Features

Cavalcade Of Whimsy: College Football Playoff Rankings Edition


All about the first edition of the 2016 College Football Playoff rankings, in a very special Cavalcade of Whimsy.


Contact/Follow @PeteFiutak

What the first College Football Playoff rankings will be
Bowl & College Football Playoff projections
What the top teams have to do to get into the College Football Playoff

Sorry if this column sucks, it’s not my fault …

Like the first two editions of the 2016 College Football Playoff rankings, the column is coming out on the same day as a Game 6 of a World Series that people actually care about, and then on the same day as some silly election thingy.

You know it’s not your year when you were counting on Geno Smith and Arian Foster to do something interesting

Oh dear Lord do I need the third annual College Football Playoff ranking season to kick off.

I can’t listen to anymore pinheads spouting stupid (bleep) about something political.

I can’t deal with anymore creepy grown man open-sobbing and life-issue intensity after every single pitch of a baseball game – as if pitchers and catchers aren’t reporting three months from now.

I can’t deal with my dog of a fantasy football squad that just won’t hunt, or how boring and unwatchable the NFL has become now that my pretend team needs aren’t being met.

I need you, College Football Playoff rankings.

I need to get into fiery debates about how good college football teams really are – and have it mean something to the greater good of the planet.

I need to do my third annual “wait until the final rankings come out” analysis, only to know that this year, that might not turn out to be the case.

I need to get into all the hypotheticals, all the game-on-now bowl projections, and all the breakdowns about what’s probably going to happen over the next month.

And then Alabama will win the national title again, only to confirm what we all sort of knew by the early second quarter of the USC game, but that’s beside the point.

Let us linger here a while in the foolishness of things, cleansing our palate on the sports candy about to be dropped in our bucket, and then do it all again next Tuesday as we …

Eh, screw it. Alabama, Michigan or Clemson, Washington in some order.

First pitch on Tuesday night is 8:07.

Bullet-point blurb to get this column going before things bog down in my wonky, put-a-log-on-the-fire ramblings about the College Football Playoff process and theory

Three November surprise curveballs that’ll shake this whole thing up, a.k.a., I’m throwing (bleep) at the wall on the off-chance that something might stick.

1. Auburn or LSU will beat Alabama. And the gamechanger might come this weekend – I’m not changing my first offseason answer to the best team question when it comes to LSU. This won’t be a Crimson Tide coronation into the playoff. Along with this …

2. We’re going to be dealing with at least one, two-loss team being in the “one of the four best teams” discussion. Wisconsin, Penn State, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Washington State, Colorado, Auburn and LSU. This group of teams will make a whole bunch of noise over the next four weeks, in one way or another.

3. Western Michigan will be the only undefeated team left in college football on December 4th. I’m not saying it’ll matter in the College Football Playoff discussion, but it’ll be a topic of conversation.

And if we’ve all been good, sincere, just college football fans, there really will be at least ten real options to choose from

I really do like the College Football Playoff and the way it’s set up – at least compared to the BCS, and especially compared to the Poll ‘n’ Bowl system that America somehow allowed to happen.

However, one thing needs to be established as much as possible from Chairman Kirby Hocutt and the rest of the members whenever they talk to the world about whatever they come up with.

Is it really about the four best teams, or is it really about the conference champions?

The CFP has left itself an out by not putting any limitations on who the committee votes for. The demand from the start has been that the four best teams are in, period, but with a heavy emphasis on the conference champions getting to the head of the line.

But we’re way overdue for that to be put to the test.

Football types despise dealing in hypotheticals – see guy, hit guy – but this group needs to be ready for what might be coming.

What’s going to happen if and when a three-loss team wins a Power Five championship over the juggernaut favorite?

How is it going to work out when a one-loss team – like a Louisville, Texas A&M, or, potentially, Michigan – looks better than a deserving Power Five conference champ?

The CFPers are all thumping for four-best teams, four-best teams, four-best teams, but the precedent was established over the first two years that conference championships matter, and now it’s not fair to break from that.

The four best teams in college football are Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State and Clemson, with an argument to be made for LSU based purely on talent.

One of those teams could be upset on a bad day – like Clemson almost was by NC State – and one of those teams could have a bad quarter and melt down at the wrong time, like Ohio State did against Penn State. But two months into the season, we really do know who the four best teams are – there’s your playoff.

But that’s not how this works.

If there’s one thing to know about the College Football Playoff process, it’s that each team, each slot, and each ranking is meticulously argued for and poured over. There’s no guessing here, and there’s no throwing a team into a spot just because it looks pretty good. Whatever comes out isn’t being slapped together willy-nilly.

But again, what is this really going to be based on? The four best teams? The four most deserving teams? The conference champions with the best records?

The CFP got away with not having to answer that over the first two years, so with all of that in mind, and trying to fix something before there’s a problem …

Because I don’t annoy these people enough …

And just like the College Football Playoff people do whenever I bring these things up in polite conversation, just nod your head before moving on to more important matters.

But I really do have three easy tweaks to make this whole thing even better and take as much controversy out of the equation as possible.

Conference Champions Only

Again, the CFP left itself an out by not mandating this, but it has to be a mindset that separates college football from the rest of the gimmicky post-seasons in all the other sports.

