7. Miami 7-1: The Hurricanes still have three games scheduled, including a December 19 game against Georgia Tech, the day of the ACC title game.
8. Brigham Young 9-0: The playoff committee isn’t impressed with BYU. The Cougars are ranked 14th. But BYU’s résumé isn’t that much worse than most.
9. Ohio State 4-0: The best narrative in college football is that Indiana’s prowess is keeping alive the Buckeyes’ playoff hopes.
10. Coastal Carolina 9-0: The Chanticleers have two good wins. That puts them close to the average.