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Notre Dame Football: Five Tweets That Explain How The College Football Playoff Thinks

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Trying to get inside the mind of the group that has the Irish ranked #3...for now.

CFP National Championship - Alabama v Clemson Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The College Football Playoff selection committee unveiled its first rankings Tuesday, placing the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at No. 3. Here’s five tweets that best explain how the committee arrived at its top four: the Georgia Bulldogs, the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Irish and the Clemson Tigers.

RESUME AND EYE TEST

A team’s resume is an easy concept: You merely look at who a team has beat in compiling its record.

The Bulldogs have beaten the No. 3 Irish and No. 16 Mississippi State Bulldogs during its 8-0 start. Ever since beating the Irish on Sept. 9, Georgia has beaten every opponent by at least 25 points.

Alabama doesn’t have any wins against teams placed in the Playoff Committee’s Top 25, but is undefeated as well. It has beaten every opponent by at least 31 points, with just three exceptions. They boast the top defense in three categories - total defense, rushing defense and scoring defense. They are 12th in total offense, fifth in scoring offense and seventh in rushing offense.

When Hocutt — the committee’s chairman — says Alabama passes the eye test, this is what he means.

HEAD-TO-HEAD MATTERS (AT LEAST FOR NOW)

In his column for The Athletic this morning, Stewart Mandel hypothesized that the committee would place the Ohio State Buckeyes ahead of the Oklahoma Sooners. His reasoning? The group placed more emphasis on which team was the “better football team at this particular time” instead of which team won an early season matchup with the other. Ohio State is ascending, while Oklahoma narrowly beat the winless Baylor Bears as well as the Texas Longhorns and Kansas State Wildcats, which are both 4-4, since beating the Buckeyes.

If we are to accept Hocutt’s words at face value, then the Sooners will remain ahead of the Buckeyes unless they get tripped up by the No. 11 Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-1), No. 8 TCU Horned Frogs (7-1), Kansas Jayhawks (ok, that’s not happening) or West Virginia Mountaineers (5-3). We talk plenty about how tough Notre Dame’s remaining schedule is; Oklahoma is facing a gauntlet of its own.

OUT-OF-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE CAN HELP...OR HURT

The Wisconsin Badgers, who landed in eighth place despite an undefeated record, did themselves no favors in scheduling their out-of-conference slate. They dismantled Mountain West opponent Utah State, who is now 4-5. They beat the Florida Atlantic Owls by 17 points; the Owls are first in Conference USA with a 5-3 record. And the Badgers tore apart the BYU Cougars, which probably looked a lot better when it was scheduled. The Cougars were just coming off an 10-3 season then; they’re 2-7 now.

THE COMMITTEE CAN LOOK PAST A BAD LOSS

Those who thought that the Clemson Tigers’ road loss to the Syracuse Orange would doom the Tigers’ chance of making the playoff don’t understand history.

The committee has looked past losses by Ohio State (to the 5-7 Virginia Tech Hokies) in 2014, the Michigan State Spartans (to the 5-7 Nebraska Cornhuskers) and Oklahoma Sooners (to the 5-7 Texas Longhorns) in 2015 and the Tigers (to the then 5-4 Pittsburgh Panthers, who ended up 8-5) in 2016.

The committee also isn’t above using excuses to engineer their rankings. They’ve made no secret that they consider significant injuries when determining the potency of a particular team, and the Tigers losing quarterback Kelly Bryant during the Syracuse game gave the committee what it needed to put less weight on that loss.

It also doesn’t hurt that Clemson has won six games against teams with winning records, more than anyone else. (Notre Dame has 4.)

THIS COMMITTEE WILL NEVER GIVE A GROUP OF FIVE TEAM A PLAYOFF SPOT

The UCF Knights are the Group of Five’s highest rated team, at No. 18. They’re also undefeated.

“This season they're putting up some incredible offensive performances,” said Hocutt on the conference call with reporters. “That being said, right now the best win is against a Memphis team, a Memphis team that is in our top-25 ranking this week, so the Selection Committee has been very impressed with Central Florida and have definitely taken note of their performance up to this point in the season.

The lowest a team has been ranked in the first poll and subsequently made the playoff is No. 15. Perhaps the committee would be more impressed if the Knights had opened the season with a win against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, but that game got washed out because of weather.

A win against the 7-1 South Florida Bulls would help, as would beating the Tigers for a second time in a hypothetical American Athletic Conference championship. And while that will be good enough for a guaranteed spot in the New Year’s Six games, it won’t be enough to consider them for the playoffs. That’s even if chaos were to rain down.

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The complete interview with Hocutt, who is the athletics director at Texas Tech University, can be listened to here: