With half of the College Football Playoff selection committee’s top six teams losing over the weekend, a Tuesday shakeup was inevitable. We got it. This wasn’t a free-fall, but we saw a series of significant drops for Tennessee, Alabama and Clemson that could have long-term effects.
Let’s do a full review of what the committee did, breaking down the good, the bad and the ugly.
Ranking undefeated TCU fourth and one-loss Tennessee fifth is merited.
The Volunteers have some very good wins over No. 9 Alabama and No. 7 LSU on the road, and the selection committee is giving them some tangible credit for thumping No. 24 Kentucky as well. But that loss to Georgia had to leave a mark, and it did. Selection committee chairman Boo Corrigan said on a teleconference Tuesday that his group viewed both the Volunteers ’14-point loss and Oregon’s 46-point loss to the No. 1 Bulldogs as one-sided, and they were.
Everyone on the committee watched Georgia 27, Tennessee 13. It wasn’t a close game.
Meanwhile, there was no longer any rhetoric about TCU being an incomplete team or having to make comebacks to stay undefeated. Instead, a body of work that includes wins over six teams with winning records was respected. And the depth of the Big 12 has to carry some weight as well.
“There are no layups in the Big 12,” TCU coach Sonny Dykes said on ESPN. He’s right, now that Kansas is no longer a doormat.
Moving TCU up three spots from the first week’s top 25 seems like a market correction after a slight undervaluing of the Horned Frogs last week. They’re now clearly in control of their own destiny—win out, and they’ll make the playoff. Lose one, and it gets interesting. They face what might be their biggest test of the season to date Saturday at No. 18 Texas.
The Atlantic Coast Conference is in the weakest playoff position of the Power 5 conferences after Clemson plummeted from No. 4 to No. 10 and league members Wake Forest and Syracuse exited the top 25.
Other than the Tigers, the only ranked ACC teams this week are North Carolina (No. 15), North Carolina State (No. 16) and new arrival Florida State (No. 23). Clemson already has played the Wolfpack and Seminoles and could meet the Tar Heels in the ACC title game, but there aren’t a lot of remaining opportunities for it to improve its position.
The rest of the Power 5 conferences all have at least one team ranked ahead of Clemson. The SEC has four ahead of the Tigers, with a chance that all four could stay ahead of them going forward. The Pac-12 has two ahead (Oregon at sixth and USC eighth) and two close behind (UCLA 12th and Utah 13th), and each of those teams have multiple opportunities for resume-enhancing wins coming up.
Clemson sitting at 10th behind two-loss Alabama at No. 9 reinforces what we all suspected after Saturday: There’s a strong chance of having a playoff without either of them for the first time in its nine-year history.
The Crimson Tide have a good resume-enhancing opportunity Saturday at Mississippi that could be enough to vault them past No. 8 USC, which plays Colorado. But USC has two superior opponents to close the regular season (No. 12 UCLA and No. 20 Notre Dame) compared to Bama finishing against Austin Peay and the worst Auburn team in years. Unless LSU collapses and opens a backdoor opportunity for Alabama to win the SEC West and upset Georgia in the league championship game, it stands to reason that the Tide are out.
Don’t ever discount the value of big brands. Exhibits A and B: Texas and Notre Dame.
The Longhorns (6–3) are the top-ranked three-loss team at No. 18. The Fighting Irish (6–3) check in at No. 20. That’s despite the fact both have lost to games to unranked teams: Texas was beaten by Texas Tech and Oklahoma State; Notre Dame lost to a team tied for fourth in the Sun Belt East (Marshall) and the last-place team in the Pac-12 (Stanford).
But bad losses don’t seem to stick to bluebloods. Which is at least consistent through much of college football’s history.
Texas has one win over a ranked team (at Kansas State Saturday) which allowed it to vault up six spots. Notre Dame has at least beaten two ranked teams in Clemson and North Carolina (another factor that hurts the ACC’s overall standing).
Having those two in the top 20 does help future opponents, at least. TCU has an opportunity to pick up another quality win Saturday in Austin, and USC has the same chance when it hosts Notre Dame on Nov. 26.
At least the committee didn’t put either the Horns or Irish ahead of 8–1 Tulane, which is playing No. 22 UCF Saturday in a game of great consequence not only in the American Athletic Conference but the race for the Group of 5’s New Years Six bowl bid as well.
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