All That and a Bag of Mail

It’s Friday, rejoice!

I’m headed down to Atlanta for the Georgia-LSU SEC title game as soon as I finish “Lock It In” on TV.

So I hope to see some of you guys out and about down in Atlanta this weekend.

You have a final chance to win $10k of my money this weekend in Outkick’s free college football pick’em contest. So go place your bets here.

Now let’s get rolling with the Friday mailbag.

Kevin writes:

“So when watching the Playoff rankings reveal on Tuesday night, when they released the #16-20 and #21-25 portions and I saw that Minnesota had dropped all the way to #18 by getting blown out at home I thought to myself “Holy shit, they just dropped Michigan from the rankings!” 
That’s the only thing that would have made sense to me.  Minnesota lost at home by 21 and dropped 10 spots and Michigan lost at home by more.  They release the #11-15 portion and my immediate reaction is “Wow, Alabama got fucked big time for losing by 3 at Auburn” and then I see Michigan’s #14 ranking and I was so confused I didn’t know how to react. How is dropping them by 1 spot even remotely possible when Alabama drops seven spots?
I saw your tweets and the conspiracy theory around intentionally trying to keep Ohio St at #1 seems to be implausible to me but who knows.  I’m curious- what do you think would be the committee’s motivation behind that? What would want to make them keep Ohio St in the top spot so badly over LSU?”
I don’t think the committee has a motive, but I think individual members of the committee can be overvaluing a conference in an effort to ensure a conference’s top team is number one overall. And this year being number one overall matters a great deal because it might well be the difference between having to play Clemson in Arizona or Utah, Oregon or Baylor in Atlanta.
That’s the difference between a toss up game and one you’re favored in by a touchdown or more.
Given that the Big Ten hasn’t even scored a point in the playoff since 2014, I can see a couple of committee members trying to protect the Buckeyes here and give them a (much) easier road to the title.
Let me explain what I see comparing the college football playoff committee rankings with the AP poll and the coaches poll.

First, remember, the college football playoff committee is just a poll too. So it’s not much different than the AP and coaches poll. The biggest difference is that the AP and coaches polls have more voters, so each individual ballot is weighed less heavily in those polls, compared to the college football playoff committee’s.

In other words, it’s much easier for the college football playoff committee poll to be impacted by a couple of people’s decisions than it would be in the AP or coaches poll.

So let’s compare the respective rankings of the top SEC and Big Ten teams in all three polls:

Ohio State is 2 in both the AP and coaches polls, but first in the playoff poll. So Ohio State is a net +1 in the college football playoff rankings.

LSU is number one in the AP and coaches polls, but second in the playoff poll. So LSU is a net -1

Georgia is ranked fourth in both polls so there is no difference there.

Wisconsin is ranked eighth in the CFB playoff poll, but they are tenth in the AP and coaches polls. So Wisconsin is +2 in the college football poll.

Penn State is tenth in the CFB playoff poll, but the Nittany Lions are 12th in the AP poll and 11th in the coaches poll. So Penn State is +1.5.

Finally, Michigan is 14th in the CFB playoff rankings, but the Wolverines are 17 in the AP poll and 18 in the coaches poll, meaning Michigan is +3.5 in the playoff poll.

Now let’s do the rest of the SEC teams.

Florida is ninth in the CFB playoff poll, but the Gators are 7th in both the AP and the coaches poll. So the Gators are -2 in the CFB playoff rankings.

Alabama is 12th in the playoff poll, but the Tide are 9th in the AP poll and 9th in the coaches poll. So the Tide are -3 in the CFB playoff rankings.

Finally, Auburn is 11th in the playoff poll, but the Tigers are 11th in the AP and 12th in the coaches poll, leading to a +.5 ranking.

If you add this all up Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan are ranked eight spots higher, collectively, in the college football playoff committee rankings than they are in either the AP or coaches poll. The SEC’s teams: LSU, Georgia, Alabama, and Auburn are ranked 5.5 spots lower, collectively.

That’s a massive 13.5 spot swing in the Big Ten’s favor and at the SEC’s expense in the college football playoff committee’s rankings compared to the AP and coaches polls.

And here’s an easy example of this swing that, to me, defies explanation: Michigan lost by 29 to Ohio State at home and dropped one spot in the playoff rankings. Alabama lost by three on the road at Auburn and dropped seven spots.

How is it possible from a rational perspective?

