Top 25 College Football Playoff Rankings: Takeaways From Fourth Release

The fourth College Football Playoff rankings of the 2016 season have been released. Let’s break down the composition of the selection committee’s work.

The fourth College Football Playoff rankings of the 2016 season were released on Tuesday night. And, for the fourth straight week, defending national champion Alabama was selected as the top team in the country by the 12-person selection committee.

Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide remain the lone unbeaten Power Five team in the nation following a 31-3 victory over FCS member Chattanooga last week. Jalen Hurts passed for three touchdowns and rushed for 68 yards, but the Mocs scored the game’s first three points and hung around until late in the third quarter. Still, the defense has not given up a touchdown in 13 quarters, and even a loss to either Auburn in the Iron Bowl or Florida in the SEC championship game probably would not prevent the Tide from advancing to another College Football Playoff. But it’s hard to imagine that ‘Bama would be pushed to the limit by the Tigers or Gators over the next two weeks.

Meanwhile, we did not see any changes with Nos. 2-4. However, there are some two-loss teams that want to have a say in this CFP race when all is said and done.

So what does this all mean moving forward?

Here are some thoughts on the fourth set of rankings that were released by committee chair Kirby Hocutt and Co. earlier on Tuesday evening.

No intrigue in Nos. 1-6

If the season ended today, we would see Alabama and Clemson battle in the Peach Bowl, while Ohio State would battle Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl. But, of course, there are still plenty of games to play. Running the table would ensure the Crimson Tide and Tigers get in. But the Buckeyes still have to worry about getting into the Big Ten title game with a win over Michigan. Unless Penn State loses to Michigan State, Urban Meyer’s squad would not play for a conference crown. In that case, it may need Penn State to lose in Indianapolis to feel comfortable as a one-loss non-league champ. Michigan, however, would be in by running the table.

But what about Washington? The Huskies have a chance to be a one-loss Pac-12 champ, but Chris Petersen’s squad should be rooting hard for the Wolverines against the Buckeyes on Saturday because comparing one-loss U-Dub with one-loss Ohio State could get dicey.

Then there’s Wisconsin, which has just the two losses to Michigan and Ohio State. Paul Chryst’s team could avenge its loss to the Wolverines in the Big Ten title game, which would put it in good position after an Ohio State loss to Michigan and no title game appearance by Penn State. However, things get really interesting if No. 7 Penn State wins the conference crown, especially if Ohio State delivers Michigan a loss on Saturday. Then you would have a two-loss PSU team and a one-loss OSU squad that lost to the Nittany Lions but may still be deemed the better team by the committee.

USC’s three-loss problem

The Trojans are ranked behind Louisville despite the Cardinals getting blasted by Houston last Thursday night. Meanwhile, USC is one of the hottest teams in the country with a recent win over Washington. However, the Trojans are getting penalized for having three losses despite having wins over U-Dub and Colorado. I thought the Cardinals had a chance to tumble down into the late ‘teens, but the committee is still placing high value on Bobby Petrino’s squad. For Clay Helton’s team, sitting at No. 12 this late in the process is a tough mountain to climb even if we see a chaotic weekend.

OU, oh no!

While there has been a lot of discussion about USC perhaps not getting enough credit for turning things around, Oklahoma could make an argument that it didn’t get a break because the Sooners only moved up one spot after a win at West Virginia. Wisconsin and Penn State, of course, remained ahead of OU. It would be a boost for the Sooners to beat No. 10 Oklahoma State in Bedlam, but this is where a league title game would help the cause for the Sooners.

Other notes

* LSU dropped out of the rankings this week, which doesn’t exactly help Wisconsin. However, the Tigers’ four losses have come against¬†ranked teams. We know about the fight that Wisconsin may face in getting into the CFP. Even though the Tigers are not ranked, I’d expect the committee to still consider LSU a solid win for Wisconsin. However, as currently constructed, the Badgers’ best win is now No. 16 Nebraska, while Washington’s best wins are now No. 22 Utah and No. 24 Stanford. Keep that in mind, although plenty of football remains, of course.

* Colorado sits at No. 9 this week, and we should just give all of the national coach of the year awards to Mike MacIntyre, because he certainly deserves them all.

* Which team is better? Which squad has the better resume? What metrics are actually being used? The subjectivity in this process is overwhelming.

* Houston being at No. 20 is arguably a low ranking considering that it beat Oklahoma and Louisville.

* #rowtheboat is still essentially in the best position as the highest-rated potential Group of Five champion, but I still maintain that the Broncos are ranked too low at No. 21.

* This is what the New Year’s Six would look like, based on the new rankings, if the season ended tonight…

Peach Bowl: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Clemson
Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Michigan
Orange Bowl: No. 7 Penn State vs. No. 11 Louisville
Cotton Bowl: No. 9 Colorado vs. No. 19 Boise State
Rose Bowl: No. 6 Wisconsin vs. No. 5 Washington
Sugar Bowl: No. 8 Oklahoma vs. No. 13 Auburn

MORE: Complete College Football Bowl Projections – Week 13