The third iteration of the committee’s rankings are have been a historically important one. No team in the short playoff era has made the Playoff after picking up a loss later than this. Could we see that change this year? How strong is Alabama’s lead at No. 1? We’ll find out in the coming weeks, but that is something to keep an eye on moving forward.
Third Rankings: Top 2️⃣5️⃣ pic.twitter.com/hRECD5Ninw
— College Football Playoff (@CFBPlayoff) November 15, 2017
The biggest surprises of the selection committee’s rankings this week come at the very top. Clemson at No. 2 probably shouldn’t be too surprising — after all, the Tigers were No. 4 last week and two teams ahead of them lost– but it was still unexpected. The Tigers didn’t do anything special this week; in fact, they struggled against a 3-6 Florida State team. Still, I guess the committee wasn’t impressed enough by Oklahoma’s win over TCU (more on that later) or by Miami’s win over Notre Dame to jump either team over the Tigers. But the Auburn win looks better this week, so that helps. Clemson does also have six wins over teams with winning records, a metric the committee often mentions.
Oklahoma jumped two teams this week, but the Sooners only moved up one spot as Miami jumped them from behind. Kirby Hocutt answered why Oklahoma is so low on his conference call, and said it was the Iowa State loss. Of course, he also implicitly mentioned another reason. When discussing several teams, Hocutt said the committee really likes their defense. This seems to be a defense-oriented committee, which does not bode well for the Oklahoma, an offensive powerhouse with defensive struggles.
The next interesting point is Auburn jumping Georgia. The Tigers dominated the Bulldogs this past week, leading to a four-spot jump. Georgia’s fall from No. 1 to No. 7 is the farthest-ever fall from the committee’s No. 1 team, as Georgia became only the second such team to lose a game during the season. Last year, we saw Ohio State stay ahead of Penn State, despite head-to-head. The Buckeyes had one loss, while the Nittany Lions had two. However, that game last year was nowhere near as decisive as the Auburn/Georgia game was.
The second interesting point is Penn State at No. 10. The Nittany Lions didn’t do anything special to jump USC this past week, but did anyway. In fact, USC’s win over Stanford suddenly looks much better, though the loss to Notre Dame now looks worse. Still, it’s hard to find the logic in Penn State being behind USC last week but ahead this week. Penn State’s wins over Northwestern and Michigan look better, but the Pitt win looks a lot worse. If I had to guess, I would venture that the committee is keeping Ohio State and Penn State joined at the hip, due to the similarities in their resumes and the way the game between the two went.
Towards the bottom of the rankings, the committee seemed much more interested in evaluating resumes than last week. Washington fell much further than Michigan State, even though the Spartans looked worse in their loss. Michigan State certainly has better wins (and losses) than Washington, though, so the decision makes sense. Washington State made a big jump, as the committee seemed to undervalue the Cougars’ resume last week (also, the Stanford win looks much better now). LSU and N.C. State both jumped Memphis, as the Tigers don’t have much of a resume to speak of right now (actually, I’m wondering why Memphis is even ranked).
At the very end of the rankings, Boise State sneaks in. This is important for a few reasons. First of all, the Broncos are in because they have four wins over teams with winning records. In start contrast to the lack of respect the committee shows to UCF (which I’ve mentioned twice), the committee has a lot of respect for the Broncos.
Boise State is ahead of currently-unranked South Florida. That may seem important, but it’s also expected. The real question is whether the Broncos would remain ahead of USF if the Bulls win out- that would add wins over UCF and Memphis to their resume. Those two ranked wins are certainly more than anything Boise State has done. So while Boise State being ahead of USF right now might matter in the Group of 5 race, don’t expect that to last.