The first College Football Playoff rankings were revealed last night, and the Oklahoma Sooners debuted at No. 5, three spots higher than their standing in the AP Poll. Oklahoma was not the only team whose CFB Playoff ranking differed significantly from other polls. Perhaps the biggest headline of the night was that Georgia, not Alabama, garnered the No. 1 ranking. If you look down the list at the rankings as a whole, there is actually a fairly simple explanation for both Oklahoma and Georgia’s standing. Here are my top five takeaways from last night’s rankings reveal.
Strength of schedule matters... a lot
The committee sent a resounding message by ranking Wisconsin and Miami No. 9 and No. 10 respectably. On the surface, it seems odd that a pair of undefeated P5 teams are ranked behind six one-loss teams. The simple explanation for this is that both teams have played glorified high school schedules so far this season. Of Wisconsin’s eight wins this season, only two (Florida Atlantic and Northwestern) came against teams with winning records. The same is true of Miami, who has barely escaped in each of its last four games.
Strength of schedule and quality wins were the main factors that landed Georgia at the top of the rankings over Alabama. Oklahoma, Clemson and Ohio State were also rewarded for their willingness to schedule quality non-conference opponents.
Head-to-head trumps style points
While the AP voters have been dazzled by Ohio State’s ability to steamroll the likes of Rutgers and Maryland, the committee appears more focused on their 31-16 home loss to Oklahoma. You think it’d be common sense that head-to-head should be the tiebreaker when teams have similar resumes, but that has not always been the case in the past. The most notable example was 2014 when TCU was ranked ahead of Baylor for almost the entire season despite the teams having identical records and Baylor boasting a head-to-head victory over the Horned Frogs. It appears that logic and reason have won the day with this year’s committee, at least for now.
The AP and Coaches Polls are irrelevent
Alabama received 59 of the possible 61 first place votes in the week’s AP Poll. All 65 coaches who vote in the Amway Coaches Poll, including Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, had the Crimson Tide at the top of their ballots this week. Despite being No. 1 in over 98% of media and coaches ballots, Nick Saban’s squad is No. 2 in the first edition of the rankings. The easy explanation for putting Georgia over Alabama goes back to strength of schedule. Georgia beat Notre Dame on the road which the committee views as the most impressive win of any team thus far. The committee also values Oklahoma’s win at Ohio State much more than AP voters do. The Buckeyes are third in the AP Poll and sixth in the CFB Playoff Rankings. OU is No. 8 in the AP Poll and No. 5 in the eyes of the committee.
At the end of the day, there are only 13 people whose opinions truly matter, and those 13 people do not seem particularly concerned about what anyone else thinks.
The PAC 12 is dead
The Big 12, SEC, ACC and Big Ten all have at least two teams ranked in the committee’s top 10. The PAC 12 only has one team ranked in the top 20. Washington currently sits at No. 12, and it will be hard pressed to move up much over the next five weeks. The Huskies have just two regular season games left against Top 25 opponents, No. 21 Stanford and No. 25 Washington State. This all but guarantees that the PAC 12 will be left out of this year’s CFB Playoff.
The committee actually has a clear criteria this year
Long gone are the days where “game control” and “the eye test” were metrics the committee used to explain its bizarre rankings. This year’s committee’s criteria can be summed up simply as “schedule good teams and beat them”. It remains to be seen if the committee will remain consistent in its approach to the rankings, but this first edition is a strong first step in the right direction.
- Notre Dame
- Ohio State
- Penn State
- Oklahoma State
- Virginia Tech
- Iowa State
- Mississippi State
- NC State
- Michigan State
- Washington State