Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Nobody Should Get Very Comfortable Just Yet

The selection committee's third release of its rankings proved to be its most interesting and revealing. There is strong indication that the members indeed are evaluating the teams freshly each week and not following the poll practice where teams only slide up and down out of fixed positions from the previous week.

That's good. It makes for an intriguing final month of the season for the fewer than a dozen contenders still remaining in the playoff hunt.

Here are the five things that come immediately to mind based on the committee's new rankings:

SEC is looking at one bid
Forget two bids in the four-team field. The SEC will need to hang on to its one bid, as a two-loss conference champion may very well be shut out of the playoff. Despite being the top-ranked team for three weeks in a row, Mississippi State may be finished with just one loss if it does not win the SEC West because of a weak nonconference schedule.

Big Ten is in big trouble
Ohio State's big win over Michigan State is good for the Buckeyes but very bad for their conference. OSU will not be able to play its way into the playoff without help as the committee has a very low regard for the Big Ten. The Buckeyes' best remaining opponent could be Nebraska—if they meet in the B1G title game—and the Huskers are ranked only 16th despite having just one loss.

TCU shouldn't get too comfortable
While the Horned Frogs made a celebrated jump into the top four this week, this stay is by no means permanent. Baylor still has a chance to get past TCU as it has better opponents coming up, including the regular-season finale against Kansas State.
Since the two teams share the same foes in 10 of their 11 games against FBS opponents, TCU should root hard for Minnesota, as its victory over the now-ranked Gophers is a far better scalp than Baylor's win over Buffalo.

Committee is sending a message about schedule
That Baylor is in its current predicament owes a great deal to its awful nonconference schedule. Conversely, that UCLA is ranked 11th can be traced to its decision to play two power-five opponents in its three OOC games. A third example is Notre Dame, where we learned that while it's good to schedule tough opponents, you'll need to beat them to get credit.

Where's group-of-five?
For a second consecutive week, the committee did not bother to put a group-of-five team in the rankings, leaving the access bowl picture very murky. But with the introduction of Minnesota at No. 25, one must wonder if leaving Marshall out at this point makes sense. As a direct comparison, the Herd performed better than the Gophers as they both beat Middle Tennessee at home. Marshall won by 25 (49-24) whereas Minnesota won by 11 (35-24).

Playoff Committee Rankings Comparison
CFP RankTeamBCSB/R MockAPCoaches
1`Mississippi State1111
3Florida State2222
6Arizona State6678
8Ohio State10887
10Ole Miss9101010
12Michigan State13141212
13Kansas State14131313
18Notre Dame16161516
22Georgia Tech25212423
24Texas A&M23232730
NRColorado State24302325
* No group-of-five team is ranked by the committee.

Explanation of rankings

BCS rankings are a simulation of the BCS formula used from 2004-2013 with two exceptions: The AP poll is used in place of the Harris Poll, and Sagarin and Massey rankings are their native systems instead of the non-MOV version used for the BCS.

CFP mock rankings are published weekly at Bleacher Report, with components including polls, computers, strength of schedule and conference championships. The full rankings are here.

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