For the College Football Playoff, Clemson needs to win out, others need chaos
|Wednesday, November 13, 2019, 8:27 AM- -|
Clemson’s path to the College Football Playoff seems clear – win out and they’re in.
But with this committee, who knows?
The second College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night, with LSU ascending from No. 2 to No. 1 after beating Alabama, which fell to No. 5. Ohio State and Clemson finished at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.
Then came the biggest surprise of the night: Georgia moving up two spots from No. 6 to No. 4, with the worst loss (of any of the top teams) to lowly South Carolina. And that’s where the “who knows” part of this committee comes into play.
However, we will start with Clemson – the Tigers dispatched NC State this past weekend to move to 10-0 on the season. The Tigers vaulted Alabama and Penn St. (formerly at No. 4 but dropping to No. 9 after losing at Minnesota) into the number three spot, and their path seems clear. Win out and they’re in.
Here is what committee chair Rob Mullens had to say about Clemson.
“Clemson is also dominant on both sides of the ball,” Mullens said. “Although its schedule is not as strong as some others, Clemson is an excellent undefeated team. They have gained more than 500 yards of offense in each of their last five games. The committee is impressed with what it sees.”
We think the Tigers are in if they win out. The committee has shown in the first two weeks that with some teams it valued the eye test, others ranked wins, and others dominance.
The brings us to Georgia, which owns wins over two ranked teams (Florida and Notre Dame) but also that loss at home to South Carolina. The Gamecocks have just four wins and lost at home to Appalachian State last weekend (and the Mountaineers are No. 25 in this week’s rankings).
Social media was aflame with comparisons to Georgia and Alabama – they both have the one loss – but Mullens said it was more about Georgia’s win than comparing the losses (to LSU and South Carolina).
“Georgia, with wins against both Florida and Notre Dame, put them at No. 4 in the rankings this week,” he said. “The committee spent a lot of time comparing Georgia and Alabama. In the end, Georgia's two wins over ranked teams made the difference in the No. 4 spot. Alabama clearly is a strong team, but the committee gave the edge to Georgia.
“It's certainly a part of the discussion, no doubt. We're aware of the South Carolina loss for Georgia and that Alabama's loss was against a team that was ranked No. 1, so that's clearly on the board when we're comparing them. But we're also looking at Georgia's wins against top-20 teams Florida and Notre Dame.”
Mullens was then asked about Alabama – he had mentioned a couple of times how the Crimson Tide had played just one conference game against a team with a winning record (like Minnesota) and then lost a top ten matchup at home. Minnesota on the other hand, won its matchup against Penn State yet still trails Bama in the rankings. Mullens was asked the difference in the two teams, and in true football fashion, he punted.
“I would have been out of the room for much of that, so I don't know the answer to that if they were put up side by side,” Mullens said. “I've shared about Minnesota, obviously. The non-conference was a concern. The win against Penn State was big. When you see Alabama, obviously their only loss was to the team that's now ranked No. 1 in the country, and prior to that they had been dominant against their schedule, and so we see a very, very good football team.”
Alabama fans took to Twitter and the message boards delighted with their ranking – they understand that someone will lose between Georgia and LSU in the SEC Championship, and their thought process is the committee wants a CFP rematch between the Tide and LSU. Their thought process is that if they simply win out, they are back in the College Football Playoff as a one-loss team that didn’t play for a conference championship.
That kind of hubris might be a little premature, however. The committee might have ranked Oregon behind the Tide because Oregon didn’t play this week. Oregon and Utah are sitting at six and seven, and they are trending towards playing each other in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Let’s say Oregon wins out – they have games against Arizona, Arizona St., and Oregon St. remaining – and then defeats a Top 10 Utah team in the championship. My guess is that a one-loss conference champion – with its only loss to Auburn on a neutral field to start the season – would trump Alabama.
What Alabama needs is chaos.
Chaos is what this committee is likely to deliver. Welcome to November.