Published 7:38 AM EST Nov 21, 2018
In an utterly predicable season, it’s only fitting that the College Football Playoff rankings feature none of the chaos, debate or drama that greeted the postseason format’s first four season of existence.
In a playoff first, there were no changes at the top for the third week in a row: Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Michigan lead the way in the hypothetical four-team field. And with two weeks left to go until the postseason, it’s easy to envision a scenario where the semifinals unfold in uncontroversial fashion — this would be another first.
Any outrage is tepid at best. Yes, the selection committee continues to place a shockingly amount of value on second-tier teams from the SEC. In the committee’s defense, however, there simply aren’t enough worthy teams from the remaining Power Five leagues to slid into the spots held by LSU, Florida, Kentucky and Mississippi State.
If suspense exists at all, it’s in the knobby pileup of teams just outside the playoff picture jostling for position in the New Year’s Six race. There may be more intrigue in the Group of Five race for an access bowl, but only if Central Florida loses one of its last two games.
With two weeks left until the College Football Playoff field is decided, here’s what the selection committee got right and wrong in Tuesday’s rankings:
UCF leapfrogged Ohio State. It’s difficult to watch No. 10 Ohio State barely survive against Maryland and imagine this team somehow carving its way into the top four. Yet the road does exist: OSU needs to beat Michigan, beat Northwestern and get some help. It’s not so far-fetched as to be a completely unrealistic scenario, even if it’s difficult to imagine a team that has struggled since late in September finding the sort of performance needed to beat Michigan in Saturday’s rivalry matchup in Columbus.
Whether caused by Ohio State’s struggles with the Terrapins or No. 9 UCF’s easy victory against nine-win Cincinnati, the committee made a smart move in swapping the Buckeyes and Knights in this week’s rankings. Unlike OSU, the Knights seem to be improving at the right time; Saturday’s 38-13 win against the Bearcats was the team’s best showing of the season, and in prime time, no less.
Not that it means anything, really. UCF is and has been an afterthought in the chase for the top four, lost behind a swath of one- and two-loss teams from the Power Five, and regardless of their ranking the Knights are playing for only one thing — an unbeaten season and another New Year’s Six bowl. Moving ahead of Ohio State is only a welcome piece of recognition for what is again turning out to be the best team in the Group of Five conferences.
This ongoing fascination with the SEC. Alabama is a no-doubt, no-brainer pick for the top seed, with little argument to the contrary. There’s even a case for Georgia at No. 5, again due to the dearth of accomplished contenders for the first spot outside the four-team field — Oklahoma’s defense is an abomination, Washington State doesn’t have the resume, Ohio State has been average and UCF is, unfortunately, part of the Group of Five and thus essentially ineligible.
LSU at No. 7 is silly. Florida at No. 11 is strange. Kentucky at No. 15 is borderline laughable. Mississippi State at No. 18 is so ludicrous that it boggles the mind. Even if you follow the logic that says LSU, Florida and Kentucky are among the best teams in college football, Mississippi State lost to all four by a combined score of 84-16.
The committee’s embrace of the SEC is built on a house of cards so precarious that just one contrary viewpoint would cause the whole structure to collapse upon itself. For example, saying that Mississippi State is merely average invalidates wins over the Bulldogs by the Tigers, Gators and Wildcats. Saying that Florida isn’t deserving of being No. 11 in the rankings would then mean LSU isn’t worthy of being seventh, since the Tigers lost in Gainesville in early October.
And questioning LSU’s credentials then takes a bite out of Georgia’s reputation, since the Tigers tore through the Bulldogs by 20 points a week after falling to the Gators. In other words, it’s worth asking whether the committee has manufactured the value of certain SEC teams to fulfill a preconceived notion of the league’s strength beyond Alabama.College, committee, football, playoff, Week, wrong