Well, it was bound to happen at some point. The new College Football Playoff committee was bound to make themselves the topic as opposed to the teams they're picking.
Tuesday night, in the sixth unveiling of the College Football Playoff rankings, the final edition before the rankings are used to select a four-team playoff and slot a handful of teams into New Year's bowls, we got our first big curveball from the committee, and that sound you heard was thousands of voices in Waco crying out in terror as their playoff dreams were put on life support.
With a lot of jostling going on in the back end of the top ten but very little near the top, the only high-end brewing controversy that the committee has been dealing with is the TCU-Baylor issue, in which the committee sees TCU's resume as better than Baylor's despite identical records and a Baylor win over the Horned Frogs.
Heading into this week, the Bears were ranked 7th and the Frogs 5th. So after wins by both this past weekend -- TCU impressively over Texas, Baylor not so much over Texas Tech -- the committee did what any good WWE promoter would do -- they threw more gas onto a budding feud.
Let's examine the landscape, but first let's look at the latest rankings. Here they are:
1. Alabama 11-1 2. Oregon 11-1 3. TCU 10-1 4. Florida State 12-0 5. Ohio State 11-1 6. Baylor 10-1 7. Arizona 9-2 8. Michigan State 9-2 9. Kansas State 8-2 10. Mississippi State 10-2 11. Georgia Tech 10-2 12. Ole Miss 9-3 13. Wisconsin 10-2 14. Georgia 10-2 15. UCLA 10-2 16. Missouri 10-2 17. Arizona State 9-3 18. Clemson 9-3 19. Auburn 8-4 20. Oklahoma 8-3 21. Louisville 9-3 22. Boise State 10-2 23. Utah 8-4 24. LSU 8-4 25. USC 8-4
1. For the last time, this committee barely does not value head to head at all... If you are on Twitter or on the radio or at Christmas parties screaming that "Baylor beat TCU! This is an outrage!", I understand your frustration. I even agree with you, for the most part. Just know that this committee clearly sees head-to-head as some sort of tertiary-at-best tiebreaker in this system, falling somewhere between an equivalent of the NFL's 5th tiebreaker and a coin toss. At this point, if you're complaining about this vociferously you're closer to being a deranged person standing on the median on Westheimer talking to nobody than you are a rational college football fan. Certain things in life are worth fighting. On this one, acceptance is calming.
2....and thus Baylor is likely screwed. So for that 61-58 win in Waco back in October to mean anything to this playoff race, all of a sudden Baylor needs to beat Kansas State (preferably by, say, three touchdowns like TCU did) and then need two of three things to happen (I'm going to assume TCU takes care of Iowa State at home, no disrespect Cyclones):
1. Missouri (+14) upsets Alabama (which would trigger all hell breaking loose, more on this in a second) 2. Georgia Tech (+3.5) upsets Florida State (who the committee is clearly not feeling any love for right now) 3. Wisconsin (-4) beats Ohio State
I do think that if Arizona beats Oregon (Ducks are 13 point favorites, by the way) that they will jump Baylor. I don't know if that gets the Wildcats into the playoff, but I do think a win over number 2 for a conference title will be enough to jump a home win in a regular season game over number 9. (Also, more on Arizona in a second.)
3. So we basically have four play-in games and (potentially) a couple de facto elimination games. If the favorites win these four games, then you will have your four team playoff:
Fri 8:00 p.m. 7 Arizona vs 2 Oregon Sat 11:00 a.m. Iowa State vs 3 TCU Sat 3:00 p.m. 1 Alabama vs 16 Missouri Sat 7:00 p.m. 4 Florida State vs 11 Georgia Tech
If any one of them slip, then all of a sudden these two Saturday night games really matter and essentially become elimination games:
Sat 6:45 p.m. 9 Kansas State at 6 Baylor Sat 7:17 p.m. 13 Wisconsin vs 5 Ohio State
Trust me, TV execs are wetting themselves over (or praying for) the idea of number 4 Florida State struggling on Saturday night and keeping those other two Saturday night games involving number 5 Ohio State and number 6 Baylor relevant.
4. The J.T. Barrett injury shouldn't be an issue for the committee. Speaking of Ohio State, they sustained a huge blow in their rivalry game with Michigan this weekend when quarterback J.T. Barrett, who had been playing as well as any QB not named Mariota, broke his ankle, ending his season. Enter something called a "Cardale Jones," who is essentially Ohio State's third quarterback this season, since they lost original starter Braxton Miller before the season to injury. Now, there is actually talk about the committee somehow factoring Barrett's injury in as a "minus" for Ohio State in the beauty contest, should a spot in the top four open up. We see this methodology with the basketball committee, when a team sustains a significant injury late in the season, it effects their seeding. (The committee, all of a sudden, become prognosticators instead of evaluators, which is a massive flaw, in my opinion.) Well, that's all well and good if the downside is a team being, say, a 10 seed as opposed to a 4 seed in a 68 team tournament. But when it comes to deciding a lucrative spot in a four team playoff (in a season with only 12 or 13 games), using injury as a projection tool is completely outside the capability of this committee. If they want to use Condoleeza Rice and a bunch of former coaches to evaluate stats and schedule strength, so be it. But I have no confidence any of these people can accurately project what Ohio State would look like in a playoff game without J.T. Barrett. Fortunately, Ohio State actually has a game left for the Big Ten title, and in some fashion, the Cardale Jones questions should handle themselves -- either Ohio State will lose to Wisconsin, making it a non issue, or they'll win, proving they can beat good teams without J.T. Barrett.
5. Arizona stole my UCLA 100/1 spot! As you all know, if you read these posts, I had a $25 ticket on UCLA at 100/1 that I placed two weeks ago. All I need was for the Bruins to beat USC and Stanford at home and have a couple other things happen in front of them, and the Bruins would be in a de facto play-in game for the Pac-12 title. Well, the rest of the world did their job, but as usual with Jim Mora, Jr. as their head coach, UCLA found a way to poop the bed, losing by four touchdowns at home to Stanford. And now Arizona, who lost to UCLA by 10 a few weeks ago, is sitting in the exact spot I'd envisioned for UCLA. Damn you, Mora. Damn you, Brett Hundley. Damn you.
6. So what's the (reasonable) Armageddon Playoff look like? Again let's assume that TCU beats Iowa State (like I said...reasonable). What does the playoff look like if the following happens:
* 16 Missouri upsets 1 Alabama in a close SEC title game (unlikely, but reasonable) * 7 Arizona upsets 2 Oregon in a close Pac-12 title game (unlikely, but reasonable) * 11 Georgia Tech upsets 3 Florida State in the ACC title game (totally reasonable, the spread is FSU -3.5) * 13 Wisconsin beats 5 Ohio State (Wisconsin is favored) * 9 Kansas State beats 6 Baylor (Baylor QB Bryce Petty is still a question mark with a concussion, by the way)
So what would the aftermath of that world look like?
SEC Champion: 16 Missouri 11-2 Pac-12 Champion: 7 Arizona 11-2 Big 12 Champion: 3 TCU 12-1 ACC Champion: 11 Georgia Tech 11-2 Big Ten Champion: 13 Wisconsin 11-2
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Remaining pool of 1 and 2 loss teams:
1 Alabama 11-2 2 Oregon 11-2 4 Florida State 12-1 5 Ohio State 11-2 6 Baylor 11-2 8 Michigan State 10-2 9 Kansas State 10-2 10 Mississippi State 10-2
Please, football gods, let this happen.