Three weeks into the weekly College Football Playoff Rankings, strength of schedule is the phrase on everybody’s tongue. Unlike the traditional polls, the playoff committee has proven to have no problem with ranking certain teams ahead of others with fewer losses, based on SOS. Likewise, other teams with weaker schedules have suffered the consequences. With such an apparent heavy emphasis on body of work, it would seem we are working towards finding the best four teams. However, there are some interesting dilemmas at hand. Florida State, Baylor and Nebraska are three teams I’ve yet to figure out, and I think the committee too.
Say what you want about Florida State, but they are undefeated in a power five conference. All they’re doing is winning. Yet, in this weeks ranking the committee dropped FSU from No. 2 to 3 in favor of one-loss Oregon. I have no problem conceding that Oregon’s schedule is tougher than FSU’s, but is the difference so much so to merit moving them ahead of FSU? Oregon’s three best victims include Michigan State, UCLA, and Utah. A combined record of 21-7. FSU’s three best wins are Clemson, Notre Dame and Louisville. A combined record of 21-7. What this says to me, is despite equal records, the committee values Oregon playing in a tougher conference, and the fact that UCLA and Utah play in the same conference, to the point that one more loss than FSU is negligible. While I understand the logic, and the fact that Florida State has played ugly, going undefeated is not simple. FSU may play in one of the weaker power five conference, but they still play live opponents. Auburn, Ohio State, Oregon, Georgia, and Baylor all lost to unranked opponents; it’s no rarity. If FSU can finish the season sans a loss, credit is due to them. I can’t say with absolute confidence FSU is one of the four best teams in college football, but I’m willing to recognize their schedule is not as piss poor as the general public says. The Seminoles are a player.
The Baylor Bears are another team being punished by a weak schedule. Despite having beaten TCU and carrying the same record, they are three spots below the Horned Frogs. It has been said that the committee will look very strongly at head-to-head matchups, but their commitment to strength of schedule seems to be even stronger. Baylor could very well be left out of the four-team playoff in favor of TCU. They still have a game against Kansas State to add to their resume, but if TCU goes undefeated the rest of the way it may not be enough. It will be interesting to see how the committee handles this situation as it plays out. I’m not sure how legitimate Baylor is, but their domination of Oklahoma impressed me very much. It’s their loss to West Virginia that is hurting them dearly.
Nebraska is my third dilemma. Of the two other talked about teams here, Nebraska undoubtedly has the weakest schedule. The biggest win they can boast of to-date is a non-conference victory over Miami (Fla.). They played close with Michigan State, but that 27-22 loss certainly does merit them being ranked lower than the Spartans. I’m with the committee here. Nebraska has been an average program in years past, and I’m not as willing to put my money on them as I am with FSU and Baylor. We’ll learn a lot more about the Cornhuskers this weekend when they take on Wisconsin.
At the end of the day, what we’re trying to get to is finding the best team in the country. Those who lose two or three conference games have no business in the playoff, yet with such variance amongst each teams schedule, it will be interesting to see how the committee ranks schools such as FSU, Baylor and Nebraska in the long run. Of course, with four weeks still left to go, it’s more likely that the teams will sort it out themselves on the field.