College Football Playoff Rankings judgments: Group of Five teams get thrown a bone, for once
The committee figured out a way to insult Group of Five teams while ranking them
, and they look a lot like last week's rankings. This was to be expected since nothing out of the ordinary happened over the weekend. As far as the top 10 is concerned, nearly since it remains in the same order. No. 7 LSU's a little too high, and No. 8 Washington State and No. 9 West Virginia should be swapped.
So what's new this week? Well, we have a couple of four-loss teams to take exception to. We'll start with the one that's won its division.
No. 22 Northwestern, No. 23 Mississippi State -- Overrated
The committee is in an odd position this year. I get it. As things currently stand, there are only 21 teams left in the country with two losses or fewer. Of those 21 teams, only 11 of them are from a Power Five conference. For an idea of how atypical this is compared to the past, at this time last season there were 16 Power Five teams in the CFP Rankings with two losses for fewer, including each of the top 14 teams in the poll.
So this isn't a case of the CFP Selection Committee propping up four-loss teams just because they're in the Power Five as much as it's the committee having trouble finding top 25 teams without four losses simply because teams with better records are an endangered species. So, again, I get it.
I figured Mississippi State would remain ranked after losing to Alabama because it's hard to punish a team too much for losing to the best team in the country. You know, even if that 6-4 team no longer has a win against any team in the current top 25.
I knew that Northwestern was going to be ranked this week when it clinched the Big Ten West, even though it's a team with losses to 4-5 Akron and a 7-3 Duke, which is unranked! Maybe Duke should be ranked instead of Northwestern? It hasn't won its division, which might be just as bad as the Big Ten West, but it doesn't have a loss as bad as Akron. Plus, you know, it beat this Northwestern team and has a couple of other decent nonconference wins against Army and Baylor.
Anyway, back to Northwestern and Mississippi State: I'm not entirely against them being ranked, but I'm a little perturbed by them being ranked ahead of one and two-loss teams, even if they're from Group of Five conferences. The committee finally corrects an error it's made the last few weeks by including Utah State, Cincinnati and now Boise State in the top 25, yet it insults all of them by placing them behind 6-4 Northwestern and 6-4 Mississippi State.
Speaking of the Group of Five teams ...
UCF is ranked No. 11, which is higher than any Group of Five team has ever been placed in the CFP Rankings. That's a nod to the Knights winning 22 straight (even though the committee is only supposed to consider 2018's games), and that's cool. But you know what? If this UCF team is at No. 11 with Utah State, Cincinnati and Boise State sitting 23-25, then, using the committee's logic with those three, UCF is overrated this week.
Yes, the Knights have won 22 straight, but they're 9-0 in 2018, and they're 9-0 against what Sagarin considers the 106th most difficult schedule and S&P+ ranks the 104th. Those same systems respectively rank Utah State's schedule 124th and 128th, Cincinnati's 99th and 117th, and Boise's 71st and 64th. So of the four Group of Five teams in the rankings, none have played a difficult schedule, but Boise's has been the toughest. Of course, Boise has two losses, so it deserves to be ranked in the bottom five spots because of it.
But if UCF is No. 11 with no losses against an inferior schedule, and Utah State is No. 23 and Cincinnati are No. 24 playing similar schedules, this must mean that their losses (Utah State lost to Michigan State and Cincinnati to Temple) are worth a difference of at least 12 spots in the ranking. Yet both teams are ranked behind two teams with four losses and eight teams with three.
The alternative explanation is that Cincinnati and Utah State's wins aren't worth as much as UCF's wins, even if they're playing a similar schedule. Or maybe the committee doesn't care about SOS or quality wins and losses when it comes to the Group of Five and is only interested in having one team ranked high enough to make their appearance in a New Year's Six bowl look appealing. I guess we'll find out if Cincinnati beats UCF this week and the Bearcats suddenly leap to the top 15 while UCF plummets 13 spots.
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