1. What did we learn from Tuesday’s College Football Playoff rankings?
The biggest losers are us, the fans. There was just as much secrecy and seemingly random choices in selecting the top four teams as there was in selecting the BCS teams. It’s hard to tell if there’s some type of algorithm that dominated the selections or if actual football played a factor.
Strength of schedule algorithms made this a joke. A kid with a C-minus in trigonometry that has never watched a game of football could come up with the same type rankings. Let the kids play, watch it, then make a list. That’s why for so many years the Associated Press has been the dominant poll. Outside of the three dudes who vote for North Dakota State every week, the people voting actually know the game.
Outside of the clear respect given to the SEC West, it appears the selection committee isn’t very high on Notre Dame. The eye test, to me, would show that the Irish are, at worst, a top-8 team after nearly pulling off a huge win in Tallahassee against Florida State, but the committee clearly isn’t as impressed with the golden domers. ND’s schedule — which appeared to be a gauntlet heading into the season — certainly has taken a hit with Stanford and USC falling from grace. But I’m still interested to see how the committee evaluates the Irish if they can beat Arizona State in Tempe (if the Sun Devils can beat Utah this weekend) and the dust settles after the SEC West teams beat up on one another.
The takeaway is that people are too emotionally involved with a meaningless-in-the-big-picture poll posted on Oct. 28. There is too much football still to be played before any teams are truly considered a front-runners for the CFP. Addressing the perceived “SEC bias,” top-ranked Mississippi State still has No. 6 Alabama and No. 4 Ole Miss on its schedule. The Rebels still have No. 3 Auburn (on Saturday) and top-ranked MSU on the schedule. Auburn still has Ole Miss, Georgia and Bama. … And then there’s the SEC title game on Dec. 6. C’mon, folks — enough with the hand-wringing; let the games play out. In the meantime, continue to feed the beast and buy into the hype.
Stephen Sellner: So are you saying there’s nothing to be taken out of the initial rankings? Clearly three SEC West teams aren’t going to be in the playoff, but some conclusions can be made, no?
Duane Cross: Other than setting the bar for other teams, no — the initial rankings do not much more than set a pecking order (and give talking heads something to argue about when Joe Fan from Weogufka, Alabama, is on Line 4).
Stephen Sellner: Sure, the rankings we have now are not going to be the ones we have come December. But let’s play along and try and get inside the selection committee members’ heads here. For one, it looks like the committee favors the Big 12 over the Pac-12, even if Oregon is above TCU.
Duane Cross: Overall, I like the top 10 teams — but not in that order. Sixth-ranked Alabama lost on the road to the No. 4 team but is behind fifth-ranked Oregon, which lost — at home! — to No. 12 Arizona. I’m struggling with the logic behind that.
Stephen Sellner: I also scratched my head at Auburn getting the nod over Alabama. Sure, Auburn’s only loss to No. 1 as opposed to Alabama losing to No. 4, but don’t tell me you look at those two teams and favor the Tigers at this point.
Gerard Gilberto: There are still too many if/thens left this season for these to really matter right this second. The only weight they hold comes at the end of the year when the computer spitting out four teams concludes that since No. 6 beat No. 7 and No. 10 but only lost to No. 3 then blah, blah, blah, and the thing missing from the equation is actual football. They’ve turned this into a numbers game and taken out the human element that a selection committee is supposed to bring.
Stephen Sellner: The whole point about having a committee over a computer should be the eye test.
Duane Cross: I’m not sold on Alabama being all that and a box of Cracker Jack. Tennessee was down 27-0 before someone reminded the Vols the game wasn’t a made-for-TV scrimmage. UT outscored Bama 20-7 to end the game. … Yeah, I can see Auburn getting the head-to-head nod; Auburn’s offense seasoned and the Tigers’ defense can play. I’ve got no problem with Auburn being ahead of Alabama right now; the Iron Bowl will separate those two.
