Another week gone, and another loss for a top four team. This week is different though, as it is the first week that the rankings from the College Football Playoff Committee are released. The initial rankings should show their philosophy on strength-of-schedule, head-to-head wins, and much more. So, with that in mind, there will be a section at the end of the column with my reactions to their rankings.
Note: This column will release on Wednesdays from here on out so I can share my reactions to the committee’s rankings, which are published on Tuesday evenings.
#1 Mississippi State Bulldogs
The #1 ranked Bulldogs rolled into Lexington this past Saturday and endured a tough test against the underrated Kentucky Wildcats. Dak Prescott showed why he is currently the frontrunner for the Heisman trophy. And the Bulldogs’ running attack was set loose versus the Wildcats. Running back Josh Robinson racked up 198 yards on 23 carries and added two touchdowns. Prescott added another two touchdowns and 88 yards. With the toughest schedule in the country so far, Mississippi State has earned their #1 ranking.
#2 Florida State Seminoles
Not much to say here, except the Seminoles are riding their preseason #1 ranking and weak schedule into the inaugural playoff. When the time comes, I really don’t expect them to compete with the battle-hardened teams of the SEC West. The toughest opponent they have left on their schedule are the #25 Louisville Cardinals, who they meet this week in Louisville. If they win this week, the Seminoles should easily run the table.
#3 Auburn Tigers
Auburn’s only loss is to #1 Mississippi State, and they have quality wins versus other top opponents. Their biggest and most significant game so far may very well be their 20-14 victory of Kansas State, who are ranked #7 in the initial CFB Playoff Committee’s rankings. The more games the Wildcats win, the better that win looks for Auburn. Even so, Auburn cannot focus on anything other than the remaining games on their schedule. The Tigers have to travel to Oxford this week to take on #4 Ole Miss in what is sure to be an excellent display of SEC football.
#4 Ole Miss Rebels
Even after the slim defeat on Saturday night in Death Valley against the #24 LSU Tigers, the Rebels are still in the playoff race. A 3-point defeat on the road in one of the most hostile atmospheres in college football is not a mistake that should damn the Rebels’ season. Ole Miss had a chance to win until the final minute, when quarterback Bo Wallace threw a terrible pass that ended up as an interception on the goal line. The Rebels go against the grain in college football and rely on their defense to win games, but that is not necessarily a bad thing when your defense is the best in the country across multiple categories, including points allowed. If the Rebels can get past #3 Auburn on Saturday, then the annual Egg Bowl looms large on the horizon. The Egg Bowl could truly be the biggest regular season game in college football in years, but both Mississippi State and Ole Miss have a lot of work to do before they get to that point.
REACTION TO CFB PLAYOFF COMMITTEE RANKINGS
I think the committee showed several things regarding their philosophies and thought process that goes into the rankings. Firstly, the head-to-head wins matter. A lot. In the Associated Press rankings, Alabama is ranked at #3, ahead of Auburn, Ole Miss, and Oregon, where as in the CFB Playoff rankings, they are the #6 team. The committee obviously accounts for Ole Miss’s win versus Alabama and the Rebels were rewarded for it. Gone are the hair-pulling days of the BCS system.
Obviously, Mississippi State, Auburn, and Ole Miss cannot all win out, so I think it is the case that if #5 Oregon wins out then they are in the playoff. The Alabama Crimson Tide will also have a strong case if they finish the season with only one loss. The biggest dominoes of this college football season have not yet began to fall.
The final note on the CFB Playoff Committee’s philosophy is that one of the most important factors that they look at is a team’s strength-of-schedule. This pretty much disqualifies any undefeated teams that are not in a Big5 conference, specifically Marshall. Marshall, sitting at 8-0, should have no issue finishing the season without a loss and the committee did not even rank them in the initial top 25. This factor may also end up disqualifying one-loss teams from any conference other than the SEC or Pac12. If Florida State ends up losing at some point, the committee may not even see them as among the best one-loss teams. A one-loss SEC West team, Oregon, TCU, Michigan State, or Kansas State could all be chosen for the playoff ahead of the Seminoles.