Welcome back to the Funvee Tailgate! After my rant about the first CFP rankings ran a little long, I decided to separate my reaction to the poll into its own post. Last week seemed to be well received so the mid-week tailgate continues! With this week being Lehigh-Lafayette Week, it feels obligatory to have a tailgate at least once during the work week (in a perfect week, we’d be tailgating everyday but sadly that is not the reality I live in). So without further ado, LET’S FIRE UP THE TAILGATE!
It happened. It finally happened. CHAOS in college football. I referred to last week as “Upset Alert Saturday” because I had a feeling something big was going to happen, but not this big. As I’m as sure you’re aware by now, the #2, #3, and #4 teams lost along with numbers 8, 9, 14, and 17. It was the first time three teams in the top four lost on a single day in over 30 years. Needless to say, the losses by these seven schools has shaken the vary landscape we sit on in terms of the CFP rankings.
Ohio State moves up to #2 while Michigan stays at #3 this week proving that the committee is waiting for the Michigan/Ohio State to decide on a team. Where the Big Ten gets interesting comes from the other two Top Ten teams: Wisconsin stays at #7 after hammering Illinois while Penn State moves up to #8 after rallying over Indiana. Wisconsin at 7 is pretty obvious: win out (including the conference championship) and you’re in. Penn State’s ranking at 8 brings up a very large question: what happens if OSU beats Michigan and Penn State wins the Big Ten? Most likely this would be over Wisconsin, a school Ohio State really should have lost to and who Michigan barely took down. Would a late-season, conference championship win over the Badgers be the proof we’ve needed that Penn State belongs in the CFP? Over Ohio State winning out? I guess we just need to make sure everyone makes it through this weekend before we jump to conclusions; all four schools are 20+ point favorites in their penultimate Big Ten matchups. Although PSU was a 28-point home dog to Ohio State.
Clemson moves down two spots to #4 while Louisville only moves up one place to #5. Most experts had both schools in the top flipping Michigan and Louisville’s rankings. Given that the other nine teams all have legitimate shots at their respective conferences’ championship titles, it’s seeming that the committee is trying to price in conference champions to the CFP, hence Louisville being stuck at five. If this is in fact true, Louisville will have a tough time moving up since they CAN’T win the ACC and their final two games are against a now unranked Houston and Kentucky. I honestly can’t think that conference champions are going to get preference in this year’s final four.
For the Pac 12, Washington has moved down to #6 while Colorado moved up to #10. Neither team has a particularly good resume built up which makes it hard to believe that Washington would make the playoff if they win out and even harder to believe in the Buffs. Even though both lost to a now-ranked USC squad and Colorado’s first loss came against Michigan, the rest of their combined schedules aren’t incredibly impressive. In fact, Washington now sits in second in the North Division since Washington State is 7-0 in conference play. Washington State could take down Colorado and Washington in back-to-back weeks. The South is wide open as well since Colorado has to play WSU this week and finish off with #12 Utah. A lot of experts got afraid that the Pac 12 would beat each other up too much to make the Playoff, and that prediction is looking to be pretty accurate.
The other Power Five Conference will probably be on the outside looking in and that is the Big XII. Oklahoma sits at #9, Oklahoma State is #11, both two-loss schools, and one-loss West Virginia sits at #14. Nothing wild has changed for the Big XII since the CFP rankings were first released: unless a black hole hits the rest of the Top Ten, the Big XII won’t be in the College Football Playoff.
SO. This week’s poll brings up a lot of questions about what the committee is trying to do with the Final Four. We really can’t say for certain which way the committee will lean: putting the absolute best teams in regardless of their conference and subsequent standing in said conferences or giving some leeway to conference champions regardless of ranking and resume. These two sides could be argued for years and years to come. Year Three of the College Football Playoff will likely cause controversy given the nature of this season and the chaos that the middle-ground schools in each conference have caused. At this point last year, there were ten one-loss schools in the Top 15. All five power conferences and Notre Dame had legitimate shots at a spot in the Final Four when in fact three of the four were in it then and made the Final Four when all was said and done.
2016 has seen everyone beating down on one another; well, aside from Alabama. Like 2007, this is a season where an expanded eight-team playoff makes a lot of sense, more than the four-team playoff concept. I personally think the eight-team playoff makes the most sense regardless what number you could argue makes sense year after year. The Power Five conferences are likely all in and the one-loss team who doesn’t make the conference championship (potentially Ohio State) wouldn’t be up for debate at the end of the season. Wisconsin defeating Penn State in the Big Ten Championship could cause the biggest debates in the CFP era for years to come; as could Clemson and Louisville. If I’m the selection committee, I’m praying for a few teams to lose so it’s an easy decision in three weeks.