The committee that’s ranking teams each week for the inaugural college football playoff doesn’t need to be spectacular or do a great job, it just needs to be fair. And in what the group has produced through its first three weeks, it has been successful.
The first rankings had three teams from the powerful SEC — Mississippi State, Auburn and Ole Miss — which caused some consternation. But what that did is set up a virtual in-season playoff that has eliminated the War Eagles and Rebels from further consideration. The Bulldogs remain alive and will still be in the hunt even if they lose at Alabama Saturday.
Following Mississippi State in the latest rankings are teams from three other conferences — Oregon (Pac-12), Florida State (ACC) and TCU (Big 12). MSU, which still plays the Crimson Tide, Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl and the SEC championship game, has significant challenges ahead. The way for the Ducks is clear until the Pac-12 championship vs Arizona State or, maybe, UCLA. The Horned Frogs could be undone by major wins by Alabama or its own relatively soft slate from here on out — at Texas on Thanksgiving looks dangerous but they may not get much credit for a win.
The good news is, from here on out, it’s pretty much about winning, even for those looking in. If one-loss Alabama, Arizona State, Baylor or Ohio State keep their noses clean, they have excellent shots at playoff appearances. With four weeks of rankings still to come, there is still a lot of football to be played.
If there is any controversy at this point, it would have to be over the so-called Group of Five entrant to a major New Year’s bowl game. Reports say that undefeated Marshall, Colorado State and Boise State were discussed this week by the committee.
None of Marshall’s victories are over impressive opponents. Their biggest game of the season is this weekend at home against Rice. CSU has defeated power conference teams Colorado and Boston College, one on a neutral field and the other on the road. Their only loss, inconveniently for them, was at Boise State, which gave highly regarded Ole Miss a game until the fourth quarter and still has to play a quality San Diego State team this weekend. Both the Rams and Broncos would also have to win a Mountain West championship game. And, it’s true, neither might be as good as Marshall.
My best guess is that if the Rams or Broncos win out, they’ll get the nod based on strength of schedule. If not, we are Marshall.
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