Takin’ on Sports: Let’s discuss the College Football Playoff rankings

Let’s just get this out of the way: the whole concept of the College Football Playoff Committee releasing rankings before the season ends is preposterous. The NCAA Basketball Tournament committee doesn’t release weekly rankings, because they know too much can change before the tournament itself, even based off the result of just one game. The CFPC releases their initial rankings around a month before the playoff is finalized, when teams have 4-5 games left to play — that’s a third of the season. To wit, let’s play some trivia: can you name the top four teams in the first ever CFP rankings, from the 2014 season?

Answer: 1. Mississippi State, 2. Florida State, 3. Auburn, 4. Ole Miss. Only one of those teams, Florida St., made the playoffs that season. The final rankings were, in order: Alabama, Oregon, Florida St., and Ohio St. Miss. St. finished 7th, Ole Miss finished 9th, and Auburn finished 19th. Baylor and TCU finished as “co-champions” of the Big 12 (even though Baylor won the matchup between the two in the regular season), and TCU was ranked 3rd in the prior week’s rankings, prompting quite the uproar when they were jumped by the (eventual national champion) Buckeyes. If the committee would’ve just released one set of rankings when they announced the playoffs, they could’ve avoided controversy.

Alas, TV ratings are what drive the business, so ESPN needs to throw every pundit they have on camera to get the eyeballs — as if a weekly show where those same pundits merely discuss possible rankings wouldn’t garner the same attention.

All that said, let’s talk about the first CFP rankings of the 2019 season.

Ohio St. is our initial number 1, followed by LSU, Alabama, Penn St., Clemson, Georgia, Oregon, Utah, Oklahoma, and Florida to round out the top 10. Other teams of note include unbeatens Baylor, at 12, and Minnesota, ranked 17th. The highest rated G5 team is Cincinnati at 20.

What does it all mean? In short, not much. We already know that two of the three SEC teams in the top 6 (LSU, Bama, Georgia) will lose at least once before the season ends — LSU visits Tuscaloosa this Saturday, and the winner of that likely faces UGA in Atlanta for the SEC Championship — that in itself is no guarantee as the Dawgs visit #11 Auburn on November 16th. Not to mention the Iron Bowl, also played on the plains this season, on November 30th. Florida, sitting at #10, still has a shot to make a run as their remaining games are Vanderbilt, at Missouri, and Florida St.

In the Big 10, #4 Penn St. plays at #17 Minnesota this weekend, and then the Gophers visit #18 Iowa a week later. On November 23rd the Nittany Lions travel to Columbus to take on Ohio St. — who plays #14 Michigan the following weekend, while Minnesota hosts #13 Wisconsin. That’s all without even mentioning the Big 10 Championship Game.

Clemson fans might abso-fucking-lutely will throw a fit upon seeing the initial rankings, and we all know that sanctimonious son of a bitch Dabo Sweeney will damn sure play the “nobody believed in us” card when the Tigers trounce some 4/5-loss team in the ACC Championship game. There is an outside shot Clemson doesn’t make it to Charlotte, but that involves them losing at home to #19 Wake Forest on November 16th, and the Demon Deacons winning out in their other three games (@ Va Tech, Duke, @ Syracuse). So let’s just go ahead and pencil the Tigers in for a playoff spot.

Oregon and Utah should both win out in the regular season en route to a showdown in the PAC 12 Championship Game, but should is one of those funny words, especially out west. If they do stay the course, that game (in the football hotbed of Santa Clara, California) could very well decide the PAC 12’s first CFP participant since Washington in 2016, assuming the committee thinks a 1-loss PAC 12 champ is worthy of inclusion.

The Big 12 has the most work to do according to the initial rankings, with Oklahoma being their highest ranked team at 9th. The Sooners will play at #12 Baylor on November 16th, and at #23 Oklahoma St. on November 30th, so they have chances to make up for the loss to #16 Kansas St. The Bears have the aforementioned showdown with Oklahoma, in addition to games at TCU, home against Texas and at Kansas to end the regular season. Then there’s the matter of the Big 12 Championship Game, which makes total sense for a conference that plays a round robin schedule (insert exaggerated wanking motion here).

So who makes the CFP, asshole?

Were you not paying attention? Who the hell can tell with all of that mess still left to sift through? Like I said earlier, Clemson is probably in. The SEC champ will also more than likely take a spot, as will the Big 10 champ, providing it’s not a two-loss team from the west. So, let’s say as of now it’s Clemson, SEC champ, Big 10 champ.

That leaves the 4th seed, and who the hell knows what the committee will value this year. Will it be a one-loss SEC team? A one-loss PAC 12 champ? Can an unbeaten Baylor team jump eight spots in a month’s time? I don’t know, and that’s the entire point I’m trying to make here: there’s so much football left that it’s so fucking pointless to rank the teams this far out from season’s end. So why not just sit back and enjoy the ride?

(Oh, and to answer the question as to whether Minnesota would deserve a spot if they win out? Hell yes, they would. That would involve wins over Penn St., Iowa, Wisconsin and a Big 10 title win over Ohio St./Penn St. And if that doesn’t impress the committee, then we will have 100% confirmed that these rankings are fucking futile.)

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