Here’s another example: Minnesota, which doesn’t impact Ohio State’s playoff standing, dropped ten spots, from 8 to 18 after losing to Wisconsin, while Wisconsin, who will be playing in the Big Ten title game against Ohio State, rose four spots. So in the space of one week based on one game we saw a 14 point move between Wisconsin and Minnesota. If Minnesota’s not very good, why did Wisconsin surge so much by beating them? And how in the world can the committee justify Minnesota being eight spots behind a team they beat, Penn State, with the exact same record?

Now maybe it’s just coincidental that the Big Ten is massively overvalued and the SEC is massively undervalued in the college football playoff committee poll compared to the AP and coaches polls.

But when someone benefits immensely from the rankings, I tend to think it’s intentional rather than coincidental. Remember, it’s not just that the Big Ten is benefiting, it’s that the Big Ten is benefiting at the SEC’s expense. The result is Ohio State’s four best wins — Wisconsin (twice if they win the conference title game), Penn State, and Michigan look not that much different in the college football playoff committee’s poll than LSU’s top four wins — Georgia (if they win the SEC title game), Florida, Auburn and Alabama.

Instead of LSU beating the number 4, 7, 9, and 11 teams, as they would have done in the AP and coaches polls, LSU has beaten the number 4, 9, 11 and 12 teams.

And, significantly, instead of Ohio State having beaten the number 10, 11, and 17 teams, they’ve beaten the number 8, 10, and 14 teams.

The result? The committee can look at their rankings and say the top wins of LSU and Ohio State are comparable, when that isn’t really the case in the AP or coaches polls.

Ohio State will finish without a single top ten win, potentially, in the AP and coaches polls, while LSU would finish with three top ten wins, and maybe four, in the AP and and coaches polls.

Yet much of that difference is wiped clean in the playoff poll.

I’m not sure which three or four members on the committee are making this decision — remember that’s all it could take on a 12 or 13 person committee — but we don’t see the ballots so there’s no way to analyze who is overvaluing the Big Ten substantially over the SEC.

My biggest issue with the college football playoff committee in general is it’s just another poll.

And if there’s a poll involved I’d rather have more people voting than less people voting. So I’d rather have a 100+ people voting in the AP and the coaches poll combined than I would 12 or 13 — less than that with recusals — in the college football playoff committee.


Because one individual college playoff committee voter has far more power than one individual voter does in the AP or coaches polls.

Plus, and I think this is key, the AP and the coaches polls release the full votes of every voter at the end of the year. So you might not agree with the voting, but there is full transparency.

The college football playoff committee doesn’t release their polls.

So if you have a rig job in effect, you’d never be able to see it.

My final point: we don’t know who is doing it, but the evidence is pretty clear here: the college football playoff committee is drastically overvaluing the Big Ten teams at the expense of the SEC teams when you compare the rankings of the AP and coaches polls with their own playoff rankings.

And the biggest winner is Ohio State.

And the biggest loser is LSU.

All with a number one playoff seed on the line.

Maybe that’s totally coincidental.

But I’m not buying it.

Jordan writes:

“How many power 5 teams do you think could have gone undefeated if they also had Clemson’s schedule? There are handful of top 25 teams who only have losses versus ranked teams…and if Clemson wins this week, that should bump Virginia out of the top 25 and then none of the teams they have played this year will be ranked at the end of the year.”

I think the easiest way to solve this is to look at the teams that would be undefeated if they hadn’t played a top 25 team.

And there are a ton.

Looking at the list of teams that have only lost to top 25 opponents: I think Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Michigan, Penn State, and Notre Dame would all have pretty good chances to be undefeated against Clemson’s schedule.

I think Alabama, for instance, would 100% be undefeated against Clemson’s schedule. After all, the Tide hasn’t lost a game against an unranked opponent in a decade.

The wild one here is this, if Texas A&M, which lost five games against five ranked teams, had played Clemson’s schedule would they be undefeated?

I think you can make an argument the answer is yes.

And A&M isn’t even ranked in the top 25.

The ACC is just so godawful it’s hard, honestly, to judge Clemson. I mean, look at how bad Georgia, Florida, and Kentucky destroyed Georgia Tech, Florida State, and Louisville to end the season. (I know Clemson beat South Carolina 38-3). But the SEC teams won these three “rivalry” games by a combined 137-37 score.

And none of the three were ever remotely close.

So how can you judge Clemson when they are playing lightweights like this and beating them by similar margins as SEC teams?

