Last week’s fake College Football Playoff debate was between No. 4 Texas A&M and No. 5 Washington Huskies . CFP chairman Kirby Hocutt cited the one-loss Aggies’ strength of schedule for why they were ahead of undefeated Washington.
This week’s fake debate is between No. 4 Washington and No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes . While the Huskies are certainly deserving at No. 4, the Buckeyes theoretically would be ahead if the CFP’s same stated logic was applied from last week.
“Last week there was a close margin between the No. 4 team and No. 5, and at that particular time, the one-loss team that Washington was being compared to [Texas A&M], their only loss was to Alabama Crimson Tide ,” Hocutt said. “This week the one- loss team in that No. 5 position below Washington is Ohio State, and their loss is to Penn State Nittany Lions . That’s the difference in the eyes of the selection committee. But more than anything, it’s the consistency that we’ve seen week in and week out with Washington and what they’ve shown on the field.”
The more you try to make sense of the weekly rankings, the more your head will hurt. It’s a silly exercise that mainly serves to provide TV programming for ESPN and to box Hocutt into a difficult corner to explain different decisions by 12 people.
This was Hocutt last week explaining Texas A&M vs. Washington: “Washington is a well-balanced team, and they had a good win last week on the road against Utah Utes , but in the committee’s mind, Texas A&M has played a stronger schedule, and at this point in time, beating four teams with winning records, and Washington has only beat two.”
This is Hocutt this week explaining Washington vs. Ohio State, which has three wins over CFP top-25 teams compared to one for the Huskies: “Ohio State [had] a convincing win last week, three wins versus College Football Playoff top-25 teams, and I think as we go forward, we will place quality wins, a high value on those teams that are ranked in the College Football Playoff top 25.”
One week, quality wins matter when deciding No. 4. The next week, quality wins will matter more at a future date. Just flip a coin with the weekly logic.
An argument could be made that inconsistent reasoning isn’t the worst thing for the committee. It shows the committee is truly evaluating teams on a weekly basis, and perhaps correcting past mistakes. Still, the weekly exercise is often confusing to the public when reasons are stated.
The bottom line of this fake debate: It really doesn’t matter. Both teams are in the playoff if they win out. If Ohio State doesn’t lose again, it will have beaten Michigan Wolverines and won the Big Ten championship with one loss. If Washington wins out, it will be an undefeated Pac-12 champion.
The far more interesting question could be what happens if Washington loses one game and gets compared to, for example, one-loss Michigan. But that’s a hypothetical question for another week.
Elsewhere this week on Tuesdays with Kirby …
Auburn Tigers is Texas A&M‘s floor — for now: I received some questions on Twitter about why Texas A&M only dropped from No. 4 to 8 this week after losing to Mississippi State Bulldogs . The Aggies’ Week 3 win at Auburn, which is ranked No. 9, is keeping them from free-falling — at least for now.
“Yes, Texas A&M suffered a bad loss last week to a 4-5 football team,” Hocutt said, “but as the committee deliberated this week’s rankings, the head-to-head win over No. 9 Auburn was a significant component for the selection committee.”
LSU Tigers drops 11 spots after close loss to Alabama: Hocutt said some of the toughest calls were dropping Florida Gators out of the rankings altogether and moving LSU from No. 13 to 24. LSU entered the fourth quarter scoreless against No. 1 Alabama before losing 10-0.
Hocutt noted that LSU had suffered its third loss of the season and “ultimately lost by 10.” But I thought scoring margin doesn’t matter? It only matters if the justification is needed for it to matter. That’s part of the folly of releasing weekly rankings.
How is Oklahoma State Cowboys loss to Central Michigan Chippewas viewed? The Cowboys’ climb up the rankings to No. 13 interests me. Oklahoma State has two losses (Central Michigan and Baylor Bears ) and wins over Pittsburgh Panthers and West Virginia Mountaineers . It’s not that the Cowboys are incorrectly ranked. But I was curious if their loss to Central Michigan due to an officiating error has been a factor in the eyes of the committee.
“We’re viewing it as a loss,” Hocutt said. “It’s not within our purview to decide wins and losses. The committee is aware of what transpired in that game and by the same token believe that we have Oklahoma State ranked in the appropriate spot that they deserve this week.”
Wisconsin Badgers controls its playoff hopes. The Badgers have two losses and are ranked No. 7. But I suspect if they win out, they’re going to the playoff. They would be Big Ten champions with wins over LSU, Nebraska Cornhuskers and Ohio State or Michigan.
Wisconsin continues to be in a better position than No. 6 Louisville Cardinals , which likely won’t play for the ACC championship because of its loss to Clemson Tigers . Hocutt noted that last year at this time there was only one 7-2 team in the top 15; this year there are nine, including the Badgers. Is this the year we see a two-loss team in the playoff?