, and it's important to remember what they mean: mostly nothing. I say mostly because, while neither the national title semifinalists nor the rest of the bowl games will be decided by this week's rankings, they do give us an idea of how the CFP Selection Committee thinks.
Remember, the committee changes like the teams do. Members move on and are replaced, so we can never know precisely how it will think. The rankings also matter because they're rankings, and this sport is built on rankings and all of us having thoughts about them.
So it's time to share some thoughts!
No. 5 Clemson -- Just right
Like you probably were, I was surprised when Clemson showed up at No. 5 in the rankings. I projected Clemson at No. 4 because that's where I expected it to be. I figured that since it's Clemson, and it's the undefeated defending national champion, it would get the benefit of the doubt. Still, just because I expected it to be at No. 4 doesn't mean it's wrong to have the Tigers at No. 5.
If we look at what Clemson has done this season and compare it to last year's team, it's better or about the same in every key area. The performance has been there. The problem is the resume hasn't been. To this point, Clemson's best win is 24-10 over a Texas A&M team that is unranked at 6-3 with three "resume" losses but no impressive wins. Clemson's second-best win is 5-3 Louisville. Compare that to last season when Clemson was 9-0 with wins over the same Texas A&M team (on the road) as well as a win over an NC State team that was 6-2 and No. 14 in the CFP Rankings.
So it's not Clemson's fault it's at No. 5 as much as it's the rest of the ACC's. Besides, considering the top four teams all have to play each other during the regular season, it's a situation that will settle itself as long as Clemson keeps winning.
No. 3 Alabama -- Overrated
Hey, you know who else can currently say its best win is against a 6-3 Texas A&M team and no impressive second win to speak of? Yep, that's right, Alabama. So why is Alabama at No. 3 when it basically has the same resume as Clemson and has played just as well? I know Alabama's offense has been better, but Clemson's defense has performed better than that of Bama. So what's the deal? If the committee was going to rate Penn State ahead of Clemson, it should have had it ahead of Alabama for all the same reasons.
No. 2 LSU -- Underrated
I thought LSU would be at No. 1. I think LSU should be at No. 1. This week's rankings suggest the committee has put a lot of consideration into who teams have beaten. While I would make the argument that Ohio State has played better than LSU, its best wins are No. 13 Wisconsin and No. 20 Cincinnati. LSU has wins over No. 10 Florida and No. 11 Auburn, as well as a road win against unranked Texas. So the Tigers have two wins better than any win Ohio State has by the committee's own ranking yet are behind the Buckeyes.
The obvious justification for this is that Ohio State beat Wisconsin and Cincinnati by a combined score of 80-7, while LSU didn't blow out either Florida or Auburn. Still, I do think the fact that LSU has two better wins, as well as a better third win than Ohio State's (Indiana?), should give it the No. 1 edge for right now. That said, I don't think having Ohio State at No. 1 is egregious or anything.
Besides, the committee could have just done LSU a favor. This is only the sixth year of the CFP, but none of the teams ranked at No. 1 in the first polls have ended up winning it all the last five years.
No. 17 Minnesota - Underrated
I didn't think Minnesota was going to be ranked high, but I thought it would be higher than this. Don't get me wrong; I get it. Minnesota won three nonconference games against South Dakota State, Fresno State and Georgia Southern by 13 points combined. It's five Big Ten wins have all come against teams that either started second or third-string QBs or had to resort to a backup QB for most of the game following an injury. Also, go ahead and comb through the teams Minnesota has beaten to figure out which is the best one (by record, it is 5-4 Illinois).
But to be ranked behind six two-loss teams when you're an undefeated Power Five team is a bit insulting, no? There's something to be said for not losing any games. I'm not going to argue Minnesota should be in the top 10 or anything, but you can't even give it a top 15 spot? The good news for the Gophers is that if they beat No. 4 Penn State this weekend, they'll fly up the board next week.
No. 21 Memphis -- Underrated
I know Wake Forest is 7-1, but who exactly has it beaten? Of its seven wins, only one has come against a team that currently has a winning record, and that was a 27-24 win over a 5-4 Boston College team. It lost to the only other team with a winning record that it has played (Louisville). Its second-best win is either NC State or Utah State if we're going on record or maybe North Carolina. Then there's No. 20 Cincinnati, which is also 7-1 but with a 42-point loss to Ohio State. It's best win is UCF, which is not ranked. Still, I'd argue that UCF is a more impressive win than Wake's win over Boston College, but you know which team has better wins than both?
That would be No. 21 Memphis. Memphis is 8-1 and just beat No. 25 SMU on Saturday night. Memphis also has a win over No. 24 Navy. So the Tigers have two wins over ranked teams, which is two more than Wake and Cincinnati have combined. It also has an extra win overall. So why in the world is Memphis ranked behind both? Because it lost by two points to Temple? Is that all that different from a loss to Louisville, or a 42-0 loss to Ohio State?