Gut Reactions: Keep it Simple, Ohio State's Path is Clear and More From the Latest College Football Playoff Rankings

By Eric Seger on November 22, 2016 at 8:10 pm
Gut reactions to the latest College Football Playoff rankings.

In their infinite wisdom, the College Football Playoff committee released another crop rankings on Tuesday night. Hardly anything changed after, for the most part, predictable results from the weekend. Rivalry games grace us with their presence in a few days.

Even though the results were pretty much what we expected, let's talk about some ins and outs of the latest rankings.

Ohio State's Path to the Playoff is Pretty Clear

Saturday's matchup between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan is essentially a Playoff quarterfinal game. Should the Buckeyes win, it would be a shock if the committee kept them out of the top-4 when its all said and done even if they do not a chance to play for the Big Ten Championship.

If Ohio State takes care of business, it will have a 3-1 record against teams in the current top eight of the Playoff rankings. The lone loss, of course, is to Penn State, who can make it to Indianapolis with a win against Michigan State at home Saturday afternoon.

What happens in the Big Ten Championship will have a significant impact on Ohio State and the Playoff but we're not there yet. It just seems difficult to imagine a scenario where the committee says no to a team that has road wins at No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 8 Oklahoma, a win over No. 3 Michigan and the only loss of its season being at Penn State under the lights on a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown.

However, it is clear the committee is anxious to see what happens this weekend.

“I wouldn't say they've separated themselves, Ohio State, in the group of teams that are 2-5,” committee chair Kirby Hocutt said on ESPN. Hocutt added that the Buckeyes' narrow win at Michigan State was a talking point this week among the committee, which is why the gap between teams 2-5 is close.

It should widen in a few days.

“We spent a great deal of time on teams 2-5. There's not a lot of separation there,” Hocutt said. “Ohio State has three wins against top 25 times. Michigan has three good, solid wins against top 10 teams. Clemson is sitting there as well. Washington has top 25 wins but their strength of schedule is not where the others above it right now.”

If Ohio State wins on Saturday, the committee should see its wins over Michigan, Oklahoma and Wisconsin in higher regard than Washington or Penn State's victories. But that might not be the final say. It is hard to know what will be since there are only 12 people on the committee.

Let's All Take a Second and Remember USC Has Three Losses

The funny thing about winning in college football is that it is better than losing. It is a novel concept.

Since USC made the switch to Sam Darnold at quarterback, the Trojans have been rolling and are winners of seven straight. ESPN analysts Joey Galloway, David Pollack, Danny Kanell and Kirk Herbstreit spent a considerable amount of time discussing USC's No. 12 ranking. The latter believes the Trojans belong at No. 7, ahead of 2-loss teams Penn State, Oklahoma, Colorado, Oklahoma State and Louisville.

“Southern California is a team the committee has been impressed with since they made the change at the quarterback position,” Hocutt said. “It's a team the committee sees is playing very well right now.”

What is wild is the Trojans have THREE losses. The other teams above them either have zero, one or two losses.

I agree the Trojans are hot right now and it would be quite the task to play them. Just like Ohio State in 2014, the Trojans are a much different team now than in the beginning of the season.

But they have three losses. The Buckeyes had one. Let's move on and quit wasting our time and energy on them.

Welcome Back, Texas Tom

Tom Herman's Houston Cougars reminded everyone (including me) last Thursday that they are a very good team with a 36-10 drubbing over Heisman Trophy favorite Lamar Jackson and Louisville. Losses to Navy and SMU marred Houston's chances to crash the Playoff party but the Cougars are back at No. 20 this week.

Before you start wondering what this means for Herman's future job prospects, I think it is necessary to realize the AAC is not a terrible conference and is earning some respect. The fact that Navy is ranked in the top 25 of these rankings at No. 25 is telling.

If Houston wins on Saturday against Memphis, Herman will secure a pair of 10-win seasons in his first two as a head coach. Not too shabby.

This Whole Thing is Going to Set Precedents

How the committee views a team based on its on-field performance and résumé will go a long way to determining who makes it to the College Football Playoff. Things could change in a big way if chaos rears its head this weekend but if every team that is favored wins, the Big Ten has a solid shot of getting two teams into the top-4.

Hocutt said on a conference call that there is a significant difference in the clusters around Ohio State (2-5) and Penn State (6-11). That is good news for the Buckeyes should the Nittany Lions win the Big Ten. But if you put Ohio State in, you have to put a 2-loss Big Ten Champion in too, right?

It only makes sense based off of the small sample size we have with the Playoff in that only conference champions have made it the last two years. Washington and/or Penn State losing this week will obviously help Ohio State either in knocking out another 1-loss team or giving the Buckeyes a chance to play in Indianapolis.

There is still so much left to figure out.

Nick Saban Doesn't Care What You Think

Yes, the SEC just held its annual #ChickenshitSaturday last weekend. No, Alabama didn't lose. The Crimson Tide haven't lost yet this year, one of two Division I teams—along with Western Michigan—that can say that.

Alabama is such a clear No. 1 that it hardly is even discussed on the rankings show or conference call. It's like one Playoff spot is already locked up because, well, it pretty much is.

Should Ohio State get into the Playoff without a conference title it seems very likely it will be ranked No. 4 and meet Alabama once again in a semifinal. How much fun would that be?

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