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Playoff Committee Review and OFD's Ballot: Week 12

Just when I thought it couldn't get worse...

Daniel San, all grown up.
Daniel San, all grown up.
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was brutal. Two weeks ago the Irish were fringe playoff contenders, and now they'll have to scramble to maybe earn a second consecutive cold-weather-city bowl game bid. Fortune is indeed a fickle mistress, especially when you decline to tackle, cover, hang on to the ball, etc. Did you know that other stuff happened in the college football world on Saturday? No? Great, let's take a minute to review.

The Official Committee Rankings

Rank Team Last week Week 12 result Toughest opponent left (per F/+) If the season ended today ...
1 Alabama (9-1) 5 Won 25-20 vs. No. 1 Mississippi State Auburn Sugar Bowl vs. Mississippi State
2 Oregon (9-1) 2 Idle Oregon State Rose Bowl vs. Florida State
3 Florida State (10-0) 3 Won 30-26 at Miami Boston College Rose Bowl vs. Oregon
4 Mississippi State (9-1) 1 Lost 25-20 at No. 5 Alabama Ole Miss Sugar Bowl vs. Alabama
5 TCU (9-1) 4 Won 34-30 at Kansas Texas New Year's bowl
6 Ohio State (9-1) 8 Won 31-24 at No. 25 Minnesota Michigan New Year's bowl
7 Baylor (8-1) 7 Idle Kansas State New Year's bowl
8 Ole Miss (8-2) 10 Idle Mississippi State Orange Bowl vs. Georgia Tech
9 UCLA (8-2) 11 Idle USC New Year's bowl
10 Georgia (8-2) 15 Won 34-7 vs. No. 9 Auburn Georgia Tech New Year's bowl
11 Michigan State (8-2) 12 Won 37-15 at Maryland Penn State New Year's bowl
12 Kansas State (7-2) 13 Idle Baylor
13 Arizona State (8-2) 6 Lost 35-27 at Oregon State Arizona
14 Auburn (7-3) 9 Lost 34-7 at No. 15 Georgia Alabama
15 Arizona (8-2) 14 Won 27-26 vs. Washington Arizona State
16 Wisconsin (8-2) 20 Won 59-24 vs. No. 16 Nebraska Minnesota
17 Utah (7-3) 23 Won 20-17 (2OT) at Stanford Arizona
18 Georgia Tech (9-2) 22 Won 28-6 vs. No. 19 Clemson Georgia Orange Bowl vs. Ole Miss
19 USC (7-3) NR Won 38-30 vs. Cal UCLA
20 Missouri (8-2) NR Won 34-27 at No. 24 Texas A&M Arkansas
21 Oklahoma (7-3) NR Won 42-30 at Texas Tech Oklahoma State
22 Clemson (7-3) 19 Lost 28-6 at No. 22 Georgia Tech South Carolina
23 Nebraska (8-2) 16 Lost 59-24 at No. 20 Wisconsin Minnesota
24 Louisville (7-3) NR Idle Notre Dame
25 Minnesota (7-3) 25 Lost 31-24 vs. No. 8 Ohio State Wisconsin

Overall impression: Some of the results this weekend - most notably Alabama over Mississippi State, Wisconsin destroying Nebraska, and Georgia pantsing Auburn - gave us the opportunity to gain some more insight to the committee's logic. That extra insight essentially confirms what we've seen in the last three weeks: number of losses first, then quality win, then strength of schedule. We still don't have insight into specific weights for those factors, but we can see now that strength of schedule does have fairly significant weight given the number of teams that have more losses than teams behind them.

For example, the strength of schedule ratings for Alabama (24th in FEI, 2nd in Sagarin) and Oregon (31st in FEI, 22nd in Sagarin) are much higher than those for Florida State (58th in FEI, 51st in Sagarin). Similarly, Utah's strength of schedule (9th in FEI, 15th in Sgagarin) is way ahead of Georgia Tech's (36th in FEI, 54th in Sagarin). And, interestingly, Marshall (128th/141st) and Colorado State (83rd/97th), which are in both traditional polls, are still not in the committee rankings, even with four teams dropping out this week.

Surprise Team of the Week - Up Mode: I'm not entirely sure why Utah went from one spot behind Georgia Tech last week to one spot ahead of them this week. The Utes beat a so-so Stanford squad in double overtime while Georgia Tech took a decent Clemson team behind the woodshed. Perhaps the committee thinks Stanford is a better team than its record indicates, which might also explain why they were willing to give us so much credit for beating them.

Surprise Team of the Week - Down Mode: Actually, I can't say I'm all that surprised by where anyone fell to. Maybe the most notable drop is TCU from #4 to #5 as they were jumped by Alabama and Mississippi State didn't drop behind them, but I understand the rationale behind that.

Who's Out This Week:

The Lord apparently lifted his hand from Todd Graham's Arizona State team, as they fell to unranked Oregon State. They could still scrap their way to the Pac 12 title, but even if they do their resume isn't likely to stack up to enough other teams to get into the final four.

Auburn might've had a chance if they had won out and some other chaos had occurred, but a third loss puts them unequivocally on the outside looking in.

Any fringe chance Nebraska had is gone after getting steamrolled by Wisconsin. Same for Minnesota, who was an extreme dark horse candidate, after their loss to Ohio State. It's probably Buckeyes or bust for the Big Ten to occupy a slot in the playoff, although keep an eye on an improving Wisconsin team if the last couple of weeks get really crazy elsewhere.

Duke's slim hopes have also evaporated after losing at home to Virginia Tech.

