With results that let us give a more honest evaluation of teams, I'm completely blowing up my ballot and re-doing it more in keeping with committee logic. I see no reason to have my list this week be at all dependent on what it looked like last week - let's remove that built-in confirmation bias that plagued the major polls for decades.
A refresher on what we believe is committee logic based on reverse-engineering last year's official rankings:
- Number of losses is the first factor.
- Quality wins is the next (wins over ranked teams, with a non-linear increase in importance as the opponent gets better).
- Margin of victory isn't officially a metric, but it seems like at least quality of play is somehow - which is why FSU was the only undefeated team in the playoff last year but ranked only #3.
- Strength of schedule is significant in that a really bad metric here can ding you significantly (see: 2014 Marshall, before their first loss).
- If you have one loss, you're better off with it being early against weak competition, which makes it easier to explain as a fluke. Losses against good teams are very difficult to overcome as they appear to be seen almost as elimination games. If you have two losses, you're probably not in the conversation anyway so you won't have to worry about it.
As a tiebreaker, I use a completely subjective "who would win on a neutral field" test. I have no idea how the committee breaks a tie, but the way they vote (it's complicated) probably makes a tie extremely unlikely anyway.
Our Playoff Teams
- LSU - 6-0 - They're here because their win over Florida is arguably the best that any contender can claim this year, and because I think they'd beat Clemson on a neutral field. They draw Western Kentucky next week in a tune-up for a huge game the week after against Alabama.
- Clemson - 6-0 - The reason LSU's win over Florida is "arguably" the best out there is that Clemson beat Notre Dame, itself a top ten resident. The "other" Tigers travel to Miami this week.
- Utah - 7-0 - Similarly, the Utes have a better quality win than any undefeated team other than LSU and Clemson - their season-opening dispatch of Michigan. After pulling away from Arizona State they'll travel to LA to take on wounded animal USC.
- Ohio State - 7-0 - Seven weeks into the season, and the Buckeyes still don't have a quality win. That hurts them quite a bit here, but it's not near enough to leave the undefeated defending champion out of the playoff. They travel to Rutgers this week.
Our Near-Future Playoff Teams
Because, let's be honest, we all know this thing is going to eight teams sooner rather than later.
- TCU - 7-0 - I don't trust them yet, but still... They get the bump over Baylor thanks to playing Minnesota out of conference, while Baylor played three body bags. They'll enjoy some cheeseburgers this week.
- Baylor - 7-0 - Another game, another 60+ point performance. Yawn. It would be nice to see how they could do against a legitimate defense, but we'll have to settle for Iowa State this week.
- Michigan State - 7-0 - I'm not Dantonio's biggest fan, but he'll always have a soft place in my heart after what his kids did to Michigan. Ahh... Fluky? Yes. But it's still a win over a good opponent. They'll host Indiana this week.
- Florida State - 7-0 - Haven't played a ranked opponent yet, but they're beating the teams that are in front of them each week. Without Dalvin Cook they might struggle to be a .500 team, but they have him and he's changing games. They'll travel to Georgia Tech this week, losers of five straight. They're due!
The Best of The Rest
- Alabama - 6-1 - Tough call here because they just beat a pretty good Texas A&M team, and I think they'd probably beat Florida State head-to-head. All the same, though, they had a non-fluky loss to Ole Miss, a loss that looks worse each week. They'll host Tennessee next.
- Stanford - 5-1 - I wanted to put them behind the Irish, but I just couldn't do it after they logged a very complete and very impressive win over UCLA. They'll host Chris Petersen's upstart Washington squad this week.
- Notre Dame - 6-1 - The middle stretch was pretty rough, but the Irish dominated USC early and late to snag a critical win in the pre-bye section of their schedule. Into the bye at 6-1 despite losing four starters and a few key backups to injury, they have to feel like they're playing with house money.
- Iowa - 7-0 - Getting some big love here after a dismantling of Northwestern (more on them below). The catch for them is that they really haven't played anyone else outside of Wisconsin, who they beat 10-6. They're off this week.
- Florida - 6-1 - Lost to LSU on a trick play a week after destroying Ole Miss - they're no doubt down a bit right now, but keep an eye on Jim McElwain's Gators. They're not out of it yet, although they will be out of action this week as they hit the local In-n-Out.
- Oklahoma State - 6-0- Off this past weekend, the Cowboys are another unit that has yet to face a ranked team. They've played three conference games this year and won each by a single score, a streak that they should be able to break against Kansas this week.
- Oklahoma - 5-1 - My goodness, do they seem to be ticked off about the Texas game last week - a 55-0 win over a traditionally decent defense. They'll host Texas Tech this week.
- Memphis - 6-0 - If you watched any of their game with Ole Miss, you'll know that nothing about it was a fluke. They'll travel to Tulsa next week.
- Toledo - 6-0 - Early season wins against Arkansas and Iowa State give the rockets a leg up on the other Group of 5 schools in our rankings.
- Cal - 5-1 - They were having some cheeseburgers this past week. They travel to UCLA this week for a game that has massive implications on the Pac-12 conference championship.
- Michigan - 4-2 - HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. That is all I have to say here. They'll rest up this week.
- Temple - 6-0 - Logged an early-season upset of Penn State, and haven't looked bad since then either. After sitting idle, the Owls will take on East Carolina.
- Houston - 6-0 - Beat Louisville on the road early in the year, and obviously they've also beaten everyone else. They'll head to UCF this week. Tom Herman will have his pick of Power 5 jobs if he can keep this up.
- Texas A&M - 5-1 - Big drop here for the Aggies after getting shoved around by Alabama. They'll head to Ole Miss next week.
- Pitt - 5-1 - Their loss is just a bit better than Duke's, so they get the nod here. They're traveling to Syracuse this week.
- Duke - 5-1 - See above. They'll head to Virginia Tech this week.
- Ole Miss - 5-2 - I don't think they deserve to be ranked after getting smacked by Memphis and demolished by Florida, but there aren't any teams for which I could make a compelling argument to leave them out. They'll host a ticked-off Texas A&M this week.
The Walk of Shame
Northwestern. Well, that was fun while it was lasted. Northwestern has been outscore 78-10 in its last two games. Yikes.
UCLA. Shoved all over the field by Stanford and it showed on the scoreboard. They're Hollywood soft.
Boise State. They might've been able to rebound from the early-season loss to BYU to represent the Group of 5 in the New Year's Six bowls, but this loss to Utah State kills any chance of that.
Michigan. Oh, how I love typing this... All they had to do was get off a punt. Any punt. So... beautiful. Just so beautiful.