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The ever-shifting standards of the College Football Playoff Committee

What on Earth Happened to the CFP Rankings in Just Five Days?

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to expressing outrage over the CFP's final rankings and bowl selections, I realize that I'm a bit late to the party. And it's not the first time that I've been behind when it comes to trendy things; I'm also the guy who just last night heard the Gangnam Style song... and I did the Macarena dance instead.

But I digress.

I may be a bit late in commenting on the final CFP rankings, but sometimes there are some things that are so bizarre -so inexplicable - that you're just flabbergasted that they even occurred in the first place, and words simply fail you. You just sit there, blankly staring, wondering how it's even possible that you observed what you just observed.

That's how I felt after seeing the CFP rankings. Because whatever standards the CFP held in week 15 were abandoned just five days later when the week 16 rankings were released.

Now, to be clear, I have nothing against the teams that were ranked as they were (well, maybe I'm a bit upset that the CFP didn't find a way to rank a 7-5 Stanford team in the top four). But I get that although there are certain things that can be objectively measured in a rankings system, there is also a certain amount of subjectivity too. And that's totally okay (inevitable even) that these subjectivities come out.

What isn't okay, though, is when the subjectivities change week by week (or even day by day) so that the teams vying for top honors don't even know what standards they're being held to. The CFP failed in this regard, and whatever standards existed in week 15 completely changed just five days later when the week 16 rankings came out.

Allow me to demonstrate with two key portions of the rankings:

Exhibit A: Michigan State vs. Mississippi State

In week 15, Michigan State (#8) was ranked ahead of Mississippi State (#10). Now this is important: neither of these teams played during week 16. Both teams had rested! So, Michigan State should be ranked ahead of Mississippi State after week 16 as well, right?


When it came to resting during its rest week, the CFP clearly deemed that Mississippi State was the better team at resting. With that in mind, it's only a logical conclusion that Mississippi State should leapfrog Michigan State.

There really is no explanation for why Mississippi State should have leapfrogged Michigan State - that is, unless Condoleezza Rice and Oliver Luck were still spiteful about Michigan State defeating Stanford in the Rose Bowl last year and decided to punish them appropriately.

And if that is indeed what happened, all I can say is... I approve.


Exhibit B: Florida State vs. TCU

I realize that there's already a lot of controversy over the Big 12's exclusion from the CFP, but again my argument isn't going to be who deserves to be in the playoffs, so much as that the CFP shifted its standards week by week, and was inconsistent in its final rankings.

This is pretty clearly seen between TCU and Florida State. In week 15, one-loss TCU was ranked #3 and undefeated Florida State was ranked #4. You can argue all day long whether this was warranted or not, but the fact remains that after week 15, whatever standards the CFP used to rank the teams had the one-loss TCU team above the undefeated Florida State team.

What happened in week 16? Ohio State mercilessly clobbered Wisconsin. Baylor and TCU won decisively. And Florida State eked out yet another very shaky win.

Now, I can see the argument for why Ohio State or even Baylor should leapfrog TCU based on the games they played in week 16. So, let's just ignore these two teams for a moment, and focus only on Florida State and TCU.

Nothing changed. Well, nothing except that Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby now has a permanent twitch in his eye.
And it's totally understandable that Bowlsby and the Big 12 might be upset. Because if TCU was ahead of Florida State in week 15, then it serves to reason that they should have been ahead of Florida State in week 16, too.


Moving Forward

Yes, we can poke fun at the CFP's selections and its rather obvious inconsistencies and ever-changing week-by-week standards, but the fact remains that the CFP is responsible for the most prestigious honors in college football, and they are directly responsible for tens of millions of dollars of payouts to teams who are given the privilege of competing in a CFP bowl game.

And with the CFP having so much power over who gets so much money - thereby influencing which football programs will then have the financial means to invest in their future successes - don't you think it's only fair that each team should know the standards that they're going to be held to week by week?

Or alternatively, if we must continue with the ever-shifting standards emblematic of this year's CFP, could we at least find a way to rank a 7-5 Stanford team #1?