The first College Football Playoff Rankings of the 2018 season are out, and even if they’re going to change five more times, the first set of rankings always provides a blueprint for how the committee thinks. Well, until they change their method the next week. Besides, whether this week’s rankings matter isn’t what’s important. What’s important is that we all have opinions on them and that we believe in these opinions wholeheartedly, so let’s break down what the committee got right this week, and more importantly, what it has wrong.
No. 3 LSU — Just right
LSU has a loss; Notre Dame does not. This will be the cause of some controversy, but I think the committee has it correct at the moment. LSU’s loss was on the road against No. 11 Florida, but it has a 20-point win over No. 6 Georgia and a 16-point win over No. 18 Mississippi State. Notre Dame has a three-point win over No. 5 Michigan, but both Stanford and Virginia Tech have let the Irish down as far as their resume is concerned. So even with the loss, when you look at what LSU has done as a whole, it deserves the No. 3 spot over the Irish at the moment. And that happens to be the same mindset the CFP Selection Committee used in putting one-loss (and even two-loss Florida) over UCF.
The good news for Notre Dame is that it’s all a moot point anyway. Either LSU beats No. 1 Alabama on Saturday, and there’s no longer a question it deserves the spot, or it’ll lose and fall. As long as Notre Dame keeps winning whether it’s at No. 4 or No. 3 this week, won’t matter.
No. 8 Washington State — Underrated
I don’t think the Cougars are criminally underrated or anything, but they deserve to be a spot higher. Instead, it’s Oklahoma at No. 7, but let’s compare their resumes. Oklahoma has a three-point loss to No. 17 Texas, which is a strong loss. Washington State’s is a three-point loss on the road against USC. So Oklahoma wins the battle of losses. But let’s look at each team’s wins. Oklahoma’s best win so far this season is a 37-27 win over Iowa State, according to the CFP Rankings, as the Cyclones are at No. 24. But Washington State has wins over Oregon and Stanford, and while the CFP ranks neither of them, I would argue those two wins are worth more than Oklahoma’s top two wins, which would be Iowa State and, I don’t know, Baylor? Army? These two should be flipped.
No. 12 UCF — Just right
UCF fans won’t want to hear it since the Knights are ranked in the top 10 in both the AP Top 25 and Coaches Poll, but this ranking is right. UCF was great in 2017, and its win over Auburn in the Peach Bowl was enough to make you wonder if that team might not have been more competitive in a playoff spot than initially believed. But 2017 doesn’t matter in the 2018 rankings. The Knights are 7-0 and have won 20 straight, but of the seven wins that count this season, what’s the best one? Is it the 31-30 comeback against a 4-4 Memphis team? The 45-14 win over a Pitt team that lost to 1-5 North Carolina?
I’m not saying the Knights aren’t a good team. I think they are, though perhaps team is as good as last season’s team. The problem, however, is the same one UCF faced last season. As a Group of Five team, it just doesn’t have the chance to stack resume wins like everyone else above it in these rankings. Every single team ranked ahead of it has a more impressive win than any the Knights possess. It’s that simple. UCF has to hope teams like South Florida and Houston continue winning so it will have a chance to impress the committee at the end of November.
No. 18 Mississippi State — Overrated
Seriously? A 5-3 Mississippi State team warrants the No. 18 spot in these rankings? Let’s take a look at Mississippi State’s resume. It has a 23-9 win over a 5-3 Auburn team that the committee didn’t deem worthy of ranking, and just this Saturday it beat a 5-3 Texas A&M team that finds itself at No. 20. Texas A&M has a win over Kentucky, so it has earned that ranking, but Mississippi State should be in the twenties as well. You can argue that State’s three losses came against No. 9 Kentucky, No. 11 Florida and No. 3 LSU, and believe me, I understand that. It’s just I also understand how completely overmatched this Bulldogs team looked in those three games, getting outscored 60-16. Maybe the committee’s just trying to give Alabama’s resume a boost it doesn’t even need anyway.
No. 21 NC State — Overrated
When we get to the bottom five teams in this ranking, it’s like pulling teeth, but I’m not sure what NC State has done to earn this ranking. It’s 5-2 with wins over No. 22 Boston College and No. 25 Virginia. Those are nice, but this is also a team that was crushed 41-7 by Clemson and lost last week to No. 19 Syracuse. I would rather see a team like Utah State in the top 25 than NC State. The Aggies might not be playoff contenders, but they’ve done more to earn the spot this season than NC State has in my opinion.
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