The College Football Playoff selection committee committed a rare inaccuracy with its latest rankings unleashed Tuesday night. It placed a team at No. 4 when that spot clearly should have been left blank.
It’s clear to all of America as it studies college football teams all too studiously that nobody at this point deserves to hold the coveted No. 4.
No. 1 LSU (9-0), No. 2 Ohio State (9-0) and No. 3 Clemson (10-0) are all obvious, and all obvious in that order. Ohio State might have become the first team in the six-season playoff era to dip from No. 1 after winning, but after LSU went to Alabama on Saturday and went all Ferrari on Alabama with 46 points and 559 yards, LSU has four ranked victims.
“They’re the only team in the nation with that,” committee chairman Rob Mullens said on ESPN.
From there, the list of teams that might deserve No. 4, but don’t quite, is long. You could sit up nights trying to figure out who warrants No. 4 at this point. You shouldn’t, but you could.
The committee’s blasé choice for No. 4, Georgia (8-1), lost at home to South Carolina, an act illegal in its civic code of conduct, and some of its fans want one of those must-have gorgeous offenses but haven’t been getting one. No. 5 Alabama (8-1) had a tepid slate of victims before LSU came to Tuscaloosa and operated across its cherished field like a pretty bulldozer. No. 6 Oregon (8-1) and No. 7 Utah (8-1) lack any ranked victim.
No. 8 Minnesota (9-0), so impressive in beating Penn State, can’t quite get there based on an ancient college football adage: We’re not used to Minnesota yet. Also, Minnesota’s nonconference victims — South Dakota State, Fresno State and Georgia Southern — should hold a meeting to try to figure out how Minnesota eluded all three, all with saving touchdowns inside six minutes to closing time.
No. 9 Penn State (8-1), No. 4 last week, just lost to Minnesota.
No. 10 Oklahoma (8-1) has looked kind of blah lately and almost took a 44-43 loss to Iowa State that would have been storybook, instead getting a 43-42 win over Iowa State that wasn’t storybook.
No. 11 Florida and No. 12 Auburn have two losses each, and while it’s considered bad etiquette to put a two-loss team in the top four at this point, at least that might have been novel.
No. 13 Baylor (9-0) has, as nonconference victims, Stephen F. Austin (2-8), Texas San Antonio (4-5) and Rice (0-9). None of those is ranked.
On a week when the committee had the kinetics to move all 25 teams on the list, and to practice originality by giving No. 13 Baylor the lowest ranking a 9-0 Power Five Conference team has gotten in the six seasons of the playoff concept, it went ahead and pegged a No. 4 team.
That’s Georgia, and while Georgia should get a ranking of No. 5, with Alabama at 5.1, at least Georgia’s presence above Alabama made sense. Georgia has the better array of wins, including those over No. 11 Florida and No. 16 Notre Dame. On ESPN, Mullens, the Oregon athletic director who recuses himself during Duck discussions per committee policy, credited “the two big wins that Georgia had.”
Minnesota made the longest leap in the six years of committees convening near the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. When it vaulted nine spots from No. 17 to No. 8, it leaped past six two-loss teams: Notre Dame, Michigan, Wisconsin, Auburn, Florida and Kansas State.
And then, similar to the No. 4 issue, the ordering of the Group of Five teams contained a possible glitch. The Group of Five is that second tier of 65 teams that battle for one New Year’s Six bowl spot, where each year the little guy goes up against a snooty opponent. In this ranking, five Group of Five teams appeared.
No. 17 Cincinnati (8-1) leads the way, with Memphis (8-1) right behind. Boise State (8-1) holds down No. 21, Navy (7-1) holds down No. 23, and a 2019 debutant, Appalachian State (8-1), snared No. 25. Of that whole mix, only Appalachian State has two wins over Power Five schools.
If the committee were puckish about things, of course, it could have placed Appalachian State at No. 4, then cupped its ears and listened for all the caterwauling. As a bonus, the Mountaineers’ deservingness of that spot would have been identical to everybody else’s.