With one more week of college football in the books, the Selection Committee has returned to the drawing board to determine the new rankings. Big changes should be in the works as second ranked LSU fell to fourth ranked Alabama, and number seven Michigan State, eight TCU and thirteen Memphis all suffered their first loss as well. There are still six undefeated teams remaining, though only two of them were placed ahead of one loss Notre Dame in the first rankings. My prediction for the second set of College Football Selection Committee Rankings is as follows.
1 - Clemson
2 - Alabama
3 - Notre Dame
4 - Ohio State
Number one Clemson is fairly straightforward. The Tigers were first place in the first set of rankings and remained undefeated against a strong Florida State team this weekend. They boast a high strength of schedule, get top marks in predictive success metrics like the FPI and Sagarin Ratings and have an undefeated record. No one in college football has done more to grab the top spot than Clemson.
If fans had a problem with the Tide being ranked fourth in the first set of rankings, they'll be equally irked when Alabama moves up to the number two slot. After a dominant performance against the previously second ranked LSU Tigers, however, they deserve it. Alabama ranks top five in numerous strength of schedule and predictive metrics, and in many cases holds the top spot. The only thing that holds them back from a number one ranking is a close loss to Ole Miss early in the season.
Many fans also complained about the Irish and how the committee favors them as much as the old poll systems did. While I don't dispute a bias in the polls due to Notre Dame's pedigree, in this case they've earned it. They have a better strength of schedule than Clemson, but lower predictive metrics and lost to the Tigers head to head on the road, the best possible loss an 8-1 team could have. It's in fact such a good loss that it's almost a credit to their resume rather than a hindrance.
Finally, the Buckeyes slide in at number four. While Ohio State won on the road against Minnesota, I believe the committee has them take a step back in the rankings. This spot could easily belong to Notre Dame depending on whether the committee chooses to focus more on the metrics or more on the "eye test" and last year's national championship. Notre Dame's strength of schedule has improved since last week with a win over a quality Pitt team, while Ohio State's fell slightly. In addition, Ohio State was unimpressive in their 28-14 victory while the fate of the Irish was never in question, and while Notre Dame have wins over USC, Temple, Navy and a two point loss to the number one team in the country on the road, Ohio State's best victory to date is at home over an unimpressive Penn State. Still, the committee might not see it that way.
On the Bubble
The number of teams just outside the playoff picture are adding up and it will be quite the challenge for the committee to sort them out if anything chaotic happens to one of the conference champions. First off are the undefeateds outside the top four. Baylor and Oklahoma State should have a strong chance to make a playoff spot if they can win out while there could be more discussion around an undefeated Iowa should Notre Dame remain in the picture. Houston is working towards a new year's six bowl after Memphis and Temple each picked up their first loss before facing the Cougars.
That brings us to the one loss teams. LSU remains in the hunt and will be in good position should Alabama drop another one in the last few weeks. That would give the Tigers the division and a win in the SEC Championship Game should provide a strong enough resume to make the playoff. The same can be said about Florida in the SEC East, though the Gators need to play better than they did against Vanderbilt this weekend to stay in the committee's minds. Oklahoma similarly can make a strong push through the November Big 12 gauntlet and take a shot at a playoff spot. Their sole loss to Texas in a big rivalry game will be given some leeway by the coaches on the committee at the very least.
Finally we have Stanford and Utah. Can a one loss Pac-12 champion make the playoff at this point? If Stanford wins out or Utah wins out and the Cardinal knock out Notre Dame on the way to the Pac-12 Championship, the Independent variable will be taken out of the equation. Undefeated ACC and Big Ten Champions Clemson and Ohio State remain, however, and a one loss SEC Champion Alabama and one loss Big 12 Champion Oklahoma or undefeated Oklahoma State or Baylor will be big time competition.
The Cardinal or Utes still have a chance against a one loss Big 12 champion, but chaos in one of the other conferences would make for a much stronger case. Pac-12 fans should cheer hard for Clemson to catch an upset by South Carolina or in the ACC Championship, Florida to lose to Florida State but win the SEC Championship and the Big Ten and Big Twelve to utterly implode.
Then again, this is only week two of the College Football Playoff Committee Rankings, and what a difference a week makes.