Prior to and even after the inception of a college football playoff (which would be given the creative proper noun name of College Football Playoff), the naysayers said that expanding the postseason to four teams would cheapen the regular season, that games would become less meaningful.
And as anyone with a remote sense for the weekend to weekend drama that is college football's regular season knows, that notion was and still is utterly asinine.
Of course, the people trying to sell the erosion of the regular season's significance as some sort of justification for avoiding a playoff had a vested interest in the previous system. It lined their pockets. But the runaway freight train of cash could not be stopped. The playoff is coming, and the second week of CFP rankings along with the upcoming schedule this weekend illustrate how ludicrous the notion of the regular season's being diminished is.
First, here are the latest rankings:
1. Mississippi State (8-0) 2. Florida State (8-0) 3. Auburn (7-1) 4. Oregon (8-1) 5. Alabama (7-1) 6. TCU (7-1) 7. Kansas State (7-1) 8. Michigan State (7-1) 9. Arizona State (7-1) 10. Notre Dame (7-1) 11. Ole Miss (7-2) 12. Baylor (7-1) 13. Nebraska (8-1) 14. Ohio State (7-1) 15. Oklahoma (6-2) 16. LSU (7-2) 17. Utah (6-2) 18. UCLA (7-2) 19. Arizona (6-2) 20. Georgia (6-2) 21. Clemson (6-2) 22. Duke (7-1) 23. West Virginia (6-3) 24. Georgia Tech (7-2) 25. Wisconsin (6-2)
Observations on the newest rankings and the upcoming weekend:
1. Well, we were all wondering what would happen to the first member of the Big Four in the SEC West (Mississippi State, Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss) to lose a second game, and we got our answer. Ole Miss' heart pounding, 35-31 loss to Auburn dropped the Rebels all the way to number 11, sending a very clear message -- regardless of conference affiliation, a second loss is pretty much eliminating you from the conversation, even if the two losses are a) last minute loss in the hardest atmosphere in college football and b) a last minute loss to the number 3 ranked team in the country.
2. So this makes it very easy to call the following games this weekend de facto "elimination games":
11:00 a.m. #12 Baylor at #15 Oklahoma 2:30 p.m. #10 Notre Dame at #9 Arizona 6:30 p.m. #7 Kansas State at #6 TCU 7:00 p.m. #5 Alabama at #16 LSU 7:00 p.m. #14 Ohio State at #8 Michigan State 9:00 p.m. #4 Oregon at #17 Utah
To be fair, the two-loss teams in the games above are all but eliminated now, but I'm just illustrating the caliber of these match ups, as much as anything. Also, if there were an eight team playoff, these games would all have more meaning, not less. The charlatans selling us a diminished regular season should be strung up by their butt cheeks.
3. Doing a little bit of forensics on the top one-loss teams, it's clear that the caliber of wins (and even losses) out of conference is the major tipping point when it comes to the rankings (best out of conference performance in parentheses):
3. Auburn (W, at #7 Kansas State, 20-14) 4. Oregon (W, vs #8 Michigan State, 46-27) 5. Alabama (W, vs #23 West Virginia, 33-23) 6. TCU (W, vs Minnesota, 30-7) 7. Kansas State (L, vs #3 Auburn, 20-14) 8. Michigan State (L, at #4 Oregon, 46-27)
Arizona State's toughest out of conference game is this weekend against Notre Dame at home. The next crop of one-loss teams after that all have spotty out of conference performances -- Baylor didn't really play anyone, Nebraska nearly lost to McNeese State, and Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech.
So while you can argue that scheduling up outside of conference is a bit risky -- Michigan State would probably be in the playoff right now if it scheduled Akron instead of Oregon -- if you do wind up losing a game, it almost appears to be the first tie breaker. If I had to choose whether or not to schedule up outside of conference, I think I would choose "YES" with the tie breaker being the "Hell, isn't it more fun to play good teams?" concept.
4. The control their own destiny teams for now, appear to be:
1. Mississippi State 2. Florida State 3. Auburn 4. Oregon 5. Alabama
(NOTE: I'm really tempted to say that Arizona State controls their own destiny, since their schedule includes #10 Notre Dame, #19 Arizona, and likely #4 Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. I can't imagine them not replacing Oregon in the group of four if they're 12-1 after the conference title game.)
In somewhat decent shape, if they win out:
* Winner of 7 Kansas State at 6 TCU * 8. Michigan State * Winner of 10 Notre Dame at 9 Arizona State
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Needs lots of help:
* 2-loss Ole Miss and LSU * Baylor, Nebraska, Ohio State
Yeah, it's really too bad none of these games mean anything, huh?