Two weeks to go and there is still quite to battle to take place for the four slots in the College Football Playoff. The worst loss amongst the top seven contenders is held by Ohio State, but its hard to hold it against them too much considering how much they’ve improved since Sept. 6.Baylor also has an underwhelming loss to West Virginia. TCU, on the other hand, has an impressive win against Kansas State, but lost head-to-head to Baylor. All three of these teams are going to need someone in the top four to maintain hope. Mississippi State and Alabama each only have one win against a top 25 opponent, but with losses to quality opposition have the edge over Baylor, Ohio State, and TCU.
A few seasons ago, the world of baseball analysis was swept up by an increasingly popular way to analyze player performance. Used by some as a key stat to determine season ending award winners and player contract values, Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, shows the extent of a player’s contribution to their team. Some people love this sabermetric; others still aren’t buying into it. Similarly, a new stat has become a key component involved in selecting the four participants in the new College Football Playoff.
As a whole, sports fans love stats, and we love finding ways to analyze which player is better than other players, and which team is better than the other teams. If you’ve been keeping up with the college football playoff talk, especially on the ESPN networks, you may have noticed a new phrase being thrown around by analysts and reporters — game control.
It was about that time. Mississippi State was bound to lose soon enough. They’ve played one of the tougher conference schedules in the SEC, and battled through perfectly, until Alabama. Before the season the writing was on the wall, MSU would be a winning team. But no one expected them to do this well. Against a greater talented Alabama they couldn’t pull out another surprising victory and a week after putting them in my top spot, they’ve now fallen to No. 5. Florida State, after another shaky performance, takes over No. 1. Why, you ask? Because they keep winning. The final three weeks of the season are going to provide an exciting race to make the playoffs between the top seven, and my betting favorites are my current top four.
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.
I’ve finally followed suit with the rest of the nation and moved Mississippi State up to No. 1. They’ve played well enough to earn it, and while I still don’t view them to be as talented as Florida State, you can’t take away their three wins over top 25 teams, which I value more than FSU’s. Wins over Texas A&M and LSU look much stronger today than a week ago, while FSU’s win over Notre Dame looks weaker. The two teams I still haven’t figured out are Baylor and Nebraska. By season’s end I can see them being in dramatically different slots than where they are currently. Part of me wants to place them higher than their respective Nos. 7 and 14, but they’ll have opportunities to earn it on the field. The complete ranking is as follows.
The Playoff Committee’s week 11 ranking is out, so in fitting time here is mine. There are some small differences between ours, most notably at the No. 1 position. Mississippi State is the consensus top team in the nation with very strong wins over LSU and Auburn, but watching FSU in their last two I saw a team who at the flip of a switch can turn into the most dominant team in the nation. MSU on the other hand, has been the most consistent team throughout the season. If it came down to it, I think FSU would beat MSU head-to-head. At No. 3, Auburn is the most dangerous team in the country and has the body of work to prove it, but that one loss is keeping me from placing them first. The entire rankings are as follows, and this week promises to shake things up, but also provide more clarity in regards to teams like Notre Dame, Michigan State, Ohio State, and even Alabama, who also has yet to defeat a top 20 opponent.
I’m introducing my top 15 this week and it starts off with last year’s national champion at the top. Florida State is not my No. 1 team because of last year’s accomplishments, but because they have great talent and have arguably defeated the best competition with their win over Notre Dame Saturday. Of the one loss teams, Oregon is still my favorite. It’s been well covered that their offensive line was hurting at the time of their loss to Arizona (now in the top 15 themselves) and they have a strong win over Michigan State. The entire ranking is as follows.
Two days later, the second last play of the Notre Dame vs. Florida State game is still the subject of debate. With a statement released by the ACC stating the officials made the correct call, most of the national media has deferred to their judgement and tried to let it rest. Unfortunately, if you’re a Notre Dame fan, letting it rest is hard to do. Watching the game live, it was hard to argue with the call. It appeared that Notre Dame receivers CJ Prosise (No. 20) and Will Fuller (No. 7) were pushing, or blocking, the FSU defenders to create space for third receiver Corey Robinson (No. 88) to catch and score the game winning touchdown. After watching replay after replay, however, the call began to look more questionable. For everyone involved, it is best to move on. Both teams are still in contention for the College Football Playoff. Nevertheless, it has become mind boggling for me that so many people still agree with the original call of the officials. At risk of repeating what is now now already all over the internet, I’ve decided to take a stab at breaking down “the play” hopelessly hoping the blinders will be lifted off of the naysayers. Let’s take a closer look at everything involved in “the play” with these five hot points of dispute.
Rarely does a national champion repeat in college football. The intervening factors that come between a 105-plus man roster and an undefeated season are so abundant, that the odds of repeated glory are against that team. Even so, Florida State brings back 13 starters, including Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston, arguably the nations top defense, and another manageable schedule. For these reasons, many are tabbing them defy the odds. I’m not. Though they have their weaknesses, Oregon has, in my opinion, the best player in the nation, Marcus Mariota. The Ducks’ supporting cast is great with a strong offensive line, 1,000-yard rusher, and playmakers on defense. I think this is finally their year. My other two projected playoff teams are Georgia and Oklahoma. I may be taking a small leap with these two teams, but the talent is there for both win their conferences. Potential playoff spoilers that I have listed in my top 25 are Notre Dame, Mississippi, Michigan, and Texas.
I don’t think for anybody the ACC is a hard conference to pick a champion. The obvious answer is Florida State. The question is, who can perhaps challenge them. Among that group are Clemson, North Carolina, Louisville, Virginia Tech and maybe a couple others. The ACC had 11 teams in bowl games last year, so as a conference it shouldn’t be taken lightly. When you add that before last season FSU had a reputation for finding a way to lose a game they shouldn’t, I wouldn’t say the conference title is a guarantee. However, talent for talent, no one matches the Seminoles.