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Let's Discuss the First Playoff Rankings of 2015

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The Committee has spoken, and it is sending a message.
Let's not blow this out of proportion, most of these teams are still going to lose a game somewhere.

Whoopy

The College Football Playoff Committee has spoken. The committee released its playoff rankings, and surprised fans with its unconventional methods.  Some fans are outraged that one-loss teams are ahead of undefeated power-five schools. In addition, everyone outside of Tuscaloosa is rolling their eyes over two SEC schools making the top four. Big XII fans are indignant over another slight from the committee by having three undefeated teams all left out for poor Strength of Schedule. The media releases are brilliant and I am all for the committee's early reveal as it generates discussion, creates controversy, and provides the internet with more fuel for incredibly hot taeks. The instant the rankings were released, many began arguments as to why team X should be in over team Y.  However, the Playoff Committee does not live by your rules, and college football is stuck playing the committee's game. The committee is an agent of chaos.

All 25 of the potential playoff teams are in action this week.  Expect some pandemonium as this is College Football in November. This is fun.

PLAYOFF BOUND:

#1 Clemson Tigers (8-0): Last Week @NC State 56-41. Clemson once again avoided Clemsoning by pulling away on 21 points in the third quarter.  The Tigers have done enough so far this season to earn the top spot.  There is not a lot of controversy with this selection.  The committee most likely used Clemson's Strength of Schedule and a win over Notre Dame, who the committee really likes, to award Clemson the top spot.  Clemson will face Florida State at home this week.  A win will solidify Clemson as a playoff team.

#2 LSU Tigers (7-0): Last Week BYE.  The committee awarded LSU with the # 2 playoff spot based on wins over Mississippi State and Florida, as well as having one of the best offensive players in the nation in Leonard Fournette. LSU will face Alabama this weekend in Tuscaloosa, in what will be a true playoff elimination game. LSU can still climb back into a spot with a loss, but a lot would need to happen to unseat Alabama. A win completely eliminates Alabama, in my opinion.  Although, winning could prove to be difficult as LSU is a 6.5 point underdog.  This game is going to be good.  LSU has a tough November with Ole Miss and Texas A&M looming. The Tigers are not going to be jumped if they continue to win.

#3 Ohio State Buckeyes (8-0):  Last Week BYE.  Ohio State may have been off last week, but found a way to lose the bye week.  Newly starting QB J.T. Barrett was arrested for OVI and promptly suspended one game.  This news did not dissuade the committee from giving the third playoff spot to the Buckeyes.  This week, Ohio State faces Minnesota at home.  Let's see if the Gophers figure out their clock management skills from last week. The defending National Champions are a for sure playoff team with J.T. Barrett at QB, and he returns next week.  Ohio State has Michigan State and Michigan remaining on the schedule; and a potential showdown with undefeated Iowa, if both make the B1G Championship.

#4 Alabama Crimson Tide (7-1):  Last Week BYE.  After an impressive bye weekend, the Committee set the internet ablaze by giving one-loss Alabama the 4th playoff spot.  The committee leaned heavy on Alabama's strength of schedule (see link above).  I am not a fan of this selection as I think two teams from the same conference making the playoffs is a pipe dream by conference homers.  Also, I believe that the committee will reward undefeated teams at the end of the season.  Alabama has a chance to make believers out of the nation this upcoming week against LSU. A Tide victory would throw the SEC West into a three way tie; which would put Ole Miss into first place, for the time being. (Ole Miss has not lost to a SEC West foe yet).  I think that is important, because winning your conference will be key in gaining a playoff spot from the Committee.  Alabama is a good team, and can end the year with a spot, but I think a few things need to happen outside of its control to get there.

THE FIRST TWO OUT:

#5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-1): Last Week @ Temple 24-20.  Gameday at Temple was a great choice, and a great game (ESPN still would not have been wrong to have gone to Pullman, either).  The Committee appears to like Notre Dame's SOS over other undefeated teams.  The Irish have weathered early injuries, and are a two point conversion and an overtime away from being undefeated.  Notre Dame still has Stanford to close out the season in what will most likely be a playoff elimination game from which the loser will not recover.   Still, I am surprised that Notre Dame is this high in the initial rankings. Next up is Pitt on the road.

