I'm roughly following committee logic, with a little bit of my own subjective evaluations thrown in where I think it makes sense. The FEI strength of schedule ratings here lag a week behind, as they're updated on Tuesdays.
A refresher on what we believe is committee logic based on reverse-engineering the official rankings:
- Number of losses is the heaviest-weighted 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). Note: After the initial 2015 rankings came out last week, it seems that the committee is placing a lot more weight on SOS this year. Fine by us.
- 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, and late losses are never good. 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
- Clemson - 10-0 - Never really put a pesky Syracuse squad away, but in keeping with the theme of the week, they did enough to win. They'll host Wake Forest this week. Quality wins: Notre Dame, Florida State. FEI SOS: 75th.
- Ohio State - 10-0 - Logged a pretty suspense-free win against a moribund Illinois squad. They'll face their first ranked team this season when they host Michigan State this week. Quality wins: None. FEI SOS: 74th.
- Alabama - 9-1 - Outscored Mississippi State 21-3 in the second quarter and cruised to the finish line. They scrimmage against Charleston Southern this week to warm up for the Iron Bowl. Quality wins: LSU. FEI SOS: 28th.
- Notre Dame - 9-1 - Didn't look sharp on either side of the ball, while Wake Forest played about as good a game as they could have - and the Irish still won in a blowout to finish off an undefeated home season. The class of 2016 is now the winningest home team in Notre Dame history, logging 21 home wins in its four seasons. The Irish will "host" Boston College at Fenway this week. Quality wins: USC, Navy. FEI SOS: 1st.
Our Near-Future Playoff Teams
Because, let's be honest, we all know this thing is going to eight teams sooner rather than later.
- Oklahoma State - 9-0 - Trailed most of the game against Iowa State, but mounted a furious rally to keep their playoff hopes alive. They'll host Baylor this week. Quality wins: TCU. FEI SOS: 76th.
- Iowa - 10-0 - Logged their fourth one-score win of the season to sneak past Minnesota, who just can't quite seal the deal the last few weeks. They'll host Purdue this week. Quality wins: Northwestern. FEI SOS: 99th.
- Oklahoma - Knocked off Baylor on the road to keep building on their recent momentum - they look like a different team since the loss to Texas. They'll host TCU this week. Quality wins: Baylor. FEI SOS: 36th.
- Michigan State - 9-1 - Took care of business against lowly Maryland and will head to Columbus next week in a game that could go a long way towards determining the favorite to come out of the Big Ten. Quality wins: Michigan, Oregon. FEI SOS: 31st.
The Best of The Rest
- Florida - Handled South Carolina on the road. Challenge Week in the SEC continues (this will be a theme) as the Gators take on FBS bottom feeder Florida Atlantic.Quality wins: Ole Miss. FEI SOS: 64th.
- Baylor - 8-1 - Played their first real team of the season and, perhaps not unsurprisingly, lost to Oklahoma. At home, no less. They travel to Oklahoma State this week and need to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. FEI SOS: 59th.
- TCU - 9-1 - Came very close to giving Kansas their first win of the year, doing just barely enough to hold them off. They head to Oklahoma this week, where they could do the Irish a big solid. Quality wins: None. FEI SOS: 53rd.
- Florida State - 8-2 - Sean Maguire played the part of 2012 Tommy Rees, entering the game in relief of an ineffective Everett Golson and rallying the Noles past traditional nemesis North Carolina State. Taking a cue from the SEC, they'll host Chattanooga this week before their rivalry game against Florida. Quality wins: None. FEI SOS: 22nd.
- Michigan - 7-2 - Took two overtimes to get past Indiana, who has been a nuisance to a lot of on-paper better teams this season. What kind of odds would you give me on Kevin Wilson coaching the Hoosiers in their 2016 opener? The Skunkbears will head to Happy Valley this week. Quality wins: Northwestern. FEI SOS: 50th.
- Navy - 8-1 - Obliterated SMU 55-14 - the 14 points were fewer than SMU scored against Baylor, TCU, Houston, and Temple. Between you, me, and the wall, the Middies might actually be pretty decent. They'll head to Tulsa this week. Quality wins: None. FEI SOS: 29th.
- North Carolina - 9-1 - Mopped the floor with Miami, 59-21. Since dropping the season opener to South Carolina, the Tarheels are 9-0 and +249 on points. Yes, their competition has been weak, but they sure look like a tough out right now. They head to Virginia Tech this week. Quality wins: None. FEI SOS: 110th.
- LSU - 7-2 - Shocked by Arkansas in a game that was very reminiscent of the previous week's outing against Alabama - only it was at home this time, and against an unranked team instead of a top three team. So, yeah, not a good week for the Tigers. They'll head to Ole Miss this weekend. Quality wins: Florida. FEI SOS: 11th.
- Stanford - 8-2 - Dealt the Irish a big proxy blow by falling at home to Oregon when they missed a two-point try with four seconds left and couldn't cover the onside kick. They can still wrap up the Pac 12 North with a win in the Big Game this week, though. Just keep the band off the field... Quality wins: USC, Washinton State. FEI SOS: 25th.
- Houston - 10-0 - Down 34-14 nine seconds into the fourth quarter against Memphis, the Cougars staged a furious rally to win 35-34 and keep their undefeated season and AAC title hopes alive. They travel to upstart UConn this week. Quality wins: None. FEI SOS: 104th.
- Ole Miss - 7-3 - Benefited from some cheeseburgers this week, both by moving up and by resting before their big game against LSU this week. Quality wins: Alabama. FEI SOS: 4th.
- USC - 7-3 - Down 17-6 at the half against Colorado, the Trojans managed to pull it out in the end. They'll face a stiff test this week at Oregon, in their new-found position atop the Pac 12 South and with Oregon riding high off an upset of Stanford. Quality wins: Utah. FEI SOS: 26th.
- Utah - 8-2 - Dropped on the road by a middling Arizona team, the Utes now have all kinds of problems. Any playoff hopes they had are in all likelihood dead, and on top of that, they now need help to win the Pac 12 South as USC holds the tiebreaker over them. Quality wins: Michigan, Oregon. FEI SOS: 49th.
- Northwestern - 8-2 - Won a snoozer over Purdue. Then again, is there any other kind of game involving Purdue? They'll head to Wisconsin this week. Quality wins: Stanford. FEI SOS: 39th.
- Washington State - 7-3 - The Good Ship Leach has come a long way since dropping the opener to FCS Portland State - they just beat UCLA, they beat Oregon earlier, and they barely lost to Cal and Stanford. Maybe it's time to acknowledge they're not terrible. Quality wins: Oregon. FEI SOS: 67th.
- Oregon - 7-3 - Another team that looks entirely different in the second half of the season, the Ducks logged a huge upset win at Stanford. They'll try to continue their spoiler ways next week when they host USC. Quality wins: Stanford. FEI SOS: 10th.
- Wisconsin - 8-2 - Not sure what to make of the Badgers. They seem underwhelming, but their only two losses are to #3 and #6. They'll host Northwestern this week. FEI SOS: 57th.