The OFD Ballot

1. Florida State: They can't keep doing this, right? Aside from Winston, Jalen Ramsey could well be the difference between the Noles being 10-0 and 7-3 right now. They'll host emerging gadfly Boston College, whose rushing attack could prove dangerous.

2. Alabama: There's that man again... Jumping TCU and Oregon on the strength of knocking off #1 Mississippi State, the Tide are now in the driver's seat to take the SEC's guaranteed playoff spot. They host Western Carolina this week.

3. Oregon: The Ducks sat idle and sat still here. They host Pac-12-winless Colorado this week.

4. TCU: Did little to quell Big-12-centered doubts about their legitimacy, trailing a bad Kansas team 27-17 in the third quarter before escaping with a 34-30 win. They'll sit back with some cheeseburgers this week.

5. Mississippi State: They're still very much alive for the playoff - they need to win the Egg Bowl and Auburn has to win the Iron Bowl, and they'll go to the SEC title game against either Missouri or Georgia. Oh, and they have to beat Vandy at home this week, but...

6. Ohio State: Would never imagine they could've climbed back here after the Virginia Tech loss, but here they are poised to snag a spot in the playoff if TCU or Oregon falters. Dispatched surprise conference contender Minnesota and will host Indiana this week.

7. Baylor: Sat idle this week and will host Oklahoma State this week. Due to their exceptionally weak early-season schedule, they'll need some help to climb into the playoff.

8. Ole Miss: More cheeseburger benefits for Ole Miss, who will travel to Arkansas after the Hogs shocked LSU for their first SEC win in almost two years.

9. Kansas State: Yet another idle team moving up. They'll hit the road to face a wounded West Virginia team that also had a week off after getting doubled up by Texas. How will each team handle the disappointment of their pre-bye loss?

10. Michigan State: They took a while to get going, but eventually and predictably logged a comfortable win over Maryland. Rutgers will visit East Lansing this weekend in what should be another easy win.

11. UCLA: Had a week off in preparation for their big rivalry game against USC this weekend.

12. Georgia: Even the good is bad for Georgia this year, as they upset Auburn in Todd Gurley's return from suspension but lost Gurley for the year with a knee injury. They can probably beat Charleston-Southern this week anyway, though.

13. Wisconsin: I thought the Badgers would cause problems for a suspect Nebraska defense, but never did I imagine that Melvin Gordon would run for an FBS-record 408 yards (on 25 carries!) all by his lonesome. They head to Iowa this weekend.

14. Arizona State: They're lucky so many other teams lost, or they would've fallen farther here for losing to unranked Oregon State. Still alive for the Pac 12 South title and will host pesky Washington State on Saturday.

15. Arizona: Beat Cal (3-5 in the Pac 12) back in September on a Hail Mary, and just beat Washington (2-5 in the Pac 12) on a last-second field goal for their fifth one-score win this year. Will their luck run out in a tough road matchup with Utah this week?

16. Auburn: Rough couple of weeks for Auburn, who got hammered by Georgia after being upset by SEC West whipping boy Texas A&M. Will try to recover some momentum this weekend against Samford (which is not Stanford).

17. Georgia Tech: Destroyed Clemson with 251 rushing yards and a pair of pick-sixes, and preserved their chance at the ACC Coastal title in the process. They'll have a week off before their rivalry game with Georgia.

18. Missouri: Found the end zone four times in the third quarter to upset Texas A&M on the road and stay ahead of Georgia for the SEC East lead. They'll head to Knoxville this weekend.

19. Nebraska: That loud thud you heard was Nebraska's playoff hopes hitting the ground. They'll try to scrub the tread marks off their backs in time for Minnesota's visit on Saturday.

20. Colorado State: Had a week off and will host/clobber Bob Davie's New Mexico squad this week. They're sitting in pretty solid position to get the Group of Five automatic bid to the New Year's Eve/Day bowls with two Power 5 wins (Colorado and Boston College) and a much better schedule overall than Marshall.

21. Utah: Knocked off Stanford in overtime. If you're scoring at home, Notre Dame's best win is now 5-5; if not, try flowers. They can't win the Pac 12 South but they can kill Arizona's chance to do so at home this weekend.

22. USC: Held off Cal in what looked early on like a game that would get very out of hand. They'll play UCLA this weekend; if they win and Arizona State loses to Washington State or Arizona, they'll win the Pac 12 South.

23. Oklahoma: Climbed back into the rankings because we're running out of bodies to fill out the list. Briefly trailed Texas Tech in the fourth before pulling away and will host Kansas this week.

24. Marshall: I finally relented and put them back in the rankings, for the same reason Oklahoma is back in. They beat Rice 41-14 (which might mean we're about as good as Marshall) and they'll face Alabama-Birmingham (which is actually a conference game) this week.

25. Duke: I actually put them in my "Dropping Out" section but then ran out of teams when I got to the end of the rankings. Despite the brutal loss to Virginia Tech, they own the tiebreaker over Georgia Tech and could go to the ACC title game for the second straight year if they can beat North Carolina this week and Wake Forest next.

Dropping Out:

  • #15 Notre Dame: Seems pretty silly now that two weeks we were arguing over whether the committee was shafting us by ranking us #10. I contemplated not dropping us out, as many others did as well (#26 in the AP and coaches' polls), but ultimately I can't keep us ranked after dropping that game to that Northwestern team. A win over Louisville would restore some credibility.
  • #18 LSU: Utterly dominated by Arkansas, gaining a paltry 123 yards in total offense. Pig sooey, indeed.
  • #19 Clemson: Threw two pick-sixes against Georgia Tech and gave up as many rushing yards as they logged total yards. Not a good day for Tigers in general, as all three ranked teams with that nickname lost.