Well … so much for an anticlimactic first set of College Football Playoff rankings.
Hello, Texas A&M. For now.
Here are my biggest takeaways from Tuesday night’s committee rankings:
Geoff BurkeGeoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Louisville's playoff hopes are already bleak
If the 7-1 Cardinals had any hope of reaching the playoff without winning the ACC Atlantic (where undefeated Clemson is ahead of them), they probably needed to show up no worse than No. 5 in this first edition. Instead, the committee basically said, all those 60-point performances were nice, but your schedule mostly stinks. And it’s only going to get worse from here.
“Their schedule is not as strong as [No. 4 Texas A&M and No. 6 Ohio State],” committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said on a teleconference when asked about Louisville. “Their only win against a team with a winning record was against Florida State."
Well, when you put it that way …
None of the Cardinals’ remaining games are against teams in the committee’s Top 25. So either they need Clemson to collapse and lose two of its last three games, or just go ahead and book those tickets to the Orange Bowl.
Grant HalversonGetty Images
The Big Ten is enjoying quite the rise
Two years ago, when the committee unveiled its first rankings, the Big Ten had one team -- No. 8 Michigan State -- in the Top 15. Eventual national champion Ohio State was 16th. Fast-forward two years, and the same conference has a staggering four teams in the Top 10 (No. 3 Michigan, No. 6 Ohio State, No. 8 Wisconsin and No. 10 Nebraska) and a fifth at No. 12 (Penn State).
Which all but assures that the Big Ten champ is going to the playoff -- even if that ends up being a two-loss team. In quite the sign of respect, 6-2 Wisconsin is ranked ahead of a one-loss SEC team (Florida) and the entire Big 12, among others.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
The Big 12 is in even worse shape than imagined
While Texas A&M above Washington at No. 4 was the biggest headline Tuesday, 6-1 West Virginia all the way down at 20th was the biggest surprise to me. Unlike the rest of their conference, the Mountaineers got one decent out-of-conference win against BYU. But admittedly West Virginia lacks a Top 25 win and just lost 37-20 to Oklahoma State.
The Big 12’s best hope is apparently 6-2 Oklahoma, which checks in at No. 14 -- one spot higher than it did last year en route to a playoff berth. But not only will the Sooners have to go 9-0 in conference play (which no Big 12 team has yet done), they’ll also likely need the Pac-12 to produce a two-loss champ.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY SportsMatthew Emmons
Auburn and LSU are very much in play
It’s hard to believe that in late September, LSU fired its coach and Auburn was one second away from being 1-3. Auburn (6-2) is already in the committee’s Top 10, well before an Iron Bowl showdown with Alabama, and No. 13 LSU (5-2) will assuredly skyrocket if it beats the Tide this week.
Amazingly, 10 of the top 13 teams in these rankings are from two conferences, the Big Ten and SEC. If we’re going to have a two-loss playoff team, it will be from one of those leagues.
Getty ImagesMichael Chang
The committee got one thing very much right
Say what you will about meaningless Nov. 1 rankings; at least the teams have played seven to nine games. As we know, preseason polls are the most uninformed exercises imaginable. But while they affect every subsequent week for the AP or coaches, the committee is clearly not bound by them.
Case in point, two teams it differs dramatically on are No. 12 Penn State (No. 20 in AP) and No. 15 Colorado (No. 21 in the AP). It’s no coincidence these are teams that started the season unranked in the polls.
“Penn State is a team that has improved as the season has gone along,” said Hocutt.
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY SportsMatthew OHaren
Washington will be fine
I don’t agree with placing the Huskies fifth, but I get the committee’s rationale. Also, it doesn’t matter. If Washington wins its conference and Texas A&M does not, the Huskies will likely finish higher than the Aggies. But also -- so much is going to change over the next five weeks, it’s highly unlikely we’ll still be comparing those two by season’s end.