What We Learned: The CFP Rankings

The College Football Playoff selection committee released their first rankings yesterday and I think it is fair to say that they shocked a lot of people. The first go at the rankings says a lot about what the committee members value and how they are judging the 2017 crop of teams. So lets take look at what we learned yesterday.

1. Schedule Strength is King

The best explanation for Georgia leapfrogging Alabama for the top spot in the CFP’s first rankings is strength of schedule. The Bulldogs victory on the road over a strong Notre Dame team and another victory against a Top 25 team give them the edge over the Crimson Tide whose lone signature win came against a previously overrated Seminoles team in week 1. The committee awarded Notre Dame with the 3rd spot because their lone loss was to the top ranked Bulldogs by a single point. Add in victories over two ranked opponents give them the edge over Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Clemson.

The CFP also clearly does not respect Wisconsin’s 8-0 start placing them 9th with six one-loss teams ahead of them. Washington, another school with a weak schedule, came in at 12 despite likely being the best PAC-12 school in the race this year.

2. In the South Football is King

It is a common gripe for west coasters like myself, that the southern conferences (ACC, SEC, and sometimes the Big-12) are often over-hyped and overrated. The committee obviously doesn’t agree. Three of the top four teams would be in the playoff if it started today. If you look at Alabama and Wisconsin’s schedules side-by-side you would be hard pressed to pick which has been more difficult. Neither team has played a team currently ranked in the Top-25, yet the Tide get the number 2 spot while Wisconsin barely slides into the top ten. The SEC is consistently paraded about as the best conference in college football, however this year the SEC’s out of conference record is just 5-6 while the ACC is even worse at 5-8. However the committee has clearly bought into the belief that the South as a whole is where football is king.  Clemson also is awarded a spot despite a loss to mediocre Syracuse team.

3.  The PAC-12 will not make it to the Playoff

Of the power five conferences the CFP committee was least impressed with the PAC-12. Washington, the PAC-12’s only one loss team, came in at 12 behind three one-loss Big 12 teams and two one-loss Big 10 teams. USC, Arizona, Stanford, and WSU all have two losses and finished ranked but are reasonably on the outside of any playoff. Washington did itself no favors with a loss to Arizona State in Tempe and, as is the norm in the PAC-12, the teams are cannibalizing each other.