I don’t think you can, at least not very well.

Which is why the playoff will be so fascinating to watch.

Austin writes:

“This seems like a pretty a straight forward and non-exciting championship weekend, with 3 of the top 4 pretty much locked up. An interesting hypothetical: If Georgia never slipped against South Carolina, would this weekend be completely pointless to the playoff?”

Yes, if Georgia had beaten South Carolina the only drama would be if Clemson lost to Virginia could the Big 12 or Pac 12 champ get in over them.

Otherwise, the conference title games would be completely worthless.

Which is my point about conference title games in general.

We play the regular season to determine who the best teams are in the conferences. We already know that LSU, Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma are the best teams in the SEC, Big Ten, ACC and the Big 12.

All of these conferences have undisputed conference champs based on the regular season results.

Only the Pac 12, with two 8-1 conference teams in Utah and Oregon who never played, has any uncertainty about who the best team is.

But is it really that bad of a deal to simply reward Utah and Oregon co-Pac 12 champs and move on to an 8 team playoff?

I’d much rather have an eight team playoff than conference title games and I suspect most fans would as well.

Chris writes:

“Why is Phil Mickelson getting ripped for committing to play a sanctioned Euro Tour event in Saudi Arabia? None of the other golfers get ripped for committing to play in Saudi. The NBA keeps playing games in China, yet the league & its players face little or no criticism.”

The NBA got crushed to the high heavens over its China relationship.

So the little or no criticism angle isn’t correct.

Plus, I don’t think the Mickelson criticism has been that loud. I, for one, haven’t heard much of it.

Here’s why the NBA got crushed — because they were hypocritical in their stance. You can’t be super-woke on a North Carolina transgender bathroom bill and bend the knee to China. To my knowledge Phil Mickelson has never pulled out of a tournament in the United States because of politics.

So long as that’s the case, he’s not being hypocritical here.

Hell, I don’t agree with everything Saudi Arabia does, but if they wanted to promote Saudi Arabian tourism for a week and bring me over to broadcast live from their country, I’d do it in a heartbeat if my bosses thought the advertising dollars made sense for the show.

To me, I’m not endorsing every single aspect of a country when I take advertising money from them.

The only live read endorsement ad I can remember that I’ve turned down on my radio show was JUUL. They wanted to spend substantial money with us and I said I wasn’t comfortable with doing live ads for them. (An endorsement read is one where I’m using my own voice, as opposed to an ad that just airs on the radio show).

My rationale was, I don’t want to do advertisements for companies I wouldn’t want my kids to ever use.

There are a lot of kids who listen to my radio show in the mornings and I don’t want to encourage them to do something that’s 100% harmful to them either.

I’m not trying to look like a saint here, but that’s the only ad I’ve turned down in four years of radio.

For the most part, if it’s legal in the United States, I’m fine endorsing it.

And so long as you’re relatively consistent in your policies, I don’t think most people rip you. It’s when you’re 100% hypocritical, like the NBA was with China, that you get ripped.

Lou writes:

“Assuming the 2000 election is the most contentious election on record (modern history anyway)- where will 2020 election rank when it’s all said and done?”

I disagree with you here.

I think the 2016 election was way more contentious than the 2000 election. Now the aftermath of the 2000 election — as all the legal wrangling in Florida took place — was incredibly contentious, but the election itself was far less heated than the 2016 election.

If either side had won the 2000 election outright, I think most people would have been fine with the result.

The 2020 election will be incredibly contentious, but the exact degree will depend upon who the Democrats pick as their nominee.

Plus, I don’t think Joe Biden, Mayor Pete, Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders provoke anywhere near the same anger among conservatives as Hillary Clinton did.

Now depending on what kind of campaign they run, that could certainly change, but I think 2020 will actually rank below 2016 on the contentiousness scale.

Trump will be Trump, but I think there’s also a decent chance that all four of these Democratic nominees would try and dial down the vitriol because you can’t out emotion the other person’s primary emotion. Trump’s primary emotion, I think it’s fair to say, is anger. Other than Bernie Sanders, who is equally angry, I don’t think any of the other candidates would compete with Trump on anger.

Sharky writes:

“1. Which team will Lane Kiffin be coaching in 2020

2. Which team is the best fit for Kiffin

3. Would he be able to go head to head with the big boys of the SEC West?”

I hope Kiffin comes back into the SEC because it makes the conference far more entertaining with him back involved, but if I were ranking these open jobs for him — Mizzou, Ole Miss, and Arkansas — I think Ole Miss makes the most sense because it has the best recruiting base of the three schools.

