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Playoff Committee Review & OFD's Ballot: Week 11

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Ouch.

Pretty much the same expression I had, Max.
Pretty much the same expression I had, Max.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It was fun while it lasted, right? The Irish are definitely out of the playoff picture now, but there's still plenty of drama ahead for them and everyone else. Let's take a look at a wild week that was very nearly wilder, the latest committee rankings, and how we would've voted.

The Playoff Selection Committee Rankings

Rank Team Last week Week 11 result Toughest opponent left (per F/+) If the season ended today ...
1 Mississippi State (9-0) 1 Won 45-16 vs. Tennessee-Martin Alabama Sugar Bowl vs. TCU
2 Oregon (9-1) 4 Won 51-27 at No. 17 Utah Oregon State Rose Bowl vs. Florida State
3 Florida State (9-0) 2 Won 34-20 vs. Virginia Miami Rose Bowl vs. Oregon
4 TCU (8-1) 6 Won 41-20 vs. No. 7 Kansas State Texas Sugar Bowl vs. Mississippi State
5 Alabama (8-1) 5 Won 20-13 (OT) at No. 16 LSU Auburn Orange Bowl vs. Clemson
6 Arizona State (8-1) 14 Won 55-31 vs. No. 10 Notre Dame Arizona New Year's bowl
7 Baylor (8-1) 13 Won 48-14 at No. 15 Oklahoma Kansas State New Year's bowl
8 Ohio State (8-1) 14 Won 49-37 at No. 8 Michigan State Minnesota New Year's bowl
9 Auburn (7-2) 3 Lost 41-38 vs. Texas A&M Alabama New Year's bowl
10 Ole Miss (8-2) 12 Won 48-0 vs. Presbyterian Mississippi State New Year's bowl
11 UCLA (8-2) 18 Won 44-30 at Washington USC New Year's bowl
12 Michigan State (7-2) 8 Lost 49-37 vs. No. 14 Ohio State Maryland
13 Kansas State (7-2) 7 Lost 41-20 at No. 6 TCU Baylor
14 Arizona (7-2) 19 Won 38-20 vs. Colorado Arizona State
15 Georgia (7-2) 20 Won 63-31 at Kentucky Auburn
16 Nebraska (8-1) 13 Idle Wisconsin
17 LSU (7-3) 16 Lost 20-13 (OT) vs. No. 5 Alabama Arkansas
18 Notre Dame (7-2) 10 Lost 55-31 at No. 9 Arizona State Louisville
19 Clemson (7-2) 21 Won 34-20 at Wake Forest Georgia Tech Orange Bowl vs. Alabama
20 Wisconsin (7-2) 25 Won 34-16 at Purdue Nebraska
21 Duke (8-1) 22 Won 27-10 at Syracuse Virginia Tech
22 Georgia Tech (8-2) 24 Won 56-23 at NC State Georgia
23 Utah (6-3) 17 Lost 51-27 vs. No. 4 Oregon Arizona
24 Texas A&M (7-3) NR Won 41-38 at No. 3 Auburn LSU
25 Minnesota (7-2) NR Won 51-14 vs. Iowa Ohio State

Overall Impression: Our third data point in the committee ranking saga shows consistency with the first two - extra losses are punished, and quality wins are rewarded. There are some interesting blips in that consistency, though, most notably with one-loss Oregon passing zero-loss Florida State, three-loss LSU staying ahead of many two-loss teams, and Texas A&M climbing back into the top 25 despite three convincing losses. The thought here is that this is a good thing - it means the committee is not just rigidly adhering to a predefined formula, but adding in qualitative judgments. It's not just a computer poll with a face, although data is critical to its formation.

Oregon has now beaten three top 25 teams to Florida State's two, and Florida State has repeatedly looked shakier than a #2 team should. Advantage Ducks, in the committee's eyes. LSU beat Ole Miss and Wisconsin, and took Alabama to overtime. Texas A&M is obviously being rewarded for beating former #3 Auburn on the road. Even the exceptions have some consistency, which again is nice to see. Do I agree with every single ranking? No, as you'll see below in my own top 25. But I appreciate that there's at least a rational explanation for why the rankings are what they are.

Surprise Team of the Week - Up Mode: Not TCU - I bumped them up to #4 myself, so I'm not surprised about that. No, it's Oregon, who stunningly moved past FSU  into the #2 slot after clobbering Utah on the road. Then again, who would you like on a neutral field? Realistically, all this probably does (if everything holds) is change the color of the jerseys in one semifinal game, as Oregon would've been no lower than #3 anyway. Still, jumping the Ducks past a zero-loss defending national champ is a bold and welcome move by the committee.

Surprise Team of the Week - Down Mode: This is an easy call - it's Nebraska, who dropped three spots (#13 to #16) while idle. A potential explanation is that their "quality loss," Michigan State, was beaten handily by Ohio State; still, it's tough to figure out exactly why they dropped so far. From there, they may have no chance of making the playoffs even if they win out and beat Ohio State in the Big Ten championship.

Who's Out This Week:

Another SEC West team goes down, as Auburn loses to Texas A&M in doubly stunning fashion (getting clobbered early, then giving up one unfortunate fumble and one horrendous fumble in the closing minutes). They're not mathematically eliminated yet, but it's hard to envision a realistic scenario where they could climb back in even if they win out. And they still have to play Georgia and Alabama.

Michigan State is probably done after recording a second double-digit loss that also all but eliminates them from Big Ten title contention. Again, not mathematically impossible for them to win the Big Ten, but even if they do their resume won't stack up very well against other contenders.

