Judging the College Football Playoff Rankings: Clemson getting too much credit
No. 2 Clemson — Overrated
If it were up to Las Vegas, Clemson would be ranked ahead of Miami. In fact, with both teams locked into the ACC title game, lines are already out and Clemson is favored. But the last I checked, the committee didn’t compile its rankings using Vegas odds, and I’m perplexed about Clemson being ahead of the Hurricanes right now. Let’s compare the resumes of the two.
First of all, Clemson has a lost. It came a month ago on a Friday night on the road against Syracuse. Yes, Kelly Bryant was injured during the game and missed a lot of it, but Clemson still lost to Syracuse. A Syracuse team that’s currently 4-6. It’s not a loss I’d consider to be a hideous one, but it’s not a good look, either. Miami’s loss, on the other hand … well actually, Miami doesn’t have a loss.
Well, OK, then let’s compare wins. Clemson has beaten No. 6 Auburn by eight points and No. 19 NC State by seven points. Miami just beat No. 8 Notre Dame (which was No. 3 at the time) by 33 points. The Canes did this a week after beating Virginia Tech (which was 13 at the time) by 18 points.
As committee chair Kirby Hocutt pointed out on Tuesday night, Clemson has six wins against teams with winning records. That’s good! Clemson also has a loss against a team with a losing record, and that’s bad. As I said last week when discussing Wisconsin’s ranking, I believe this committee is looking past how difficult it is to go undefeated too easily. Having Clemson a spot ahead of Miami right now is just another indication that’s the case.
The good news is these two will get to settle the debate where it should be settled: on the field.
No. 4 Oklahoma — Underrated
All right, so going by the parameters Hocutt used to explain why Clemson is ranked so high, let’s take a look at Oklahoma’s resume. The Sooners have only three wins over teams with winning records, but they also have wins over three 5-5 teams. That’s not as many as Clemson, but the Tigers’ best wins remain No. 6 Auburn and No. 19 NC State. Oklahoma has wins over No. 9 Ohio State (by 15 points, in Columbus), No. 12 TCU (by 18 points) and No. 13 Oklahoma State (by 10 points, in Stillwater).
So the Sooners have three wins over top 15 teams, two of which came on the road, and all three of the victories were by at least 10 points. But for some reason that doesn’t carry as much weight as Clemson having wins over 6-4 Louisville, 6-4 Wake Forest and 5-4 Georgia Tech. Sure!
And if we compare losses, the Sooners lost by a touchdown to an Iowa State team that also beat TCU and just lost to Oklahoma State by a touchdown. Clemson lost to a Syracuse team that just lost to Wake Forest by 21 points. But again, Clemson beat a 5-4 Georgia Tech team. We can’t look past that. That 5-4 Georgia Tech team blows 5-5 Texas, 5-5 Kansas State, and 5-5 Texas Tech out of the water.
No. 7 Georgia — Just Right
I’m sure Georgia fans will disagree but this is about right for the Dawgs. I mean, you can make an argument that Georgia should be a spot higher, but it’s tough to put it ahead of an Auburn team that just beat it by 23. It was just an awful week for Georgia as far as its resume is concerned. Not only did it lose, but Notre Dame and Mississippi State — its two best wins — lost as well. So Georgia went from a team with wins over No. 3 and No. 16 to a team with wins against No. 8 and No. 16. Still nice, but not nearly nice enough, especially with that 23-point loss on the resume. The good news for Georgia is that if it wins out and then beats Alabama, it’s likely to finish in the top four.
No. 17 Michigan State — Overrated
As I wrote last week, while I didn’t think Michigan State was the No. 12 team in the country, it deserved to be ranked there based on the criteria the committee uses to rank teams. Well, after losing to Ohio State by 45 points, it no longer deserves to be ranked this high. The Spartans have played three games against teams currently ranked in the top 10. It beat No. 10 Penn State by three points following a three-hour weather delay, and in the other two games, it lost to No. 8 Notre Dame by 20 points at home and just lost to No. 9 Ohio State by 45 points.
The win over Penn State still counts, but it’s next best win is a 14-10 win over No. 24 Michigan. The Wolverines turned the ball over five times in that game, and the Spartans could still only beat it by four points. This is a team that shouldn’t be ranked higher than 20 based on a combination of its resume and the eye test.
No. 15 UCF — Underrated
I don’t think UCF would be undefeated if it played in a Power Five conference. That said, I can’t say for sure it wouldn’t be a top 20 team right now if it were in a Power Five conference. I look at the teams around UCF in the rankings, and I can’t say with certainty that the Knights aren’t capable of beating a few of these teams. I understand that it’s resume is going to hold it back since its most impressive win is over Memphis, but Memphis is currently No. 21 in the rankings and UCF beat it by 27 points. UCF also worked Maryland by 28 points on the road before every quarterback on Maryland’s roster died of dysentery. It deserves a little more respect than the committee wants to give it.