The first College Football Playoff rankings have been released and if the season ended today, Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn, and Ole Miss would be competing for the national championship and Oregon (no. 5) and Alabama (no. 6) would be the two teams that just missed out.
The first ranking does give us some insight into what the committee deems important such as the weight of big wins versus so-called “big losses” (losses to good teams).
For example, Alabama has one loss and is no. 3 in the AP poll while fellow 1-loss team Ole Miss is no. 7. However, in the Playoff ranking, Ole Miss is in the top four (no. 4) and Alabama is not (no. 6). This suggests that Ole Miss’ head-to-head win over Alabama was more important than Ole Miss’ loss to 4th-ranked (AP) Auburn.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame (no. 6 in the AP) is way down at no. 10 in the Playoff ranking despite their only loss being a nail-biter to second-ranked Florida State. This implies that the Playoff committee placed more emphasis on Notre Dame’s lack of big wins and less emphasis on their big loss.
But what we learned still pales in comparison to what we don’t know.
We still have no idea how the Playoff committee is going to handle conference champions.
If the season ended today, three teams from the SEC would be in the playoff. Would the committee take a team from the SEC that didn’t even play in their conference championship game over potential Pac-12 champion Oregon (no. 5 in Playoff ranking) or a potential Big 12 champion Kansas State (no. 9) or a potential Big Ten champion Michigan State (no. 8)?
And how will the committee weigh the Big 12 champion, whether it is Kansas State or TCU (no. 7) considering they won’t have to play in a conference championship game?
A lot of people are wondering why the playoff committee is releasing a ranking this early in the season, noting that the college basketball selection committee doesn’t need to rank teams mid-season. But while we did learn some things, we still don’t know how they will handle conference champions.
In other words, we still don’t know anything.
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