College Football Playoff rankings: Head games with Michigan, Michigan State, and more takeaways

College Football Playoff rankings: Head games with Michigan, Michigan State, and more takeaways

The College Football Playoff committee set an inconsistent precedent with the reveal of the second set of rankings Tuesday. 

The head-to-head debate is going to be more head-scratching than ever now. The committee placed Michigan at No. 6, one spot ahead of Michigan State at No. 7. 

“It was discussed that Michigan might be the more complete team,” CFP chairman Gary Barta said on the ESPN telecast. “The discussion in the room went back and forth, but at the end of the day we felt Michigan was the better team this week.” 

Follow-up question for Mr. Barta: “What about last week?” 

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The Spartans beat the Wolverines 37-33 on Oct. 30 in East Lansing, Mich., in one of the best games of the year. The shelf life on Kenneth Walker III’s five-TD performance lasted seven days. Sure, the Spartans lost to Purdue last week, but that head-to-head victory against a rival went out the door. 

It will cause snickers in Ann Arbor and outrage in East Lansing, but either way it is wrong. The committee is sending some mixed messaging. After all, No. 3 Oregon is one spot ahead of No. 4 Ohio State, and that is in large part because of the Ducks’ 35-28 victory against the Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on Sept. 11. 

Could the committee swap Ohio State and Oregon in a few weeks and use the Ducks’ loss to Stanford and the notion that the Buckeyes are the “more complete team” as a double-sided justification? You bet it could. 

Could the committee swap out Notre Dame with Cincinnati if the Bearcats slip up the next three weeks despite the fact the Irish lost 24-13 in a head-to-head matchup on Oct. 2? Absolutely, they could, if Notre Dame runs the table with a schedule full of Power 5 opponents (albeit mediocre ones). 

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Of the three losing teams in those top-10 showdowns, the Wolverines were the only one who lost on the road. That’s still a thin metric knowing the Spartans rallied from a 30-14 deficit in the third quarter to win the game. But it is one the committee showed it can define its way at any time. 

It opens the door for low-hanging criticism; mainly because the committee openly devalued an in-state rivalry where that game is supposed to weigh a little more. That was the biggest game between the Spartans and Wolverines since the 1960s, and this decision goes against the grain of conventional competition. If Michigan State loses again (likely at Ohio State on Nov. 20) then, sure, put the Wolverines ahead (if they beat Penn State this week). At that point, two losses would be more than one. 

Barta tried to make light of the decision by saying that the Michigan-Michigan State debate will continue. He joked, “Just wait until next week.”

We should not have to. That is what the head-to-head games are for. Take notes, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Your time is coming. 

Here are a three more takeaways from the second set of CFP rankings: 

Still no love for Oklahoma 

Oklahoma is one of two remaining Power 5 schools at 9-0, and the Sooners have arguably the most-exciting quarterback in the FBS in Caleb Williams. The Sooners stayed put at No. 8 after a bye week. 

That’s also wrong. Sporting News put the Sooners at No. 3 in its Week 11 College Football Playoff picture, and we are sticking to that story. Head-to-head should matter, but staying unbeaten in a Power 5 conference should have value, too.

If the Sooners sweep No. 13 Baylor, Iowa State and No. 10 Oklahoma State and win the Big 12 championship, then they should be in. Otherwise, what are we doing? 

Two-loss Texas A&M has a look 

No two-loss team has ever made the College Football Playoff, but No. 11 Texas A&M’s path is anything but inconceivable. If the Aggies win out and No. 2 Alabama loses the Iron Bowl to No. 17 Auburn, then Texas A&M is going to the SEC championship game by virtue of head-to-head victories against the Crimson Tide and Tigers. 

What if Texas A&M pulled the unthinkable at that point and knocked off No. 1 Georgia? Hey, they beat Alabama. Would that resume be enough to knock out a one-loss Oregon or Ohio State? The committee told you twice how much they don’t like Oklahoma, a school that is leaving the Big 12 for the SEC soon. 

UTSA gets Group of 5 love 

The Roadrunners (9-0) checked in at No. 23. UTSA ranks ninth in the FBS with 39.9 points per game, and running back Sincere McCormick will be on your fantasy football team soon. 

The door is slightly open for UTSA to take that New Year’s Day Six berth if Cincinnati loses. Those are the only two G5 schools in the CFP rankings; a stark contrast from the AP Top 25. UTSA is ranked No. 15 in that poll, and there are five G5 schools in those rankings. The committee is making it clear that it is better to be a three-loss team in a Power 5 conference than a one-loss team in the G5. 





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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.