Kiffin’s SEC lifeblood would be recruiting and he’d have the best chance to recruit at a high level in the Ole Miss footprint.

Now the downside to the Ole Miss job is that in the wake of Hugh Freeze’s success there’s way more of a microscope on Ole Miss when it comes to recruiting now.

When he was at Tennessee Kiffin played fast and loose with recruiting rules.

He’d have to be much more careful in the present era.

But I think Ole Miss makes the most sense for him.

Patrick writes:

“Any chance with Bama having 2 losses, Tua comes back next yr & helps Saban remind everyone the dynasty ain’t over?”

I was impressed with the comments from Tua in his recent media availability. He’s clearly a smart guy who is trying to make a business decision, not an emotional decision, about whether to go pro.

And I think the business side of his decision would be to go pro.

Even if he’s not 100% healthy quarterbacks are so valuable I think a team will draft him in the first round.

You make your big money in the NFL in your second contract. If Tua proves he’s a good NFL quarterback, he can make back what he lost by falling in the draft in the second contract. Plus, he gets to that money a year earlier than if he says in college.

The only reason to come back, honestly, is if you believe the NFL’s new CBA is going to dramatically increase your potential salary as a first round draft pick in 2021 over 2020 and if you believe you are going to be a top five pick next year as opposed to a borderline first round pick this year.

If Tua comes back and dominates as a healthy quarterback in 2020 he could stand to make more money if the CBA is updated and rookies make much more money again. The challenge, however, is that Trevor Lawrence is likely to be the number one overall pick next year and Tua is risking a ton by playing another year.

Right now Tua is probably still a first round pick in this year’s draft.

But what if he comes back next year and doesn’t play well or, worst of all, gets hurt again?

Then he could fall into the mid-rounds, which makes it difficult for him from a financial picture. Even if he comes back and plays well, what if teams still pass on him and he ends up falling to outside the top ten after coming back for another year?

I think pretty much all of the business imperatives would point in the direction of him going pro.

Which is why I think he’ll ultimately go pro.

Tanner writes:

“Which has been the most impressive in your opinion? Ryan Tannehill’s 5-1 record as the starter of the Titans or Jeremy Pruitt turning around Tennessee’s season at the end?”

Neither of these was very likely, but I think it’s Jeremy Pruitt’s turnaround is more impressive.

The Vols won four SEC games this year as an underdog as part of their comeback from a 1-4 start. Mississippi State, South Carolina, Kentucky and Missouri were all favored to beat the Vols.

If you just go by Vegas projections instead of finishing 7-5, Tennessee should have finished 3-9.

As part of the Titans run from 2-4 to 7-5, Ryan Tannehill has won two NFL games so far as an underdog — the Chiefs and the Colts.

So if you just went by Vegas perspective the Titans would be 5-7 if they’d just won the games they were expected to win and lost the rest.

Having said that, would I have believed that Ryan Tannehill would be the top rated quarterback in the NFL as we head into the final four weeks of the season?

No way.

Both of these turnarounds have been very, very unlikely.

Alec and Jon write:

“Does Dak even deserve a multi year contract after these last three games? And is he really a franchise quarterback?”

Yes, he deserves a multi-year contract, don’t be crazy.

So far in his four year NFL career Dak Prescott has only made $2.7 million.

That means this year alone Skip Bayless will make twice Dak’s entire football salary in his career — $6 million to $2.7 million — to talk about Dak on television as opposed to actually play in the NFL.

As for what Dak’s worth going forward? That’s a tough one. Especially when you see the recent contracts Carson Wentz and Jared Goff have signed, which have likely inflated the market a great deal.

I’d probably say Dak is worth $90 million guaranteed. That’s especially the case if you factor in how much he was underpaid these past four years.

But I’m not sure I’d go any higher than that in terms of guaranteed money and I bet Dak will want more than this.

Hayden writes:

“What is the best Christmas movie in your opinion?”

A Christmas Story is the top Christmas movie by far.

My top five, factoring in both parent and child viewing experiences, would be:

1. A Christmas Story

2. Christmas Vacation

3. Elf

4. Ernest Saves Christmas

5. Polar Express

I hope all of you have great weekends.

Thanks for reading Outkick!

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.