Rankings Review—Week 11

Alabama Bye Week:

“We looked at the film — we looked at the tape — and we evaluated the play of those teams.” That’s how Jeff Long, the chairman of the new college football playoff committee, explained the committee’s decision to keep Alabama ahead of TCU after the Horned Frogs traveled to Morgantown and defeated the Mountaineers. TCU entered the weekend just one spot behind Alabama, and it looked like they might be able to take that spot with a win. WVU, after all, is the best team that Alabama has beaten, and the Frogs were looking at a chance to match Alabama’s best win and to do it on the road. The Frogs already had a second big win, over #15 Oklahoma, on their record. And all of this was set to go down while Alabama was idle. It seemed like a golden opportunity, and the Frogs seized it. But the committee saw things differently. The committee didn’t focus on the mutual opponent. It didn’t count big wins. It didn’t turn to margin of victory or strength of schedule. Instead, it used the “eye test.” Some film was watched. Some evaluations were made. Alabama was declared to be the better team. Just what the committee was looking at we may never know (particularly when comparing two teams with such dramatically different styles of play).

Michigan State Bye Week:

“Well, I think Kansas State added to their body of work with the convincing and controlled game win over Oklahoma State. The fact that Michigan State didn’t play…it was less about Michigan State but more about Kansas State adding to their body of work that resulted in them moving to No. 7.” That’s how Long explained the decision to move Kansas State ahead of Michigan State after K-State beat Oklahoma State. That’s understandable. It makes some sense. But it’s a different method than the “eye test” used to defend Alabama’s ranking. Didn’t TCU add to its body of work when it matched Alabama’s best win? Is there no film of Michigan State games to review and evaluate? What is the standard? More importantly, what is the committee going to do while Notre Dame and the Big 12 sit at home and watch all the other elite teams add to their body of work in conference championship games?

The Season Isn’t Over:

I know, I know, there’s a lot of football left to be played. The playoff isn’t tomorrow. Things are going to change. That’s all true. The weekly rankings and the explanations of those rankings are important. It’s the only chance we have to understand how this system is going to work. It’s the only chance for us to uncover the principles being applied. I plan to look carefully at each of these rankings and apply my own “eye test” to the results.

Arizona State’s Big Jump:

Arizona State was last week’s big winner. The Devils moved from #14 to #9 after beating Utah. That moved them ahead of both Notre Dame and Baylor who also won last week. Long defended the decision to move Arizona State ahead of ND by focusing on their one common opponent. Long argued that Arizona State’s 26-10 win over Stanford was more convincing than ND’s 17-14 win over Stanford. This is important data. But it’s not new data. ND played Stanford on 10/4. Arizona State played Stanford on 10/18. They had this data last week. What changed? Everyone, I’m sure, remembers ND’s loss. It was thrilling and controversial. Arizona State’s loss was 62-27 beat down at home against UCLA. Shouldn’t that also factor in? Different teams get different tests.

TCU ranked ahead of Baylor:

These two teams have the same record, and Baylor won the head-to-head matchup. If both teams run the table, Baylor would win the Big 12. But Baylor is currently ranked six spots worse than TCU. Can the “eye test” trump a head-to-head win? I thought the point was to have such matters settled on the field.

Ole Miss ranked ahead of LSU:

This is another odd case. Both teams have the same record. LSU beat Ole Miss. On top of that, LSU played and won a quality non-conference game against Wisconsin. What does Ole Miss have that LSU doesn’t? Can a team quarterbacked by Bo Wallace really pass the “eye test”?

Two-Loss Ole Miss ahead of One-Loss Ohio State, Nebraska, and Baylor:

It’s easy to justify ranking Ole Miss ahead of Ohio State. OSU has a terrible loss and has no quality wins. Nebraska lacks a quality win but the Huskers one loss came against Michigan State. We’ve already been over what Baylor has accomplished including its when over #6 TCU.

Duke:

Duke has one loss but remains buried at the bottom of the rankings. The committee apparently doesn’t think much of the ACC and has decided that FSU is the only team from the ACC qualified to make the playoff. That’s an odd assessment considering that the ACC won two BCS bowls last year including the national championship game.

Marshall (8-0) Excluded:

The AP Poll ranks Marshall 23rd. The USA Today Coaches Poll ranks the Thundering Herd 22nd. The College Football Computer Composite, which is published by the USA Today and based on the computer rankings that had been used in the BCS, also ranks Marshall 22nd.

No “Group of Five” Team Ranked:

There’s not one Group of Five team in the rankings. ECU fell from the rankings after losing last Saturday. So far this system effectively limits the field to the 65 teams from the Power 5 conference plus Notre Dame. The Group of Five is, of course, guaranteed a spot in a New Year’s Day bowl game. It goes to the highest ranked conference champion. If no conference champion is ranked in the published top 25, then the committee simply selects which champion it thinks is best, so the members have to be keeping up with these teams. Why can’t we be told who is leading the way?

By Guest Contributor: Rhett Lemmel