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College Football Playoff Ranking Reaction: The Good, Bad and the Ugly

The two Mitten State teams continue to fuel debate, while Cincinnati waits for the front four to stumble.

Another week down, another CFP ranking show over.

Aside from the Michigan-Michigan State debacle (yes, the Committee still has the one-loss Wolverines ahead of the one-loss Spartans, who beat Michigan about two weeks ago), this ranking reveal lacked the anticipation of the previous weeks. Aside from Oklahoma’s fall outside of the top 10, no major changes unfolded.

The Sooners found themselves falling from eighth to 13th with the loss at Baylor, and because of it, Wake Forest slid into the Top 10 at No. 10. Otherwise, all was quiet on the CFP rankings front.

Except, of course, for the two Mitten State teams, which still drew harsh criticism across college football.

The Good

Cincinnati remained in place at No. 5, well positioned to jump into the top four if any of the four in front of it stumble. And that’s probably a more likely scenario than not. No. 3 Oregon has to play Utah twice, and No. 2 Alabama gets Georgia in the SEC championship game. No. 4 Ohio State, meanwhile, has two top-10 teams left on the schedule in Michigan and Michigan State (though one of those three Big Ten teams will likely be in the top four if they ultimately win the Big Ten with one loss).

However, CFP chair Gary Barta hinted that the Bearcats schedule could impact their future ranking after teams behind them, such as No. 9 Oklahoma State and the two Michigan teams, complete their schedule. In fact, he called the Bearcats schedule strength—ranked No. 100 by Sagarin—an “issue.”

“Notre Dame keeps winning so that win looks more impressive each week,” Barta said before adding, “Strength of schedule comes up each week with Cincinnati. As games go forward, we'll continue to watch but strength of schedules has been one of the issues.”

Is this a sign the Bearcats would be left out for a two-loss Big Ten team or a two-loss Alabama? Or a one-loss Oklahoma State? Maybe. He later called Cincinnati’s position at No. 5 “rock solid,” but said there was “great discussion” about where to place the Bearcats in comparison with No. 6 Michigan.

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The Bad

The Committee hates the Pokes! OK, maybe that’s too strong of an accusation. But Mike Gundy’s team, 9–1, continues to pile up points and play some of the country’s best defenses despite finding itself ranked No. 9, behind a host of other one-loss teams.

Of those eight teams ranked ahead of it, only Notre Dame has a better strength of schedule at No. 21. The Cowboys have the 25th-ranked schedule. They beat Baylor, won at Boise State (never easy) and recently clobbered both West Virginia and TCU.

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But have no fear, Cowboys fans. You’ve got a shot to pick up two more quality wins— against Oklahoma and whoever the opponent in the Big 12 championship game (Oklahoma again or Baylor again). Will those victories be enough to leap a one-loss Big 12 champion OSU into the top four? Barta—the Committee too—doesn’t dabble in projections, so he steered clear of that question when asked.

The Ugly

Guess who’s back! It’s the raging debate between Michigan and Michigan State. Despite the No. 6 Wolverines losing to the No. 7 Spartans on Oct. 31, Sparty remains a spot behind its archrival.

You’re probably asking yourself why this matters. There are three more weeks before the final rankings are revealed. This will sort itself out, after all. Michigan State plays at Ohio State this weekend and Michigan gets the Buckeyes to end the regular season.

Maybe it doesn’t matter, but it does cast a pall on the Committee’s work. Barta again claimed that Michigan is the more “complete team” and cited statistics to back up that point. In every meaningful stat, he said, the Wolverines are better.

Except in the most important stat of them all: the score of the actual game. Michigan State coach Mel Tucker joined ESPN’s broadcast after the latest rankings were revealed. Asked about head-to-head results, Tucker said, “I think it's important. That's why you play the games right?"

That’s what we thought too, Mel!

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The Bonus

Oregon and Ohio State are catching Alabama in the Committee’s mind. During the first two weeks of rankings, Barta made clear that the Crimson Tide was solidly the group’s No. 2 team. And this week? Not so much. The discussion among Nos. 2–4 stretched deeper than it had in weeks past. All of the sudden, it seems, those three teams are together on a tier. "Two, three and four was an area where the conversation was longer. There was good conversation about where Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State should be placed,” he said.

The AAC has a second team in the CFP’s top 25, which is good for their other team, Cincinnati. If the two meet in the AAC championship game, then the Bearcats (maybe) will notch a top-25 victory if the game’s result doesn’t lead to the Committee bumping the Cougars.

More College Football Coverage:

SI's Top 10: Cincinnati Major Winner in Frenzy-Filled Week 11
Florida's Samford Debacle Should Be Final Nail in the Coffin for Dan Mullen
Michigan Flips the Script in Critical Win Over PSU: 'If That’s Not Grit, What Is?'
Future Playoff Watch: What a 12-Team Bracket Would Look Like After Week 11

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