Roundtable: Sizing up Florida State's fall in the latest playoff rankings
The College Football Playoff rankings were unveiled on Tuesday and brought no shortage of controversy. SI.com's Ben Glicksman, Martin Rickman and Gabriel Baumgaertner discuss the top four and what the Top 25 means moving forward.
Ben Glicksman: The latest College Football Playoff rankings were released on Tuesday, and the selection committee had quite the surprise in store. Alabama and Oregon remained No. 1 and No. 2, but TCU, which routed Texas 48-10 on Thanksgiving, bypassed undefeated defending national champion Florida State. The top 10 is listed below, and it’s certainly not going over well in Tallahassee.
Looking at that list, Martin, what surprises you? And what does Florida State’s descent to No. 4 mean for its ACC title game matchup with No. 11 Georgia Tech?
Martin Rickman: So much to look at and so much to be outraged about. I'll get to Florida State in a minute. But what is going on with TCU? Committee members watched the Horned Frogs skate by Kansas on Nov. 15, right? They aren’t part of an alternate universe in which TCU beat Baylor? We can confirm this? I just can’t believe a win over Minnesota is enough to keep TCU ranked ahead of Baylor if the Bears beat Kansas State this weekend and look good doing it. It makes no sense. A few weeks ago committee chair Jeff Long said TCU boasted an impressive win over a Top 25 team in Minnesota. Then the committee kept Minnesota at No. 25 after the Golden Gophers lost. Minnesota finally dropped out of the Top 25 this Tuesday, and Long changed his comment to TCU having a good win over "a team outside the Top 25" with a plus-.500 record. This is great. This is so fun.
As for Florida State, sure. If the committee wants to put the 'Noles at No. 4 for the shock value, go ahead. It makes for great television. But if they end the season undefeated and win the ACC by beating a 10-win Georgia Tech team that just beat Georgia, they deserve to be higher than No. 4. I don't care if they're winning ugly. They're winning. They haven't lost. They're the only team that can say that -- not just in the Power Five, but in the entire FBS. Sooner or later the committee has to reward a team for beating everyone on its schedule while everyone else couldn't.
Plus, Florida State’s schedule isn't as bad as people make it seem. Nonconference wins over Oklahoma State, Notre Dame and Florida aren't incredible, but they’re not insignificant. The ‘Noles scheduled quality programs. Wins over Clemson, Louisville and (possibly) Georgia Tech aren't worse than any of TCU's victories.
Am I missing something here, Gabriel? Is the committee doing anything other than a grandiose troll job on national TV? Or is it setting a precedent for future years that we're going to have to live with?
Gabriel Baumgaertner: Knowingly or not, the committee is valuing week-by-week performances more than teams’ entire bodies of work. This is why Florida State continues to be punished. The 'Noles keep scuffling against opponents with half of their talent (even if, say, Boston College remains underrated), while TCU erased memories of its scare at Kansas by demolishing a vastly improved Texas team on the road. It's a daring approach for the committee to keep dropping Florida State for its lackluster wins, but it's not terribly consistent with how it has evaluated the rest of the Top 25. Personally? I agree with it. Florida State hasn't looked like a national powerhouse throughout conference play and, excluding tailback Dalvin Cook and safety Jalen Ramsey, its stars played a particularly unsightly game last weekend. The committee may as well admit that it favors perceived in-season improvement instead of staunchly clinging to the importance of “body of work,” because its application of that standard has been arbitrary at best.
Hey, Ben? How would you feel if you were Baylor? Yes, Texas Tech is bad and the Bears struggled late in last Saturday’s 48-46 win over the Red Raiders. But TCU rises again while Art Briles and friends remain stuck two spots outside the top four. If they win this weekend against Kansas State, will they still be excluded?
BG: If I were Baylor I would feel like the smelly kid. If I were Baylor I would feel like the kid who gets picked last at recess. If I were Baylor I would feel like the younger sibling who is constantly overshadowed because his older brother was named prom king, or got into his top-choice college, or landed a date with the pretty girl at school. But in this case the committee’s evaluation of the Bears is puzzling, mostly since Baylor’s résumé may be just as good as TCU’s.
• TCU beat Oklahoma at home 37-33. Baylor beat Oklahoma on the road 48-14.
• TCU’s nonconference foes other than Minnesota? Samford and SMU.
• Baylor rallied from 21 points down to beat TCU 61-58 on Oct. 11.
TCU is a great team. It deserves to be in contention for the top four. But the growing rankings divide between Baylor and TCU seems absurd, and even if the Bears beat Kansas State -- a result that’s far from a given, particularly with Bryce Petty attempting to play a week after suffering a concussion -- they would likely require help (and not just from a PR firm) to lock up a spot in the playoff field.
What are your thoughts, Martin? And what do you make of Arizona climbing into the mix at No. 7?
MR: I don’t understand how Ohio State is still ranked ahead of Baylor. The Buckeyes lost to Virginia Tech (6-6) and beat Navy (6-5 heading into its game against Army), Kent State (2-9) and Cincinnati (8-3 entering its matchup with Houston) out of conference. That nonconference slate is better than Baylor's, but not considerably. Baylor's best wins are over No. 3 (TCU) and No. 20 (Oklahoma). Ohio State's best win is over No. 8 (Michigan State). That's it. That's the only Top 25 win the Buckeyes have. Baylor's road loss at West Virginia is better (if a loss can be better) than Ohio State's home loss to Virginia Tech. We're spending so much time arguing about Baylor being ranked behind TCU, but why is Baylor ranked behind Ohio State, too? Is it because the Buckeyes beat Minnesota? Oh my gosh, that's it. The committee is in the pocket of Big Gopher. That's what this is about. Goldy Rules Everything Around Me. GREAM.
As for Arizona, I love seeing Rich Rodriguez in the playoff picture. Remember earlier this fall when Oregon's 31-24 loss to Arizona was considered a bad loss? That feels like a lifetime ago. The Wildcats have 10 wins. They beat the teams currently ranked No. 2 (Oregon), No. 17 (Arizona State) and No. 23 (Utah). Their two losses came against teams ranked No. 15 (UCLA) and No. 25 (USC). I think the committee is high on the Pac-12 as a whole, as well it should be. And Arizona came out of the Pac-12 South, which had five teams go 8-4 or better. This is a really good team!
Here’s my question, Gabriel: Does two-loss Arizona get into the playoff over a one-loss Ohio State or Baylor if the Wildcats win the Pac-12 title on Friday?
GB: If Arizona wins, I think Baylor is in, Ohio State is out, Oregon is out. I'm of the conviction that if Baylor throttles No. 9 Kansas State this weekend, the committee will be left with no choice but to include the Bears and rank them over TCU. Otherwise any rendering of 'head-to-head' as a determining factor is false. If Baylor wins convincingly, the committee would have to justify excluding it based off of its weak non-conference schedule. That's harsh.
If Arizona were to beat Oregon again, that would give the Wildcats two wins over Oregon, one over Utah and one over Arizona State. Its two losses (USC and UCLA) are to teams inside the committee's top 25. Plus, fairly or not, the committee may frown on Oregon losing to the same team twice. Committee chairman Jeff Long indicated that Ohio State's role "has not changed" even with J.T. Barrett's injury, but it would take a convincing win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game to rank the Buckeyes over a team as hot as Arizona.
Unpredictability reigns, but remember, folks! Four teams competing for a title is better than two!