#6 Baylor Bears (7-0): Last Week BYE. Freshman QB Jarrett Stidham will have his first collegiate start on the road in what is supposed to be a rainy Manhattan, Kansas to face Kansas State.  The Wildcats have not been good lately.  This should be a nice tune up game for Baylor's freshman QB before facing OSU, OU, and TCU in the following weeks.  Baylor was jumped by Alabama and Notre Dame because of its SOS, and in part due to the season-ending injury to starting QB Seth Russell.  Baylor has beaten only one team with a winning record (Texas Tech). Although Baylor has looked good against the weaker competition, and will have the meat of the Big XII coming up to prove itself to the committee.  Baylor can most certainly still play its way in.  A lot is riding on the arm of Jarrett Stidham.

IN THE HUNT:

#7 Michigan State Spartans (8-0): Last Week BYE.  Michigan State also gets slighted for their lack of a difficult schedule.  The early win over Oregon is not as impressive as once thought.  In addition, Michigan State hasn't blown anyone out and needed a puntastrophe from Michigan to remain unbeaten.  The Spartans do have Ohio State remaining on the schedule.  Wining that game and then the B1G Championship would help boost Michigan State up the rankings.  Sparty also plays the bottom dwellers of the B1G, and the committee will be looking at how Michigan State handles the game control and margin of victory.  Michigan State is only a 5.5 point favorite on the road against Nebraska this upcoming weekend.

#8 TCU Horned Frogs (8-0): Last Week WVU 40-10.   TCU is another Big XII that is hurt by its strength of schedule.  I also think TCU was hurt by a perceived lack of defense as the committee is looking for "complete teams".  That being said, Trevone Boykin has been very good for the Horned Frogs.  Oklahoma State is up next for the Frogs in what is the first of six games which will not only decide the Big XII, but determine if the conference will get its first playoff team.  TCU is in good position with Baylor at home, but must first beat OSU and OU on the road.   TCU has the potential to run the table and find itself in the playoffs.  It also has the potential to fall into chaos as the Big XII eats itself and is left entirely out of the playoffs.  Either story line will be entertaining to watch.

#9 Iowa Hawkeyes (8-0): Last Week Maryland 31-15. Iowa is still undefeated.  I think the Committee is unsure what to do with the Hawkeyes and is taking a wait and see approach.  The Committee will most likely have to wait till the B1G Championship game to determine Iowa's fate as Iowa's next four opponents have 3 conference wins combined.  Anything can happen.  Iowa has the opportunity to quietly amass wins while those around them face elimination games to climb in this ranking.  Indiana is up next and Iowa is a touchdown favorite.

#10 Florida Gators (7-1): Last Week Georgia 27-3.  The Gators are an interesting team and boast a better win than Alabama and Notre Dame with their win over Ole Miss.  Florida is also in control of the SEC East and is headed for a rematch/showdown with the SEC West Winner in the championship game.  This could be enough to send Florida into the  discussion for top four.  Vanderbilt is up next and Florida is a three touchdown favorite over the 'Dores.  After that, Florida has South Carolina and UAF, before its rivalry game with Florida State.   The Gators are in a good spot and I expect them to climb in these rankings.

#11 Stanford Cardinal (7-1): Last Week Washington State 30-28.  Stanford was inches away from its second loss as Washington State's FG Kicker, Erik Powell, missed wide right as time expired late Saturday night. Stanford, and possibly the Pac 12 were that close to being eliminated from the playoff discussion.  Stanford goes on the road again this week to face Colorado as a 16 point favorite.    If Stanford can keep winning, the game against Notre Dame at the end of the season will loom large for both programs.  Stanford obviously needs the undefeated teams to lose to move up as a one loss team. Right now, Stanford and the Pac 12 are on the outside looking in.

#12 Utah Utes (7-1): Last Week Oregon State 27-12.  Utah still only has one loss, but was an underdog to a three loss USC team on the road.  This week, Utah is a one point underdog to the Washington Huskies on the road.  Vegas is not impressed with Utah.  Neither is the committee.  Utah will need "style points" these next few weeks to impress the committee.  Utah's remaining schedule could end up hurting the Utes, as UCLA is the only playoff ranked team left to play.  The Utes could make a statement if it beats Stanford in the Pac 12 Championship game, but may be too little too late.

#13 Memphis Tigers (8-0): Last Week Tulane 41-13.  Memphis is the highest ranked non-power five school, and earned the spot with a win over Ole Miss.  Memphis is a fun team to watch.  This week, Memphis faces Navy and is a 7.5 point favorite over the Midshipmen.   The following week, Memphis faces undefeated Houston.  Memphis is going to need some help to get to the playoffs.  One thing that would help is if Ole Miss won the SEC by knocking out LSU and Florida from the playoff.  This would most likely leave the SEC out of the playoffs.   Memphis would get a huge boost for having scoreboard over the SEC champion.  Add that to a few upsets of undefeated teams, and Memphis would have a decent shot at moving into the top four.  Talk about anarchy and upsetting the established order.

