Doth mine eyes deceive me? It appears that the CFP committee has put together a reasonable ranking for the first time this season and possibly ever.
How long will this bout with reality last? Who’s to say, the CFP committee doesn’t have the greatest track record with these things. But for one glorious week, we can put our pitchforks away.
I was fully prepared for the mental gymnastics required to keep Cincinnati out of the top four after No. 3 Oregon got absolutely obliterated, opening up a top-four spot for the Bearcats to slide into. Instead, the CFP committee put Cincy at No. 4, and while I think there’s an argument for the Bearcats to be one rank higher, this placement is reasonable.
In a lot of ways, the CFP committee was helped by the results of this past week. Ohio State demolishing Michigan State into another galaxy meant the Michigan-Michigan State debate died immediately. Utah creaming Oregon meant the Oregon-Ohio State debate died immediately. Those were the two most controversial aspects of the CFP Rankings, and the committee was spared from having to make those decisions again. For that, they should be thankful.
My biggest qualm with this week’s CFP Rankings is how low Utah is. The Utes are No. 19, climbing just four spots after whooping on the same Ducks team the CFP committee continued to keep in the top four for weeks, 38-7. I expected a top-15 ranking for Utah, or at least a lot closer to that, but instead the Utes have to settle for barely escaping the top 20.
But if that’s my only real complaint about these rankings, then they’re pretty good. That feels weird to say, but it’s true. That doesn’t mean I have any trust in the committee to get it right, though.
What These CFP Rankings Set Us Up For
This rivalry week, a handful of top-10 teams will play one another, and more will be in action against teams that could do some damage. One of Ohio State or Michigan will eliminate itself from top-four contention with a loss, and the same goes for Oklahoma State or Oklahoma. Alabama has a trip to Auburn, and the Iron Bowl has tripped up the Crimson Tide in years past when it probably shouldn’t have, and Notre Dame at an upset-minded Stanford team that has been quite poor this season but also have a win against Oregon under its belt, illustrating that it can still get up for a big game. And of course, Cincinnati has to keep winning when it goes to East Carolina for its final regular season contest.
The winner of the Ohio State-Michigan game will be in the top four next week with the loser locked outside of it, and there’s little doubt about that. The winner of Oklahoma State-Oklahoma will probably not be in the top four next week, but if that team were to also win in the Big 12 Championship Game, then it would be a possibility. If Georgia beats Georgia Tech this week, it sure feels like the Bulldogs are a lock for the CFP, even if they lose to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. For the Crimson Tide, it’s quite clear – beat Auburn and Georgia, and you’re in.
The path is a bit murkier for Notre Dame and even Cincinnati. The Irish will have to rely on teams around them losing, though with there being eight realistic candidates for four spots right now and two of them guaranteed to be eliminated this week, the door is open. If Alabama loses either of its next two games, that’s a spot open. If Cincinnati loses either of its next two games, that’s a spot open. If the Ohio State-Michigan winner loses to the Big Ten West rep in the conference title game, that’s a spot open. At the very least, those are spots open for Notre Dame to jump, even if a two-loss team were given the nod at No. 4.
Now that Cincinnati is in the top four, it would stand to reason that it controls its own destiny. However, I personally have zero faith whatsoever in the CFP committee to view it that way. I could envision a world where Oklahoma State or Oklahoma wins this weekend, wins in the Big 12 Championship Game, and leaps over an undefeated Cincinnati.
But with how everything shook out last week, it’s becoming more and more difficult for the committee to deny the Bearcats. Other than a one-loss Big 12 champ jumping Cincinnati, there aren’t really any other realistic scenarios for the AAC heavyweight to be pushed back without losing. The only other way it could happen is it the committee were to include a two-loss team (likely Alabama or Ohio State/Michigan) over an undefeated Bearcats, and if that happens, then we rightfully riot.
Last week, I mocked the idea that things would “work themselves out,” an excuse often bandied about by CFP committee apologists. I still mock it and find it to be a ridiculous reason for accepting unacceptable rankings that do have serious impacts on the sport, but last week did do a lot to help “work itself out.” But that doesn’t mean this week and the conference championship week won’t make it messier in return.