If you’re not good enough to win your conference championship, or especially your division, you shouldn’t be playing for the national title.

If that means if a 12-0 Alabama juggernaut has an off day in Atlanta in early December and isn’t in, so be it. The cliché matters: every week is a playoff in college football. That’s why the sport is so good right now, and it’s partly why the regular seasons in other sports have become disposable.

Teams need to know what they’re dealing with and what to shoot for. You want in? Win your conference. That’s been implied over the first two seasons, but it has to be a rule.

Televise The Entire Voting Process C-SPAN Style

I’ve said this from the very start. The committee members are the alpha males – and female – who didn’t get to their respective positions in life, and on this committee, by being meek.

Condoleezza Rice was the Secretary of State under 43 – she’s hardly going to cower just because Chad from Columbus tweeted something snarky.

Wouldn’t teams like to know where they really and truly stand?

The one big misfire in the CFP process was TCU two years ago, being ranked in the top four right up until the very end when the dream was yanked away after doing exactly what it was supposed to do in the final weekend. It’s only fair that teams, coaches, and fans know what’s being said about them.

Do The New Year’s Six Bowl Projections, Too

Again, it’s all about the teams knowing where they stand. We know that the top four teams get into the playoff, the Big Ten and Pac-12 send teams to the Rose no matter what, the Big 12 and SEC sends teams to the Sugar no matter what, and the ACC sends a team to the Orange no matter what against either a Big Ten, Big 12 or SEC team. We also know that the highest-ranked Group of Five team gets a New Year’s Six Bowl slot, almost certainly the Cotton Bowl this year.

So finish the drill, CFP committee, and project out which teams go where. We can figure that out for ourselves, but confirm what the rest of us are speculating.

Turning the dial now to the Not Gonna Happen, But Should setting

Now the tour is leaving the Land of the Possible and entering into Funkytown. Here’s how you do this several years from now when the system is tweaked, so everyone knows the deal, and everyone knows the rules, and everyone gets to make gobs and gobs of money making the College Football Playoff a bigger thing than it already is.

Six team playoff. Five Power Five conference champs, one catch-all at-large for a worthy Group of Five champion, Notre Dame, or the one Power Five powerhouse who just needs to be a part of the thing, but isn’t.

Four is okay, eight is too big and logistically clunky, and six would be just right.

On the Saturday around two weeks before New Year’s Day, No. 3 plays No. 6 and No. 4 plays No. 5, with the higher-seeded team getting the home game. No. 1 and 2 get a bye. The committee’s job would be to seed the teams appropriately and come up with the one team who deserves that sixth spot. Then everyone knows what they need to do. Win the conference championship, and you’re in.

This week’s reason why the Big 12 should’ve considered me for expansion …

Add me to the mix, and all it takes is one more to get up to an actual Big 12. Then the league can split into two divisions and the conference championship game will be interesting next year, instead of staging a sad rematch.

Most interesting thing you didn’t notice and absolutely didn’t care about unless you’re a gambler, in which case, you stayed up until 2 am on the East Coast to watch this, and even then, you still haven’t figured out that there’s a reason why the Vegas hotels are so massive.

I don’t gamble, mostly because the pain and anguish of losing money is exponentially worse than the joy of winning. The Cal-USC game was the exact reason why.

The game was over. Cal was hopelessly down 45-24, but to those who care about these things the USC -16 spread was still in play – and the Bears were still trying.

They kept bombing away on a final drive that was merely for practice. They called an unnecessary time out. They were really, really trying, right up until QB Davis Webb – instead of putting a few throws into the end zone- threw two hopeless checkdown passes in the final seconds that had no prayer of going anywhere.

Moments like that are a whole lot more fun if you’re watching purely for amusement.

With that in mind …

The sure-thing, 100%, rock-solid lock, sell the house, sell the kids, no doubt about it picks of the century for this week

Yes, America, yes. I went 3-0 ATS thanks to the fine folk at Auburn, the tough play of Utah, and the Florida State Seminoles battling hard. So I went 1-2 straight up – like you care.

Straight Up: 18-12, Against the Spread: 20-9-1

1. UCLA +12.5 over Colorado (but Buffs to cover)
2. Florida State -6 over NC State
3. TCU +9 over Baylor

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item …

The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world

1) Overrated: Bill Murray
Underrated: Daffy Duck

2) Overrated: Fines for criticizing ACC officials
Underrated: Deondre Francois possibly being the toughest quarterback in college football

3) Overrated: Jabrill Peppers as a Heisman candidate (but not as a pro prospect)
Underrated: Michigan State not getting hammered for unnecessarily going for two, and having it blown up in its face

4) Overrated: Christmas music
Underrated: Halloween music, and any song with the word Halloween in it

5) Overrated: Breckyn Hager apologizing for saying he felt like he needed to hurt Patrick Mahomes to stop Texas Tech
Underrated: What every single very good defensive coordinator in the history of the world secretly wants his linemen to do to the opposing quarterback

Sorry if this column sucked, I wasn’t my fault …

I became bowl eligible last week, and like Colorado, I celebrated by ordering 165 burgers from In-N-Out and am just now coming out of my meat coma. And did I go Animal Style? Like you need to ask.