The College Football Play-Off Ranking came out on Tuesday. Saturday, we get the first games after that which might change these rankings. While many will get lost in the argument over who belongs where on that listing, engaging in such rankery runs the risk of missing some story lines which will have as much impact on the upcoming bowl season as did a trip to a brothel on Lamar Odom’s current lifestyle. Having said that, let’s take a walk through “Break-Down Town.”
The Actual Play-Off Ranking
Like it or not…here they are.
- Clemson 8-0
- LSU 7-0
- Ohio State 8-0
- Alabama 7-1
- Notre Dame 7-1
- Baylor 8-0
- Michigan State 8-0
- TCU 8-0 I
- Iowa 8-0
- Florida 7-1
- Stanford 7-1
- Utah 7-1
- Memphis 8-0
- Oklahoma State 8-0
- Oklahoma 7-1
- Florida State 7-1
- Michigan 6-2
- Mississippi 7-2
- Texas A&M 6-2
- Mississippi St. 7-2
- Northwestern 6-2
- Temple 7-1
- UCLA 6-2
- Toledo 7-1
- Houston 8-0
Instead of getting into the tired old “who belongs where” argument, let’s take a look at some important issues such debates overlook.
Stuff the “List” Doesn’t Tell You – Example #1: There’s a very real possibility that Two “Power” Conferences get left out.
Yeah, we get the math. There’s five “big” conferences, and there’s only four play-off spots, so by definition it’s a college football version of musical chairs. The problem is in places like the SEC and the PAC-12, they aren’t racing to sit in those chairs; they’re beating the shit out of each other with them as if they were Rowdy Roddy Piper.
Usually, a team leading the Pac-12, in this case Stanford, doesn’t expect to end up in a street-fight in Pullman at the hands of the suddenly-not-terrible Washington State Cougars.
Head coach Mike Leach inherited a squad with good receivers and a deep quarterback situation, but the offensive line was terrible. After three, full, seasons on the Palouse, he’s finally established the type of offensive line we consistently saw at Texas Tech. It’s given quarterback Luke Falk enough time to go from holding on to the ball too long, to putting himself on pace to surpass Glenn Harrell’s senior season yardage total…as a redshirt sophomore.
While the offense has started to roll, the defense has gone from dumpster fire into a unit that will force the opposing offense into mistakes. WSU very well could end-up with its first winning season since 2003, before the bowl games get started.
Then, there’s the matter of Oregon. It’s not easy to replace a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback — just ask Florida State — but it shouldn’t be hard for a school that’s been as successful as the Ducks to recruit and develop a mediocre quarterback. Instead, the two QBs that have been with the program since Helfrich took over three years ago are so bad that a graduate transfer from Eastern Washington University was able to beat them out. Don’t get me wrong, Vernon Adams is one hell of a quarterback, but he shouldn’t be able to so easily beat out the two guys that have been in the system for so long.
But the biggest concern for Oregon fans has to be the dumpster fire that is their defense; yardage has never been a good measuring stick for judging how the Ducks’ defense performs during a game, that unit is often out there for 60-70 plays per game. They’ve been awful no matter how you analyze their performance; players are consistently out of position, they’ve forgotten how to tackle, and they aren’t getting any pressure on opposing QBs unless six or more defenders are blitzed.
If that weren’t enough, there’s the fraud that was Utah getting exposed by the dumpster fire known as Southern California. Neither of us can figure out why Utah was that highly ranked in the first place, but that just goes back to our argument about the value of rankings in general.
Couple that with the fact that Stanford is due for their annual late season fade-job (don’t forget they needed a last-minute field goal they almost missed to beat Washington State), and it’s not hard to picture a play-off without the PAC-12.
That brings us to the Battle Royale known as the SEC. The best analogy for what the SEC is the Chinese civil war of the1930’s. Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalists and the Communists under Mao Tse-Tung spent the decade carving each other up with farm implements until the Japanese invaded China. Then they turned their torches pitchforks on the foreign invaders, and once they were defeated, they went right back to killing each other.
Think of this in term’s of this weekend’s LSU-Alabama game. One of them will get pitch-forked out of the play-off picture. If the delve into the world of military history is too much for you, go back to the pro wrestling analogy. While LSU and Alabama are busy braining each other with folding chairs, some team like Baylor with a schedule softer than a mattress made of clouds climbs into the ring and snatches the belt while one or both of the real combatants get counted out of the ring.
Stuff the “List” Doesn’t Tell You – Example #2: Some teams just can’t handle success.
Yeah, we just discussed the SEC, but we really need to expand on the Ole Miss Rebels. If we went back to the annals of military history, the Ole Miss Rebels might just be Poland. Think about it. The Poles once commanded an empire, but only did it when their neighbors were coincidentally weak. Once the Germans and Russians got strong again (think Tennessee and Alabama), the Polish empire went the way of Ole Miss national championships.
Even in the modern era, today’s Rebels are a bit like their Confederate brethren. Sure, they can pull off the occasional signature victory (Battle of Bull Run = beating Alabama), then follow that with a choke-job like losing to Memphis (Battle of Vicksburg).
Staying in the SEC, there’s the matter of Texas A&M, which might just stand for AlMost. This is best described with another reference to military history. Texas A&M is the France of college football. Somehow, they amassed a global empire, and yet still find ways to lose to opponents with such vaunted battle histories like Greenpeace.
For a trip back to the wrestling likenesses, one must take a trip to South Bend. Notre Dame is a team ranked in the Top Ten in the regular polls with only one loss, and yet they have coaches throwing punches at each other like they are on the Jerry Springer show. Despite all that, this team is #5 in the play-off poll. Once again, see our opinions on the value of polls, especially in this case when you consider this team is playing more third-stringers than the Tennessee Titans.
Stuff the “List” Doesn’t Tell You” – Example #4: What is to be made of the AAC?
Memphis and Houston are undefeated, and Temple and Navy are unbeaten in conference play. Temple went punch for punch with the Fighting Irish on ESPN, but in the end couldn’t pull out the victory. Now, out of those four teams, Temple might be the most distantly removed from the normal recipe for college football success. The Owls play at Lincoln Financial Field, which is a venue a bit large an impersonal for mid-level college football, they lack the top-tier football facilities usually required to attract top-tier recruits, and the school is located in northeast Philadelphia, which is one the spots in America that could be mistaken for a third-world country. How any recruit could look at that situation and say, “Yes…I would love to spend four years there” is beyond us.Yet here we are, Temple’s football team is sitting at 7-1 and ranked in the top-25 after going punch for punch with one of college football’s blue bloods. If that makes sense to you, please let me know.
Stuff the “List” Doesn’t Tell You” – Example #5: Officials Suck.
We all saw the fire-drill that was the last play off that Miami-Duke game. J-Dub ranted about this in a podcast, and by now we’ve all heard the arguments about bad officiating and the use of instant replay. But what we haven’t heard is how much impact this level of incompetent officiating could have an impact on this playoff. Think about it. because this happened in an essentially meaningless game, it’s simply a point of discussion. But since it happened once, it can happen again. Imagine if it happens in a big game like LSU-Alabama on Saturday? You already had people talking about having the league overturn the outcome of a game that doesn’t really mean anything; can you imagine if this happens in a game which means a trip to the play-off promised land?
While you are rolling your own takes for these issues through your own head, rest assured we will revisit this playoff list as needed.