Takeaways from the next-to-last College Football Playoff rankings
I’m not sitting here counting down the days until the season ends. Only a fool would do that.
What I’m grateful to be done with, however, is Tuesday rankings shows. At least for 2021. By this time next week, we’ll know the Playoff field, which will be announced this Sunday.
As for the final Tuesday rankings, I always want those 15 minutes of my life back after the drawn-out process finally ends with Rece Davis revealing the rankings. To be clear, that’s not necessarily a knock on the on-air talent. They have a job to do. They can’t simply rattle off the rankings in the first minute and then hope we stick around.
But yeah, I’m glad to get those 15 minutes of my life back.
Here’s 5 minutes worth of takeaways that hopefully won’t make you say the exact same thing:
1. Another week, another change at No. 2
That reminds me … the rankings!
🚨 The newest top 25 🚨
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) December 1, 2021
So then let’s think about this. Michigan was moved up to No. 2. Once again, the 1-loss Big Ten team was ranked ahead of 1-loss Alabama. Last week was Ohio State, who moved past Alabama after destroying Michigan State. Alabama, for the third consecutive SEC game, played down to the wire against a lesser foe as a 3-score favorite. The stat I continue to bring up is that the Tide played in 6 of 8 SEC games that were within 1 score in the 4th quarter.
What am I getting at? Again, the selection committee is telling us that the Tide need that Georgia win to make the field. The overall résumé is good, not great. Eight wins against Power 5 bowl teams and 2 wins against the current Playoff Top 25 is solid. Not so solid? An average Power 5 margin of victory of 14.9 points.
Compare that even to a team like Baylor, who has 2 losses but a Power 5 margin of victory of 9.6 points. Baylor also beat 2 current top-15 teams by double digits and if it were to beat Oklahoma State, it would have 3. That’s a better 2-loss résumé than Alabama, who does have the Ole Miss win, but then what’s the second-best win? A 7-point home win against No. 22 Arkansas.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma State, who moved up to No. 5, would be in position to potentially switch spots with Alabama if it were to lose in the SEC Championship. On the contrary, Alabama should also be a Georgia win away from earning the No. 1 seed.
It’s all or nothing time for Alabama.
2. Let’s not kid ourselves. Six teams have a chance … unless Kirk Herbstreit’s chaos unfolds
What scenario, you ask? This one:
Just thinking of the craziest of scenarios. Not predicting (relax) simply asking WHAT IF:
Who would be the 4???
Baylor maybe as Big 12 champs?
What if Oregon won big over Utah could they get up there?
Bama, UM, or OSU?
— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) November 29, 2021
If that crazy scenario somehow happened, my guess at the field would be:
- Notre Dame
I know, it’s ironic that I just made the case for why I don’t think Alabama gets in without a Georgia win. But we’re talking about total chaos here. What Herbstreit described has such a small chance of hitting, but in the year 2021, anything is possible.
By the way, I think it would be bogus if the Irish made the field with the same amount of losses as Cincinnati considering the Bearcats dominated that game in South Bend, but I’m being realistic. Is a 1-loss Group of 5 team about to make the field? Doubtful. Also, we NEED an interim coach in the Playoff for the first time. But apparently that might be able to happen:
Barta time. On ND: “(Kelly’s absence) is part of the criteria” for evaluating the Irish. Long story short: at No. 6 and without their coach, ND is up against it.
— Pat Forde (@ByPatForde) December 1, 2021
Most likely is that 6 teams have a realistic chance. Notre Dame is the cutoff. I disagree with the Allstate Playoff Predictor that the Irish have a 58% chance of making the field. If that were the case, I’m guessing Brian Kelly wouldn’t have snuck out of South Bend on the first plane to Baton Rouge.
But what I’m expecting is chalk. Chalk would be Georgia beating Alabama, Michigan beating Iowa, Cincinnati beating Houston and Oklahoma State beating Baylor. If that happens, the field is:
- Oklahoma State
As Davis brought up on the broadcast, that would be the dream scenario for the “new blood” Playoff hope with just 1 combined appearance between those 4 teams (2017 Georgia).
3. There’s a ton a value in that No. 1 seed
If you’re a 1-seed, there’s a decent chance you’re facing the team with the least amount of overall roster talent that we’ve seen in the Playoff era. I’m strictly referring to the 247sports talent composite. That’s based entirely on what a player is rated as a recruit. This is where the remaining 6 contenders are in that department.
- Alabama — No. 1
- Georgia — No. 2
- Notre Dame — No. 12
- Michigan — No. 15
- Oklahoma State — No. 47
- Cincinnati — No. 54
Now to be clear, I’m not saying Cincinnati lacks NFL talent. Sauce Gardner, Myjai Sanders and Desmond Ridder are all likely to be early-round picks.
But in the Playoff, stars do matter. Since 247sports started tracking roster talent back in 2015, only 1 team who ranked outside of the top 10 in those rankings won a Playoff game. It was 2015 Clemson, who ranked No. 13 in 247sports talent composite, but had a certain Deshaun Watson to even out that talent disparity.
This year, it feels like the winner of the SEC Championship will have the 1-seed and with it, a significant semifinal advantage against someone like Cincinnati, Notre Dame or Oklahoma State (I don’t think Michigan earns the No. 4 spot in any scenario). That’s the byproduct of teams like Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma not even reaching a conference championship.
Georgia had more 5-stars on its opening day roster (19) than the rest of the top 6 combined (18). By the way, that includes Alabama (14) and Michigan (3).
4. Conference supremacy numbers!
Ah, you’ve reached the best part of the program. Here’s the conference-by-conference breakdown of the Playoff Top 25:
- SEC — 6
- Big Ten — 4
- ACC — 4
- Big 12 — 3
- Pac-12 — 2
- AAC — 2
- Ind. — 2
- Mountain West — 1
- Sun Belt — 1
I said last week that I thought the SEC and Big Ten were the only conferences guaranteed Playoff berths, though I did outline in that Herbstreit scenario that there’s still a possibility of a Michigan loss dooming the conference. Even though Jim Harbaugh’s team got over the Ohio State hurdle, it’s not impossible that it stumbles its conference’s last Playoff chance.
So I guess that means the SEC is the only conference who really has a bid locked up with Georgia already in (unofficially). An Alabama win wouldn’t change that. It would, however, put Cincinnati in jeopardy if Oklahoma State also won the Big 12.
That’s my long-winded way of saying we’re due for a little craziness this weekend.