Texas A&M over Washington? Debating who should be No. 4 in playoff rankings
The College Football Playoff selection committee has never been one to fear controversy. So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that the committee’s first rankings have once again caused a stir, particularly over its selection of one-loss Texas A&M as the No. 4 team in the country over undefeated Washington and every other one-loss team.
Should the Aggies, whose only defeat is a 33–14 loss to No. 1 Alabama, have gotten the fourth spot, the last in the would-be playoff field? Or should Washington, which has a lower strength of schedule but has won every game? Or should another one-loss team, like No. 6 Ohio State or No. 7 Louisville? The college football experts from SI.com and FOXSports.com discuss who they would have picked.
Andy Staples, SI: Texas A&M
I'm fine with Texas A&M at No. 4. Based on what we've seen, Texas A&M-Washington would be a pretty good game. There doesn't appear to be much separation between the two. So if the committee is using this moment to punish Washington for a bad out-of-conference schedule, great. If schools feel like they have to schedule better, we all win because we get better games to watch. This also doesn't mean Washington will miss the playoff. If the Huskies keep winning, they'll be in. That probably won't be the case for Texas A&M unless someone can take down Alabama.
Bruce Feldman, FOX Sports: Washington
I get that on paper A&M's beaten more teams with winning records, but the Aggies have lost. Washington, also a Power 5 program, hasn't. Both have road wins over top-15 teams (Auburn and Utah, respectively), but I think the Huskies' 44–6 domination of Stanford, now 5–3, was more impressive than anything else A&M has done. And, again, Washington hasn't lost a game.
Pete Thamel, SI: Washington
I think Washington deserved the spot, but it's Nov. 1. There's no reason to dive into faux outrage, as all this is designed for ratings and a talk spin cycle. Early rankings are unbelievably irrelevant, especially with five weeks to play. All we learned tonight is that the Big 12 is done (which we knew).
Stewart Mandel, FOX Sports: Washington
I get that Texas A&M has played a tougher schedule, I get that its only loss was to No. 1 Alabama, but it's not like that loss was particularly close. Washington hasn't lost, it has the same number of top 25 wins as A&M (having beaten Utah) and it's been mostly dominant. All the metrics say the Huskies have performed better than the Aggies. Frankly, if I were going to put a one-loss team at No. 4, it would have been Louisville.
Lindsay Schnell, SI: Washington
After going through the mock selection process and learning just how hard it is, I told myself I wasn't going to overreact but … Texas A&M over Washington, are you kidding me?! This makes no sense to me. Washington has looked excellent all season, and I really think there should be more of a premium placed on being undefeated. Of course, Chris Petersen spent eight years as the head coach at Boise State, so at this point, he's used to being overlooked and having to fight for credibility. I firmly believe the Huskies are better than Texas A&M, but the good news for them is that if they win out, they'll jump into the top four, no problem.
Brian Hamilton, SI: Washington
The first playoff rankings smack of selection committee overthink. Texas A&M gets extra credit, basically, for having the opportunity to lose to Alabama and for playing UCLA instead of Rutgers. Or to put it another way: The committee placed undue or incorrect emphasis on who teams played rather than deeply considering what they've done. Let's take a look, for example, at Football Outsiders' various metrics. In the S&P+ ratings, Washington has the No. 4 offense in the country; Texas A&M ranks 23rd. Washington has the ninth-ranked defense; Texas A&M ranks 24th. In the F+ rankings—which basically take into account strength of schedule because it gives credit for playing well against good teams, win or lose—Washington ranks fifth in the country; Texas A&M ranks 10th. Also, the Huskies haven't lost a game, and the Aggies have. Texas A&M is good, but right now the Huskies are the more accomplished team by almost any reasonable, objective measure. We all know the rankings don't matter until the last rankings. But the job is nevertheless to pick the best four teams at that moment. And the selection committee didn't look close enough.
Joan Niesen, SI: Washington
It's a no-brainer. The argument for A&M ends with its thrashing at the hands of Alabama (a 19-point loss last month). Why would we want the semifinal, as the bracket stands now, to be between two teams where there's no pretense of mystery as to who's better? I do wonder if the committee is scared by 2015 Iowa's undefeated regular season and postseason collapse, and that's reflected in Washington's snub.