You hear coaches say that the midseason rankings don’t matter and they don’t pay attention to them. On an extremely superficial level, sure. If you’re in the top 4 after week 8, it does not guarantee you end up in the playoffs. But you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think the rankings each week are important to the coaches.
Each week when the rankings are released, we get insight into what the committee finds important. In turn, coaches can understand what they must do to get in/stay in the top 4 by the last week of the season. They also use it to figure out how to optimize their non-conference scheduling for future seasons.
Last year, we busted the myth that you needed to be a P5 conference champion in order to make the Playoff. Quality wins, especially in non-conference games, proved to be more important.
Penn State was shocked and outraged when they won the Big 10 but were left out of the Playoff. It really wasn’t a surprise, though. Ohio State was in the top 4 going into conference championship week while Penn State and Wisconsin were not. The committee had already let us know that they believed Ohio State was the best team from the Big 10 and a top 4 team in the country regardless of that Wisconsin/Penn State outcome.
Note: The committee 100% considers potential TV ratings, and nobody wants to see rematches of conference games form a few weeks prior. So don’t give me the “they both could have gotten in” argument. That’ll never happen while there are 4 other teams with one loss or less.
In previous years, the committee crafted their final release of rankings prior to selection day with a clear purpose. The top 4 were the teams who were guaranteed to make it if they won or did not play during championship week. The next 4-6 spots were teams that had an outside chance of making it in if a team in the top 4 lost and chaos ensued.
As previously noted, two teams from the same conference won’t make the Playoff in the same year anytime soon. So it doesn’t make sense to have two teams from the same conference in the top 4 at any point. If the teams have played each other, take the one you’d select for the Playoff, in the case they both win out, in the top 4, and the other anywhere else. If they haven’t played yet, put the one you think would win in the top 4, and the other around 5-6 so they can join the top 4 if they win out.
We also don’t need to list 25 teams. Let’s make this more like our playoff eliminator and have the number of teams listed in the rankings shrink each week. If you’re ranked 25 by week 10, you’re either a 3+ loss team with no shot, or an undefeated MAC/AAC team with no shot.
With that methodology, here’s how the rankings should be right now:
8. Ohio State*
9-25.A whole bunch of teams that don’t matter
The teams that you see above will not lose again this season unless it’s when they play each other. So every single one of them controls their own destinies. The way it stands right now, the PAC 12 and Notre Dame are DEAD. They need a LOT of help to put a team in the playoffs. There’s at least one team in each of the other Power 5 conferences that deserves a spot (if they win out) over any PAC 12 or Notre Dame team that also wins out.
*The above paragraph only applies to Ohio State if Wisconsin is undefeated in the regular season, but I’m assuming that happens.
I’ll give you my justification on the order of the rankings now, and I’m here to #EmbraceDebate about it if you want, but the order doesn’t really matter at this point. I’ll note that Michigan and Penn State are honorable mentions. They’ll sneak in if they win the Big 10 even if they have 2 losses. However, they’ll need chaos to ensue these next few weeks to do so.
The committee loves the eye test. Alabama’s resume might not be the most impressive. Still, after watching 10 games (9 for Miami) from these teams, I can’t say that any other team is as deserving as they are of being called the best team in the nation. An undefeated Alabama that passes the eye test always gets the number 1 spot.
Miami is an extremely close second. To be honest, it’s a toss-up between them and Alabama between 1 and 2. My eyes just tell me that the committee thinks if they played 100 games, Alabama would probably win at least 51 times. They’ve both separated themselves as the two best undefeated teams in the nation, but Miami gets the two spot.
Note: I personally don’t think Clemson would lose to Miami, so I would put Clemson at 2 and Miami at 5 to represent the ACC. But as a capital J journalist I’m making these rankings based on team statistics and how I believe the committee weights each factor.
Wisconsin has a relatively weak resume at this point as well. The Big 10 is having a down year, but you have to be stupid to think a team that gets through an entire season undefeated including a P5 conference schedule should be left out of the playoffs. They might need to win the Big 10 championship game by 2 or more scores in order to not get jumped by Oklahoma. Either way, they wouldn’t fall below 4 if they win out, and we’ll keep them at 3 for now.
3 of the 4 remaining P5 conferences (not PAC 12) have now been represented. Oklahoma is the only team left from the Big 12 that controls their own destiny. So, they get the 4 spot.
Clemson has the best resume on the list. Their 7 wins against P5 schools with a .500 record or better far outweighs their one bad loss to Syracuse in a game where their QB was a lame duck. They’d also have to go through Miami to finish the season undefeated. Although they’re 5 on this list, they’ll easily replace Miami at 2 if they win out. I’d personally have them there already, maybe even 1.
Both Georgia and Auburn would beat Ohio State, and Auburn just wiped the floor with Georgia. So that’s how the 6, 7, and 8 spots work themselves out. Ohio State has an added reason to be placed below the other two in that they rely on Wisconsin winning out.
We’ll probably see Miami and Clemson both in the top 4 this week anyway, and Georgia might even hang on to the 4 spot to give us 2 teams from the SEC, too. But that makes no sense and these would be better.