What would the college football playoff rankings bring in the last edition before rivalry weekend? A pretty tame set of results when compared to last week.
|3||Florida State (11-0)||3|
|4||Mississippi State (10-1)||4|
|6||Ohio State (10-1)||6|
|10||Michigan State (9-2)||11|
|12||Kansas State (9-2)||12|
|13||Arizona State (9-2)||13|
|16||Georgia Tech (9-2)||18|
|19||Ole Miss (8-3)||8|
|23||Boise State (9-2)||NR|
There's not much change to discuss this week. The Top 7 are the same, with Ole Miss plummeting 11 spots after the loss to Arkansas. The next three teams are the same as last week, just all moving up a spot, and most of the other changes are minor.
About the only notable thing about the rankings is that Marshall finally appears -- one spot below Boise State. Unless Boise State loses to Utah State this weekend, then the Broncos will likely go to the Mountain West Championship Game with a chance to lock up the Group of 5 spot in the playoff-aligned bowls. The Thundering Herd is now full of Aggie fans, and fans of the Mountain West West champions after that. (No, that's not a typo. The division is the Mountain West West.)
Most of the controversy this week came not from the rankings themselves, but how Arkansas AD and selection committee chairman Jeff Long explained those rankings -- in particular, his explanation for Mississippi State remaining at No. 4. To be clear: I personally would love Mississippi State in the playoffs, because as a South Carolina fan, I have a soft spot for non-traditional powers. And there are some defensible cases you can make for Mississippi State being in the Top 4. This is not one of them.
Jeff Long just said the committee takes into account that some of Mississippi State's wins came agains teams previously ranked.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) November 26, 2014
We can have a dispute about how bad an idea it is to take rankings at the time into account -- I happen to think very -- but that's not the biggest problem here. The biggest problem here is that, aside from Alabama (which beat Mississippi State), the Bulldogs have not played a formerly ranked team since the first playoff rankings came out. That means that the only way rankings at the time could count would be if the committee were considering someone else's rankings. Which means that this ...
Long: "To clarify, when I refer to 'ranked,' I mean CFP-ranked." So, nothing pre-Oct. 28.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) November 26, 2014
... is either a lie or irrelevant to the discussion of Mississippi State's strength of schedule. Of course, you might also want to consider another statement from the committee.
Long specifics that they consider a "bad" loss as one to a sub-.500 team. Said doesn't necessarily agree with Ohio St-Va Tech as an example.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) November 26, 2014
In any case, to the bowl seedings. Nothing changes in the playoffs themselves, but the aligned bowls get shaken up a bit -- at least in part because of the resolution (for now) of the Boise State-Marshall question, and in part because of the Ole Miss implosion against Arkansas.
Sugar: (1) Alabama vs. (4) Mississippi State
Rose: (2) Oregon vs. (3) Florida State
Orange: Georgia Tech vs. Georgia
Cotton: TCU vs. Ohio State
Peach: Michigan State vs. Baylor
Fiesta: UCLA vs. Boise State
These are a mixture of totally blind shots in the dark and things that probably won't happen for a variety of reasons. While the committee is kind of winging it, I don't know that I see any wiggle room in the Orange Bowl contract, at least to the extent that this accurately reflects the contract:
When the Orange Bowl is not a semifinal game and an SEC team is the highest ranked team among the non-champions of the SEC and Big Ten and ranked higher than Notre Dame then that team will participate in the Orange Bowl.
The other reason I'm not bothering to change it right now is: Georgia and Georgia Tech play each other, meaning one of them will lose and likely fall in the rankings. At least Georgia Tech and possibly Georgia will play in a conference championship game against a favored opponent. Sure -- if there's a clean sweep by the SEC against the ACC this weekend in the non-FSU games and if Missouri beats Arkansas but loses in the SEC Championship Game and if Michigan State loses at Penn State this weekend, you could have a sort of bottleneck where the committee has to decide how strong their contracts and their commitment to avoid rematches are. But that's a lot of ifs with varying degrees of probability, which put together add up to the longest of long shots.
But it's hard to tell how all that jostling will turn out right now, and the rest of the bowls are just guesswork. Ohio State has to go somewhere, and the other teams are basically dictated by rankings. There are a couple of things I think the committee will try to avoid, aside from conference rematches: I think they strive to avoid a Boise State-TCU rematch in the Fiesta Bowl (though that could happen), and they want to avoid the Broncos going to Atlanta twice in the same season. That dictates either the Cotton or the Fiesta, and with the higher-ranked TCU (for now) getting the edge for the Cotton Bowl, Boise goes to play UCLA in the Fiesta. Ohio State makes an attractive team for the other spot in Dallas, and the strength-vs.-strength match-up of Michigan State vs. Baylor is too good to pass up.
If you really want to know what I think is more likely after championship game week, it's something like this:
Sugar: (1) Alabama vs. (4) TCU
Rose: (2) Oregon vs. (3) Florida State
Orange: Georgia Tech / Clemson vs. Mississippi State
Cotton: Baylor vs. Ohio State
Peach: Michigan State vs. Georgia
Fiesta: UCLA / Arizona vs. Boise State
My guess is that the selection committee uses the "conference championship" clause and continues to ignore the TCU-Baylor result (wrongly, I believe) to put the Horned Frogs into the bracket, dropping the Bulldogs to the Orange Bowl. It could be very, very close between Georgia Tech and Clemson, depending on what happens against their respect SEC rivals and how well the Yellow Jackets do in the ACC Championship Game. And I know, Georgia fans, you're as tired of facing B1G teams as most of the rest of the SEC East. But with Boise State probably locked out of Atlanta and Baylor being a too-logical fit for the Cotton Bowl, it's probably going to be either Michigan State or Ohio State against Georgia in the Peach Bowl, barring a Georgia loss to Georgia Tech. In which case, the Dawgs are likely headed to Florida to play -- a B1G team.