I'm roughly following committee logic, with a little bit of my own subjective evaluations thrown in where I think it makes sense.
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.
- One of the trickier points is that while the committee says a loss is a loss is a loss, it appears they do judge losses a little differently. That's why, for example, Notre Dame was the highest-ranked one-loss team through eight weeks last year despite not having a quality win, and why TCU was ranked ahead of Baylor despite identical records and Baylor's controversial head-to-head win. I'm actually OK with this - it means they're willing to let the eyeball test overrule in extenuating circumstances.
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 - 7-0 - Started sluggishly but overwhelmed Western Kentucky in the second half. They're off this week and then have an enormous game at Alabama. Interestingly, Bama is also off this week. Nice scheduling, guys.
- Clemson - 7-0 - Emphatically slammed the door on Al Golden's Miami tenure by demolishing the Canes 58-0. They actually backed off - they were up 42-0 at halftime. They play at NC State this week.
- Ohio State - 8-0 - Never tested at Rutgers, unsurprisingly. They're off this week.
- TCU - 7-0 - Cheeseburgers moved the Horned Frogs into the playoff picture, at least for now; the remainder of the Big 12 race should be very interesting. They host West Virginia 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.
- Baylor - 7-0 - Didn't have too much trouble with Iowa State, but it may have been a Pyrrhic victory - Baylor quarterback Seth Russell suffered a frightening helmet-to-helmet hit that resulted in a broken neck. It's hard to imagine him coming back this season; less important than his long-term health, of course, but one also wonders what impact this will have on Baylor's playoff chances. They'll have time to think about as they're off this week.
- Michigan State - 8-0 - This might sound weird for a final score of 52-26, but the game was much closer than the score indicated - the Spartans' lead was only 31-26 with just over five minutes left. The wheels came off for Indiana at that point, and Sparty cruised home with the win. I still don't really trust them; I'm funny that way. They're off this week.
- Alabama - 7-1 - The Tide played with fire this week, needing a late turnover from Tennessee to finally ice the game. I'm still not really sure how good they are, but I'm positive that they're not nearly the same as the 2009-2012 juggernaut. As noted above, they'll get a week off and then host LSU for their biggest game to date.
- Stanford - 6-1 - Stanford once again put more distance between them and their puzzling season-opening loss to Northwestern by convincingly dispatching a decent Washington squad. They'll travel to Wazzu this week for an interesting matchup.
The Best of The Rest
- Notre Dame - 6-1 - Cheeseburgers! The Irish will be in Philly this week for a nominal road game against Temple - no doubt Lincoln Financial will have more than a few Notre Dame fans in attendance.
- Iowa - 7-0 - Aaaand... More cheeseburgers. Iowa was off and will host Maryland this week.
- Florida - 6-1 - Yet another team off. The Gators play Georgia at the World's Largest Outdoor <strike>Cocktail</strike> Party this week.
- Oklahoma State - 7-0 - As expected, Okie Light smoked Kansas. They travel to Texas Tech this week.
- Utah - 6-1 - Well, that was fun while it lasted... The Utes' playoff hopes took a very serious hit as they got absolutely flattened by USC. They'll host Oregon State this week.
- Oklahoma - 6-1 - Berzerker mode is still in full effect, obviously; the Sooners followed up a 55-0 drubbing of Kansas State with a 63-27 clobbering of Texas Tech. That's 118-27 in the two games since Texas upset them. They'll host Kansas this week, which should let the good times roll.
- Memphis - 7-0 - Didn't look spectacular but did look effective against Tulsa. They host Tulane this week.
- Florida State - 6-1 - Wait, let me copy and paste my comment on Michigan from last week's article... "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. That is all I have to say here." They'll host Syracuse this week.
- Toledo - 6-0 - The Rockets were in very serious trouble against UMass, down 28-10 at the half. Toledo won the second half 41-7 to win going away, though. They're off this week.
- Michigan - 4-2 - Cheeseburgers for the Wolverines this week, no doubt purchased from the McDonald's in the Ann Arbor Walmart. Mostly they're happy that someone else had a bigger special teams gaffe this week than they did against Michigan State. No, not really, nothing's worse than what they pulled last week. Ahhhh... Still real, and still spectacular. They travel to Minnesota this week.
- Temple - 7-0 - Trailed an unimpressive East Carolina at the half and after three quarters, but pulled away in the fourth. Which is good news for the Irish as it means they'll face a ranked team this week. Whee!
- Houston - 7-0 - Destroyed UCF 59-10 and drove George O'Leary to resign (or UCF to fire him, but either way he'll write on his resume that he decided to move on). They'll host Vanderbilt this week. Memphis, Temple, Houston, and Navy are setting up as a very interesting four-way battle for the AAC.
- Ole Miss - 6-2 - They get a little bit of a jump back up here from a thorough domination of Texas A&M. They're headed to Auburn this week, likely for more of the same.
- Pitt - 6-1 - Finally woke up in the fourth quarter to win at Syracuse. They'll host North Carolina this week before welcoming Notre Dame into town.
- Duke - 6-1 - Went four overtimes with Virginia Tech to eke out a win. They'll host Miami this week.
- UCLA - 5-2 - The West Coast Rasputin is back after thoroughly dominating Cal. They'll host Colorado this week.
- North Carolina - 6-1 - Larry Fedora might have something going in Chapel Hill. The Heels topped Virginia fairly easily and will travel to Pitt this week to determine who was control of the ACC Atlantic division.
The Walk of Shame
Utah. Ouch. I mean, there's not one thing they can point to in that USC game and say "there, we're better than them at that part.
Cal. Destroyed by UCLA, which makes them now 0-2 to kick off the hardest part of their schedule.
Florida State. Two archenemies, losing games in consecutive weeks, in a manner that is about as much of a gut punch as you could possibly have. Love it!