2. Auburn plays Ole Miss on Saturday. Who wins and why?
Stephen Sellner: I’ll go with Ole Miss. I’ve flip-flopped so many times on Auburn and Ole Miss this season — one week I’m all in on the Tigers and then they put together dud performances at Mississippi State and at home against South Carolina. I was low on Ole Miss but now I’m starting to come around, even with the loss at LSU. I think the big thing is the Rebels are at home. Bo Wallace can have problems controlling his emotions, and that showed at LSU, but being at home will help him keep a cool head. He’ll make enough plays to allow that defense to shine.
Duane Cross: I’d love to take Ole Miss but … Bad Bo Wallace is a real thing, and I’m certain Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson has done his homework. It wouldn’t surprise me if Auburn won the turnover battle by plus-3 or better.
Gerard Gilberto: This is why watching football is better than studying the box score and the rankings the following Tuesday. As “close and amazing” as that Ole Miss-LSU game was, it was only so close and competitive because both teams played ugly, sloppy football. There was plenty LSU probably wasn’t too proud of in the film room on Monday and yet the Tigers got the victory and leaped back into the race. Auburn plays a cleaner game with a consistent offense and the Rebels won’t be able to handle it. Two losses — bye, bye, Bo.
Duane Cross: The loss of LB Denzel Nkemdiche will hurt Ole Miss, so the defense won’t shine as brightly — and Auburn’s offense is no slouch to begin with, Stephen. On the Plains or in the shadow of the Grove, doesn’t matter: Auburn begins shuffling the CFP top five on Saturday.
Stephen Sellner: Auburn’s offense is no slouch, that much is true. If this game is a shootout, the Tigers will have no problem.
Duane Cross: I really wanted to be able to squash the Good Bo / Bad Bo chatter — but wow, that pick at LSU was mind-numbing. Why he didn’t throw it to the chick in the front row with the Pastime po’boy in her hand is beyond me. Ole Miss still could have kicked a field goal and played OT. I mean, he channeled his inner Marshall Henderson …
Gerard Gilberto: Yeah, a low scoring game and maybe Ole Miss can take this one, but that’s just not Auburn’s style.
3. What are you keeping your eye on in this weekend’s slate of games?
Duane Cross: Utah-Arizona State — the Utes, with a lot of help from USC, kicked me in the shin last week. I thought the Trojans would take care of business. The Utes’ road to the Pac-12 South title remains tough — ASU, Oregon, Stanford, Zona and Colorado makes for a long month of November.
Gerard Gilberto: I think it’ll be funny to see the wheels fall off both wagons (literal wagons) in Lubbock, Texas. Charlie Strong inherited a bad situation so that is permissible but I wonder if Handsome Jack is going to give back half his money for only coaching half the game. I get that Tech’s style is the classic Texas shootout but giving up 82 points to TCU? … And speaking of the Texas way, I hope the good ol’ boys can be patient with Charlie Strong.
Stephen Sellner: West Virginia pulled off the upset at home against high-powered Baylor. Will it do the same with TCU and its offense coming to Morgantown? That would certainly shake up things in the Big 12 and the CFP.
Gerard Gilberto: West Virginia knocking off TCU would make it interesting in a conference that clearly garnered a lot of respect from the CFP selection committee. I don’t think WVU has a shot at the playoff with the two losses, but I can see how Clint Trickett and Kevin White can play spoilers all the way to a decent bowl game.
Duane Cross: I’m also going to continue crunching numbers for a CFP-GSR tie-in. Who knew that among the current CFP top 10 that Notre Dame has the highest Graduation Success Rate — 95.1?! (And if you’re wondering, Michigan State has the lowest among the top 10 teams, 55.6.) I’m also curious — if Auburn beats Ole Miss — to see if Danny Kanell puts an SEC West team in his top four. … Considering he was 3-1-1 against the SEC (all against Florida, so granted he doesn’t have a lot to go on in regards to the conference’s depth), Kanell may very well continue to troll SEC fans.