College Football Playoff: Preseason rankings, 'eye test' unfairly hindering Minnesota
The moment we all expected came into fruition on Tuesday night. There’s no need to beat around the bush or bury the lede, the College Football Playoff selection committee, right now, is valuing Alabama’s “good loss” to No. 1 LSU over Minnesota’s great win over No. 9 Penn State.
Right now, the Gophers are rowing as hard as they can, but it’s still not enough to overcome the perception the committee has of the Crimson Tide. It’s the “eye test vs. resumé” debate, and Alabama is reaping the rewards.
Starting at the No. 17 spot a week ago, Minnesota climbed nine spots up to No. 8 in the College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday, the biggest lunge into the top 10 in the system’s era. A 31-26 victory over then-No. 4 Penn State was enough to show the committee that the Gophers are for real.
It wasn’t enough to pass the likes of the one-loss giants like Alabama, Oregon and Utah.
As much as we want to rag on Alabama for sitting in that fifth spot on Tuesday night after a 46-41 loss to No. 1 LSU over the weekend, it isn’t the only team that should be a notch below the Gophers right now. Oregon and Utah — currently at No. 6 an No. 7 — also don’t deserve to be ahead of P.J. Fleck’s group.
Alabama, Oregon and Utah have three things in common:
- All were ranked in the Top 15 in the preseason rankings
- All have exactly zero wins over teams currently ranked
- All are currently 8-1
Minnesota is 9-0, with a win over a top 10 team. This might be shocking to you, but the Gophers didn’t start the season ranked in the Associated Press Poll. They’ve been behind the 8-ball from the start.
Last week, the committee crushed Minnesota for its close non-conference victories over the likes of South Dakota State, Fresno State and Georgia Southern, all one-possession victories. It was unimpressed with Minnesota’s B1G schedule, playing just one team with a winning record in the first five games of league play.
The committee asked Minnesota to beat Penn State before it would give the Gophers the same respect it showed to the likes of Alabama, Oregon and Utah. And when Minnesota did what that committee asked of it, the result still wasn’t enough to pass those three teams that are still receiving benefit of the doubt.
Eye test is the ultimate trump card right now, and it’s quite clear that those four one-score victories to start the season — when you include the 38-31 win over Purdue on the road — are still hurting the Golden Gophers.
It doesn’t matter that Minnesota:
- Outscored Illinois, Maryland, Rutgers and Nebraska 168-41
- Defeated No. 4 Penn State, leading by two possessions most of the game
- Still maintains a perfect 9-0 record
Hand Minnesota’s resumé over to Alabama, and it’s the No. 1 team in the country. If Oregon or Utah were to boast these kind of credentials, they’re easily ranked in one of the top four spots. That’s not how this process should work.
And, while we’re at it, why is Penn State sitting in that No. 9 spot behind those three teams, too? The Nittany Lions have two top 25 wins (Michigan, Iowa) and its only loss was to now No. 8 Minnesota. That resumé is also better than anything Alabama, Oregon and Utah can boast about this season.
Ultimately, none of this really matters right now. There are still three Saturdays left in the college football season, along with a weekend of conference championship games. A lot of games are going to be won and lost over the next four weeks. If Minnesota wins out and claims a B1G title, it will most certainly be playing for a national championship.
In the end, the second edition of the College Football Playoff rankings will be fairly meaningless. But does that mean the Gophers shouldn’t be receiving the attention they deserve for what they’ve accomplished through the second weekend in November? cracking the top 10 shows that the committee does have some respect for Minnesota. It’s just not enough.
Especially when that same committee would’ve had no problem awarding Alabama, Oregon or Utah one of those top four spots with Minnesota’s resumé.