What the CFP selection committee taught us: Week 12

The committee has been pretty inconsistent this season in how it adjusts its rankings from week to week. Two weeks ago, in its second rankings of the year, the committee went with chalk. Teams that lost dropped a few (inconsistent) places, while other teams just slid up to take those places. Last week, we saw something much more similar to what we were used to. The committee was re-ranking teams and adjusting based on re-evaluations of the whole field’s resumes.

This week, the committee went somewhere in between. There were a lot of bland “poll mentality” rankings, with teams just sliding up to fill gaps left by teams that lost. But there were also several important points that the committee showed in how the members slid down teams that lost. Also — and probably most importantly — Kirby Hocutt (pictured above) finally gave us some important information in his ESPN interview and following conference call.

What the CFP Selection Committee Taught Us: Week 12

Before I get into any discussion of rankings, I’m going to get into something very important that Kirby Hocutt said.

Hocutt was asked if the resumes of Ohio State and Penn State are close. As I’ve been saying in CFP Implications for just about a month now, the top teams have resumes that are far superior to those behind them. There is no real second tier of contenders.

Well, Kirby Hocutt confirmed that tonight, when he made clear that there is much more than a small separation between the two resumes. And, to those who still think that a Big Ten champion Penn State would jump Ohio State, I would just like to point this out: right now, Ohio State’s resume is far better than Penn State’s. In terms of resume value, Ohio State can add a win over Michigan, while Penn State can add wins over Michigan State and Wisconsin. A win over Michigan State is not meaningful this year. So you can an OSU win over No. 3 Michigan and a Penn State win over No. 6 Wisconsin to the respective resumes. What about that would close the admittedly large gap between Ohio State and Penn State? The committee can always change its mind within the next two weeks, but if the members stick to the sentiments expressed by Hocutt tonight, Ohio State will be a Playoff lock with a win over Michigan this Saturday.

On to the rankings themselves. Louisville only lost six spots after a brutal loss, and we have seen teams punished more for losses that aren’t as bad. On the other hand, Louisville fell to the bottom of the “top tier” of two-loss teams, right in front of all of the top three-loss teams. Florida jumped eight spots for a close win over LSU. This also makes sense in the committee’s usual logic, even if LSU isn’t ranked right now. Florida doesn’t have many negatives on its resume because of losses, but there weren’t really any valuable wins either. With a win over LSU this week, even though the Tigers dropped out of the rankings, Florida now has a win that makes it look much better. Expect a similar — though probably not as sizable — jump if Florida beats Florida State this year.

Speaking of LSU, I should mention another interesting comment that Hocutt made. He said that even though LSU isn’t ranked, the coaches in the room know that LSU is a valuable team and wouldn’t want to play the Tigers. He had said something similar in explaining USC’s big jump last week. For two straight weeks, Hocutt has mentioned that being “a team the coaches wouldn’t want to play” as a positive for a team when ranking it. It’s hard to quantify exactly what that meant to the committee, especially since LSU didn’t crack this week’s Top 25, but it’s something that we should keep in mind as we see what the committee does and says moving forward.

Moving down in the rankings, there are a few teams I want to highlight. West Virginia only dropped four spots after getting blown out by Oklahoma. This is a bit surprising, as West Virginia was the team that many considered the most disrespected by the committee coming into this week. The Mountaineers still really don’t have any valuable wins, but having a second loss — in blowout fashion, no less — didn’t seem to hurt them so much. Similarly, Washington State didn’t drop out of the rankings after a loss to Colorado. This is a trend we saw from the committee in the past two years (last year especially), but not really this year. When a team loses to a better team in close — or relatively close — fashion, the loser doesn’t really drop. That’s what we saw with Washington State this week.

The committee placed two AAC teams in the rankings this week. Houston earned its way in after collecting its second Top 11 (by this week’s rankings) win. Navy, who beat Houston earlier this year, also got in at No. 25. The Midshipmen are behind the Cougars even with a head-to-head win, though Houston clearly has two wins far superior to anything that Navy has. In fact, Navy’s earlier win over Houston looking better was probably a big factor in Navy finally moving into the rankings this week. Even though it’s at the very bottom, this is an excellent example of the committee re-evaluating resumes week by week. There was nothing in particular about Navy’s blowout win over ECU that would have made the Midshipmen jump Texas A&M for that No. 25 spot. But because Navy’s earlier win over Houston now became more valuable, the Midshipmen were able to move into the rankings.

I just want to close by pointing out an incredible stat. There are only five teams that have been ranked in every single installation of these CFP selection committee rankings since they started in 2014. Four of them are pretty obvious: Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, and Florida State. The fifth team might surprise you. The Utah Utes have also been ranked in every single committee ranking. That was in a bit of danger when Utah was upset by Oregon this week, but Utah stayed in the rankings at No. 22. If Utah loses again next week to Colorado, the Utes’s streak would be in serious jeopardy. Speaking of Utah being ranked, by the way, I should point out that the Pac 12 — much maligned all season for not having many ranked teams and having no Playoff contender other than Washington — now leads all conferences with six ranked teams.

[Photo Credit: ESPN]

About Yesh Ginsburg

Yesh has been a fan and student of college football since before he can remember. He spent years mastering the intricacies of the BCS and now keeps an eye on the national picture as teams jockey for College Football Playoff positioning.