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CFB Rankings Are Capricious – And Are Going to Hurt Some Team

Photo Credit: Associated Press

I look at the latest college football rankings and I shake my head.

Yes, I understand both major polls (Associated Press and Coaches) are separate from the College Football Playoff selection committee rankings that begin next month, but both are generally a mirror of what the thinking is when it comes to who should be at the top of the college football world.

If this is the thinking, wow, are we way off.

To me, the rankings can be capricious – and they’re going to cost some team dearly.

For instance, why did Michigan State drop in this week’s polls? The Spartans went from second in both polls to third in the Coaches poll and fourth in the AP, clearly because of the struggles they had in beating Purdue by only a field goal. MSU needed to bat down a pass at midfield to stop a late Boilermakers rally and preserve the victory.

Tell me … how much different is that than Ohio State struggling and needing to bat down a pass in the end zone against Indiana on the final play of the game to prevent the Hoosiers from tying the game and preserving the victory? Yet, the Buckeyes didn’t drop at all from the No. 1 spot – nor did they drop two weeks ago when they barely beat Northern Illinois by a touchdown.

Surely the argument will be made that Michigan State struggled against an average Purdue squad, and the two teams that surpassed them – TCU and Baylor – blew out their respective opponents in Texas and Texas Tech. Valid, sure. Yet I would argue that Texas and Texas Tech are both average teams. You play the schedule put before you, so are we now back to the old “winning with style points” argument that the CFP poll tried to eliminate?

I supposed you could also argue that all this will sort itself out. Michigan State and Ohio State play each other, and TCU and Baylor play each other. These polls will look dramatically different come Thanksgiving. Heck, they could look dramatically different come Halloween for all we know.

That’s why I still say there’s only one solution – an eight-team College Football Playoff.

This allows for the kind of capriciousness we see on a week to week basis and, frankly, what we saw last year when the Selection Committee chose Ohio State as the fourth and final team for the playoff over TCU. I’m not saying that choice was wrong. Far from it. I believe the Committee made the right move in taking a team that won its conference championship game with a third-string quarterback over a team that didn’t even have to play a conference title game.

But eight teams takes some of the doubt out, removes some of the ambiguity. It could be structured in a way that gives the champions of the Power 5 conferences an automatic berth into the playoff and allows for three at-large selections. Could be the runnerups from the conferences, could be teams that lost one game and didn’t make the conference title game, could be a team from a smaller conference with an unbeaten record, whatever.

Will that alleviate all the problems? Of course not. When the BCS was set up to pick the top two teams, No. 3 was always on the outside looking in and was upset. The College Football Playoff takes the top four teams, and already in its first year No. 5 had a valid argument for being included. An eight-team playoff? Of course, No. 9 is going to claim it should be included.

Nothing is perfect.

But if these rankings alter the mindset of some Committee members, it has to be better than what we have.

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