#14 Oklahoma State Cowboys (8-0): Last Week @ Texas Tech 70-53.  Oklahoma State avoided an upset by scoring six touchdowns in the second half against Texas Tech.  However, the committee is not impressed.  OSU is ranked behind a non-power five school and is a 5.5 point underdog this week to TCU.  You should feel bad, Cowboys.   Redemption could come this week if Okie State can knock off TCU.  With TCU, Baylor, and OU remaining on the schedule, I don't see a way for the Cowboys to remain undefeated.  However, I do think that the Cowboys will play spoiler and ruin one of the above's playoff hopes.

#15 Oklahoma Sooners (6-1):  Last Week @ Kansas 62-7.  Oklahoma completed its scrimmage against hapless Kansas this past week and faces Iowa State at home.  Don't sleep on ISU, Sooners.  ISU just shut out the Texas Longhorns 24-0.  Those Longhorns beat the Sooners 24-17 (an embarrassing loss).  Transitive Property in College Football is science and should be taken as law.  In all seriousness, that loss to Texas is keeping the committee from taking OU seriously.  OU is playing better and has a chance to silence the critics by beating TCU, Baylor, and OSU.  Just think of the transitive property claims that will arise out of Austin if that happens!

#16 Florida State Seminoles (6-1): Last Week Syracuse 45-21.  Without star running back Dalvin Cook and starting QB Everett Golson the Seminoles looked the best it has all season under QB Sean Maguire.  Jimbo Fisher has not named a starter yet for the looming Clemson game this weekend.  Florida State is in an interesting position and can play the spoiler to Clemson and Florida.  If it does, it can find itself in the playoff conversation.

LONG SHOTS, AT BEST:

I have an underlying bias that a two loss team will not make the playoffs barring the craziest of Novembers.  For the time being, a two loss team will act as nothing more than potential spoilers.  This week, the two loss teams all play very winnable games against non-playoff contending teams.

#17 Michigan Wolverines (6-2): Last Week @ Minnesota 29-26.  Upcoming: Rutgers.

#18 Ole Miss Rebels (7-2) Last Week @ Auburn 27-19.  Upcoming: Arkansas.  Ole Miss is probably the most interesting two loss team as it still controls its destiny in the SEC West. Beating LSU looks to be a tall order, but that game is in Oxford.  It would be interesting to see what the committee would do with a two loss SEC Champion with a one loss LSU/Alabama.  Would the committee take a non conference winner?

#19 Texas A&M Aggies (6-2) Last Week South Carolina 35-28. Upcoming: Auburn.

#20 Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-2) Last Week BYE. Upcoming: Missouri.

#21 Northwestern Wildcats (6-2) Last Week BYE. Upcoming: Penn State.

#22 Temple Owls (7-1): Last Week Notre Dame 20-24.  Temple lost, but impressed the committee enough to be the only one loss non-P5 school to be ranked in its initial rankings.  Temple is a good team.  Temple will get back on track this week on the road against SMU.

#23 UCLA Bruins (6-2) Last Week @ Colorado 35-31. Upcoming: Oregon State.

#24 Toledo Rockets (7-1): Last Week NIU 32-37.  The rankings came out on Tuesday, and Holy Toledo, the Rockets' made the list!  A couple of hours later and NIU ruined the Rockets hopes and dreams.  Congratulations Toledo, you are the first playoff victim.

#25 Houston Cougars (8-0): Last Week Vanderbilt 34-0. Upcoming: Cincinnati. I have enjoyed Houston this year under first year head coach Tom Herman.  However, the Cougs are knocked so much lower than its counterparts for their strength of schedule.  Houston does have a chance to prove itself against Memphis.

NR  North Carolina Tarheels (7-1):  Last Week @ Pitt 26-19. Upcoming Duke.  My prediction is that North Carolina will be ranked next week by the committee if it beats Duke this week.  By doing so, it will be in sole possession of the ACC Coastal Division.

RECENTLY REMOVED:

Duke and Pitt both lost this past weekend; and were promptly left off the initial playoff rankings.   Duke may have been ranked had it not been for the most controversial play of 2015.  Toledo also joins this list.

Overall, my only complaint with the rankings is that Alabama is too high in the initial rankings.  At the end of the season, an undefeated team will get in over a one loss team.  However, this week has the potential to shake up the established order as all playoff contending teams are in action; with half of the teams on the road.  Also, there are six teams battling other teams in the playoff rankings.   These playoff teams, they'll eat each other.  Enjoy.