The playoff hopes of Kansas State are also on life support after losing to TCU, which put TCU firmly in the driver's seat to win the Big 12. It was another wizardly run for Bill Snyder, but it looks like they'll be on the outside looking in again this year.

The OFD Ballot

1. Mississippi State: Well, they beat Tennessee-Martin. Shocker. Two roads diverge at their next game site, Tuscaloosa - if the Bulldogs are for real, there will be no question about them after next Saturday.

2. Florida State: Trailed Virginia after one quarter and let them get within one score in the third. Hard to tell if they're good and unfocused are maybe not so good as long as they keep winning. They'll be in Miami this week; they're surprisingly opened as just a 1.5 point favorite.

3. Oregon: Destroyed a decent Utah team and now has a clear path to the Pac 12 North title, and probably the Pac 12 title as well. They'll take a week off.

4. TCU: Making a big move here on the strength of a very impressive performance against Kansas State. With a handful of big wins and almost assured of the Big 12 title, they should have a very strong resume for the playoff.

5. Alabama: So - why did they get jumped by Oregon and TCU? I wasn't impressed by going to overtime against LSU a few weeks after sneaking past Arkansas, and their other quality win, West Virginia, just lost its fourth game. One way or another, any debate over this ranking will be moot after their upcoming game with #1 Mississippi State.

6. Arizona State: Is it possible for a game to be closer than the score indicates, yet the score is completely indicative of the game? Ran roughshod over the Irish early and late en route to a blowout win. They'll travel to Oregon State.

7. Ohio State: A convincing win over former poll darling Michigan State gives them firm control of the race for the Big Ten title. But will even that be enough to get them into the playoff? They play at Minnesota.

8. Baylor: The Bears are apparently a tough team to love - they have one loss and they beat TCU, who's above them here and in the AP and coaches polls' and committee rankings. They'll probably need TCU to stumble to have a chance at the playoff.

9. Auburn: In keeping with old poll logic, I wanted to drop Auburn further for losing to an unranked team. But too many other teams lost too, and are you sure they would lose to the teams behind them? Big game at Georgia this week.

10. Ole Miss: Handled Presbyterian with ease in their "bye that's not a bye" game. Climbing back into the top 10 here through attrition, they get to defend their ranking at Arkansas this week.

11. Kansas State: Bill Snyder is known for his defensive prowess, but you wouldn't know it based on what TCU did to the Cats. They're off this week before heading to Morgantown for a Thursday night matchup with West Virginia.

12. Michigan State: Just an awful performance against the Buckeyes, allowing 49 points, 568 total yards, and 268 rushing yards and racking up 11 penalties for 105 yards. Stick a fork in them. They'll travel to Maryland this week.

13. UCLA: I don't like it, but they obliterated the team that obliterated Notre Dame - kind of hard to put them behind the Irish at this point. Fortunately, they're not that good and we should have a chance to jump them back.

14. Nebraska: Again, I'm not sure they're better, but I'm also reluctant to imagine what Ameer Abdullah would do to a depleted Irish defense. After sitting at home last weekend, they'll go on the road to Wisconsin for a game that should more or less decide who will face Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.

15. Notre Dame: Well... I heard someone reference Bill Simmons's "no way are you winning this mode" video game analogy, and it fits. If it could go wrong, it did. Kudos to Arizona State for a great game plan, but Todd Graham's wristbands and Britney Spears headset are still stupid. Nyah nyah. The Irish draw Northwestern this week.

16. Arizona: Chalked up an unremarkable win against downtrodden Colorado, who's still searching for its first Pac 12 win this year. They'll host Washington this week.

17. Georgia: Really took out some frustration on Kentucky, and now they'll have more of a chance to kick the dog when a deflated Auburn team comes to town. Still need help from Missouri's opponents to get in the SEC title game.

18. LSU: Choked away the chance at a huge win by completely forgetting how to defend on Alabama's last regulation drive and first OT possession. A Reverse Les Miles, if you will. They travel to Arkansas.

19. Clemson: Looked like they might Clemson it up against Sleep Forest (props to Hatin' Ass Spurrier for that one), but pulled away in the fourth. Tough matchup at Georgia Tech this week.

20. Duke: Similar to ACC brethren Clemson, they doddered through three quarters against Syracuse before pulling away in the fourth. Maybe it was the air in the Carrier Dome. They'll host a disappointing Virginia Tech squad.

21. Wisconsin: Doubled up Purdue in preparation for their big showdown with Nebraska this week. If they can win this game at home they should coast into the Big Ten title game as the West Division representative.

22. Colorado State:

23. Utah: Kaelin Clay striking the Desmo Heisman pose after scoring on a punt return in Ann Arbor: Excellent. Kaelin Clay dropping the ball before the end zone on a play that should've put the Utes up 14-0 early: Not excellent. It probably wouldn't have mattered anyway, but that was a backbreaker. Should be a physical game at Stanford this week.

24. Georgia Tech: Woodshedded NC State on the road to the tune of 56 points and 479 rushing yards. Holy cripes. They'll host Clemson this week in a game they need to win to keep their slim hopes of winning the ACC Coastal division alive.

25. Missouri: Had some cheeseburgers and moved back into our rankings. They'll travel to Texas A&M for a defense vs. offense matchup - Georgia will watch this game closely as it's probably their best chance to get back into first place in the SEC East.

Dropping Out:

  • #13 Oklahoma - Yeowch. Still not sure the Bears are really elite, but we definitely know the Sooners aren't.
  • #22 West Virginia - Spanked by Texas a week after taking top-ten TCU to the wire.