The Playoff Committee’s Hits and Misses

BATON ROUGE, LA – SEPTEMBER 20: Dak Prescott #15 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs looks to the sidelines for the next play against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on September 20, 2014 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Bulldogs defeated the Tigers 34-29. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, NC – DECEMBER 07: Quarterback Jameis Winston #5 of the Florida State Seminoles looks to pass against the Duke Blue Devils during the ACC Championship game at Bank of America Stadium on December 7, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

ATLANTA, GA – DECEMBER 07: Quarterback Nick Marshall #14 of the Auburn Tigers warms up before playing against the Missouri Tigers during the SEC Championship Game at Georgia Dome on December 7, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Jan. 5, 2013; Birmingham, AL, USA; Mississippi Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace (14) scrambles during the third quarter of the BBVA Compass Bowl against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Legion Field. Mississippi beat the Pittsburgh Panthers 38-17. Mandatory Credit: Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports Wesley Hitt,Streeter Lecka,Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images,Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports Getty Images North America

It’s time to can the “SEC bias” narrative already Twitter.  I know I’m writing for an audience that probably has strong ties to one of the 14 member institutions but that doesn’t stop me from telling the truth.  Just ask Texas A&M fans how they felt when I called them the most overrated team in America earlier this year.  It’s only natural that SEC envy ratcheted up last night when the debut of the mock playoff bracket included 3 teams from the conference. For the record I will continue to refer to it as a mock bracket until the field is announced for real given the gauntlet still remaining for not only all members of the SEC West, but rather everyone in the country not calling the Big Ten or ACC home.  

If last night was a true indication of how the process worked we learned that the top 4 teams, regardless of league, will be given entry into the postseason.  According to Jeff Long and other committee members, strength of schedule carried tremendous weight in the ranking of teams.  However, as our Fox colleague Joel Klatt pointed out, Michigan St was actually penalized for losing to Oregon. Had the Spartans played another directional MAC school instead of the Pac 12 power, SOS would be lower but they’d be sitting pretty inside the top 4 in firm control of their own destiny with an unblemished record.  

My goal from here on out remains simple; sharing a running commentary on where I think the playoff committee got it right vs where they went astray in their rankings.  We’ll continue to offer our Vegas top 10 for comparison, side by side with the playoff rankings to make for interesting debate (aka Twitter hate tirades) directed right at me for having SEC tinged lenses negatively impacting my overall objectivity.

 

Playoff Ranking

Vegas Ranking

1

Miss St

Alabama

2

Florida St

Miss St

3

Auburn

Auburn

4

Ole Miss

FSU

5

Oregon

UGA

6

Alabama

Oregon

7

TCU

Ole Miss

8

Michigan St

Mich St

9

Kansas St

Notre Dame

10

Notre Dame

TCU

For what will be the 100th time and not the last, let me remind you that a team being ranked above another doesn’t mean they’d win the game on the field.  Power ranking comparisons don’t incorporate on field match-ups or other potential mismatches in personnel between certain teams.  

Note: FSU and Ole Miss are arguably the 2 teams with the most tenuous positions entering this week considering FSU is only a 4 pt favorite at Louisville Thursday night and Ole Miss is less than a field goal favorite at home vs Auburn.  Given the rigors of the SEC west this won’t be the last loser-go-home conference game we’ll see this season, but the loser of Auburn at Ole Miss will find themselves in trouble.

What the committee got right

Mississippi St, Florida St, and Auburn all deserve inclusion given what they’ve accomplished this year.  Clearly public sentiment towards FSU is at an all time low and to be brutally honest the Seminoles have looked like anything but a defending champion but until they’re saddled with a loss it’s impossible to keep them out. As for the remaining members of the top 6, I’ll dispute the order while still realizing the committee elected to keep Ole Miss ahead of Alabama based on head to head. Either way, future games involving all the members of the SEC West will give us a much clearer picture of what school gets the nod given the round robin nature within the conference to close the regular season.  

Ohio St at 16 is actually lower than where I would have ranked them…which is somewhat surprising.  However, kudos to the playoff folks for recognizing a lack of resume strength from a perennial Big Ten power.  The Buckeyes early season loss to Virginia Tech looks worse by the week and there’s a good chance that even a 12-1 record punctuated by a conference title wouldn’t be enough to get OSU into the postseason unless certain dominoes around them fall the right way.

TCU and Kansas St appear to control their own destiny with eyes trained on a BigXII crown.  Ironically enough TCU will need another Baylor loss to win the league outright while the Wildcats only blemish thus far came at the hands of Auburn…a game they could have won with a few bounces.  Both schools would be heavy underdogs against SEC foes in the postseason but you can bet your bottom dollar if Alabama were to get into the mix the last team they’d want to face is the spread attack of Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs.

Outside the top 15 I’m not that concerned.  Sure, last year team’s found a way to rise rapidly into the fold however unless the wheels fall off a few contenders, I can’t see a scenario where Oklahoma, Duke, or Louisville backdoor their way into the mix.  The most intriguing team is #17 Utah given that the Utes play EVERYONE in the Pac 12 over the next few weeks and would make a compelling case for inclusion should they end up conference champs with a 12-1 record, even with that ugly loss to Washington St.

Marshall’s a great story… they aren’t top 25 material given that cupcake schedule. Thank you to the powers that be for recognizing a fraudulent 8-0 record.

What they got wrong

Notre Dame isn’t more deserving than Georgia of top 10 inclusion.  The Irish’s lone loss came at Florida St while Georgia’s was at a sub-par South Carolina team.  I understand completely why the decision was made but that doesn’t mean I need to agree with it.  Both schools will have resume building opportunities in coming weeks with no greater statement game on either schedule than UGA’s date with Auburn in mid-November.

Nebraska isn’t a top 15 team in my ranking system.  If you’re looking at SOS, where did the Cornhuskers get a noteworthy win? Keep looking… because the only thing close to a marquee victory is the win over Miami.  Beating the likes of FAU, McNeese, Fresno, Illinois, Northwestern, and Rutgers doesn’t leave me brimming with any semblance of confidence.  You hear me Coach Pelini?

Arizona at #12 is somewhat comical.  Actually it’s not somewhat it’s very laughable that their entire resume is hung on a road win at Oregon (playing without Jake Fisher).  The Wildcats needed late heroics to sneak by Cal, narrowly avoided an upset bid at woeful UTSA, and edged college football powerhouse Nevada at home.  There’s a reason Arizona are 6.5 pt underdogs at UCLA this weekend.

Upset Alert: Notre Dame -14

The Fighting Irish potentially control their college football fate.  Remaining games against Arizona St, Louisville, and USC make them an awfully compelling 1 loss side if other power programs start to fall.  However, before you get to the end of the year against stiffer competition a win over the Midshipmen is required.  Just a season ago Navy pushed the Irish to the brink dropping a heartbreaking 38-34 decision as 16.5 point underdogs.  This year hasn’t been as advertised for the service academy, struggling to a 4-4 record but this is their last attempt for a major upset.  Against an Irish defensive coordinator that hasn’t faced an option offense since 2004, I can see the Golden Domers being knocked from playoff consideration if Navy executes their option with ultimate precision.

Upset Alert Current Record: 5-1 ATS, 3-3 SU

10/25: Penn St +14 over Ohio St (Covered but lost)

10/18: West Virginia +8 over Baylor (Won Outright)

10/11: Pass

10/4: Utah +13 over UCLA (Won Outright)

9/27: NC State +19 vs FSU (Covered but lost)

9/20: West Virginia +7.5 over Oklahoma (Lost)

9/13: South Carolina +6 over Georgia (Won Outright)

 

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.