The College Football Playoff Top 25: Week 2
1. Mississippi State
2. Florida State
7. Kansas State
8. Michigan State
9. Arizona State
10. Notre Dame
11. Ole Miss
14. Ohio State
23. West Virginia
24. Georgia Tech
Ten Key College Football Playoff Questions Answered
10. Where do the Group of 5 teams stand in the overall picture, and what if there isn’t one ranked in the top 25?
No, the playoff doesn’t have to put a team from the American Athletic, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West or Sun Belt in any one particular bowl slot, but the highest-ranked champion from one of those five conferences is automatically in one of the big New Years’ Day bowls – formerly known as the BCS.
However, here’s the strange curveball scenario. Colorado State could go 11-1 and be the highest-ranked Group of Five team in the CFP rankings, but not get a big bowl bid if Boise State or some team from the West division ends up taking the Mountain West title. Meanwhile, it’s possible that the Mountain West champ, Marshall and East Carolina aren’t even ranked at the end, so in that case, the committee will decide on one of the GOF conference champs to get one of the automatic big bowl spots.
9. What’s the most important bowl outside of the two playoff games?
This year it’s the Orange, and here’s why. The Rose and Sugar are playoff games, and then, the highest-ranked ACC team on the board – or the second-highest if the ACC champ is in the playoff – faces the highest-ranked team that didn’t win its conference title. It’s a forced bowl matchup that hamstrings the overall possibilities of possibly seeing a fun matchup.
For example, when we analyzed the 2008 season in the CFP media mock selection simulation, we all wanted to matchup one-loss Big Ten champion Penn State vs. a killer Alabama team that just lost to Tim Tebow in the SEC championship, but instead we had to make it a mediocre Virginia Tech vs. Alabama Orange Bowl.
That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on the rankings for the second-highest ranked ACC team, assuming Florida State makes it into the playoff. Even if there’s only one ACC team in the top 25, a second ACC will get into the Orange Bowl.
8. How does Notre Dame factor into the bowl tie-ins?
Notre Dame is treated just like any other team in terms of the playoff itself, but it gets hurt by not having a 13th game in a conference championship and, yes, in terms of perception, the benefit of the doubt will probably go to the teams that have a league title. However, the Irish are lumped into the ACC’s world of bowl slotting – to a point. They’re eligible for any ACC bowl tie-in as long as they’re within one game of a team eligible for the given spot, except for the Orange Bowl. Notre Dame can and will play in the Orange if it’s the highest-ranked team left out of the top four, but not as an ACC team.
7. Are there direct conference tie-ins to the big bowls?
Sort of, but this year, not really. The ACC is tied into the Orange no matter what, but that’s it for this year. The Big 12 and SEC are tied into the Sugar, and the Big Ten and Pac-12, as usual, are tied into the Rose, but this year those two bowls are the playoff games, so the conference tie-ins are off, and that includes the teams in the playoff. If Alabama is the No. 1 team, yeah, it’ll go to the Sugar instead of the Rose, but the committee won’t just put the Crimson Tide in New Orleans if its ranked No. 3 and Michigan State is second.
Next year, the highest-ranked teams from the four respective conferences left available after the playoffs are set will go to those bowls. However, the Big Ten is eligible for the Orange Bowl three times between 2014 and 2026 when it’s not in the playoff, and the SEC can tie into the Orange from time-to-time, too. But for now, all that matters for the conferences is the Orange for the ACC.
6. Are there any restrictions on the number of conference teams can get into the playoff or New Year’s Day games?
Nope. The two-team conference limit from the BCS era is gone. If the committee wants to put four Sun Belt teams into the two playoff games, or the entire SEC West in the New Year’s Day slots, it can. The only limitations are the ACC vs. highest-ranked team that didn’t win its conference title, and the top Group of Five champ has to find a home. That’s it. The rest is up to the committee.
5. Are the College Football Playoff rankings used as any sort of a divisional tie-breaker?
I just asked about this, and the answer is no – but I have a feeling this will change in a few years. In 2008, Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma all went 11-1 with all of them beating each other. With all other variables even, the tie-breaker to see who would represent the South in the Big 12 championship came down to the BCS rankings, and OU was ranked highest. This year, there are obviously no BCS rankings, and the CFP rankings aren’t going to be a part of the discussion if two or more teams tie for a division title.
However, let’s say TCU loses to Kansas State and Kansas State loses to West Virginia and Baylor for a four-way tie among two-loss Big 12 teams for the title – the committee will still have to end up ranking Oklahoma, Baylor, TCU and Kansas State in some form. It won’t be a tie-breaking system, but the team that finishes on top will probably have t-shirts printed up declaring itself the real Big 12 champ.
4. Margin of victory is still ignored like it was in the BCS rankings, right?
Yes, but not really – if that makes any sense. Let’s just say TCU hanging 82 on the board against Texas Tech isn’t going to hurt the cause. There’s no Margin of Victory component, or anything like that, and the committee will blow off some random 55 point win over a FCS lightweight, but when a CFP member is comparing contrasting teams and sees that one team is 19th in the nation in total offense and another is 67th, even if the first team rolled up 700 yards against Little Sisters of the Poor State, it still looks good in the overall numbers. I do know of at least one member during the media mock exercise who went out of his way to make a point that points matter – the scoreboard matters – so I have to believe at least one member in the real committee will care, too.
3. Why is there a top 25? Isn’t it just about the top four teams?
Before I make this too complicated, if you’re in the top ten, you’re all but guaranteed one of the big New Year’s Day bowl spots. The top four teams are in the playoff no matter what, but the next eight teams are important. 11 and 12 are in, too, if a Group of Five champion and if an ACC team slips in – that’s if, say, Florida State is in the top four. So in terms of the rankings themselves, while they’re not tiered this way being in the top ten gives you immunity. If the ACC champion is in the top four, and the ACC team with the next highest ranking is ranked, say, 20th, the No. 12 team is going to get bumped out if it’s not the highest-ranked Group of Five team. The same goes for the No. 11 team getting knocked out if the second-highest ranked ACC team and the GOF champ are outside of the top 12.
2. Do the committee members actually know everything about the entire landscape of college football this year?
I have no idea what the viewing and research habits are of all 12 committee members – or any of the 12 committee members – but one of the key things I learned about the process is that you can probably come up with a dead-on ranking of top 25 teams without watching a down of college football.
Of course that’s just a wee bit of hyperbole, and yes, it’s important to know how a team won or lost a big game, but if the committee is doing its job, all that matters is that Team A beat Team J, who beat Team B. It’s strength-of-schedule, statistics, and numbers as much as, if not more than, any eye test.
1. Really, how much will conference championships matter in the criteria?
I think it’s everything, but we’ll see very soon. I really do believe that in this first year, if you don’t finish with one loss or better with a conference title, all bets are off, and if you’re a one-loss Power 5 champ, chances are you’re in. While strength of schedule is important, this year, there’s probably no way the committee would allow a one-loss SEC West non-champion to get in over a seemingly inferior Power 5 conference champion. I’ll be floored if there are any one-loss Power 5 conference champs who don’t get in, but for pure theater, it would be amazing if, for example, a second SEC team got in over Ohio State, if the Buckeyes win the Big Ten championship. It would be even wilder if Auburn went 11-1, spent the entire process in the top four of the rankings despite not winning the SEC title, and then got shoved out at the end for a Big 12 or Big Ten champion.