College Football Playoff Rankings Breakdown Nov. 7: The Auburn Debate
The second round of College Football Playoff Rankings of 2017 have come out. Did the committee get them right?
Stop this. Stop this now. No, a two-loss Auburn doesn’t control its own destiny.
It was the popular thought from the guys behind the ESPN desk, but no, no, no, no, no.
You might not like Wisconsin’s schedule, and you might not respect Miami, but no way, no how, no chance would the committee put in a two-loss team over an unbeaten Power Five champion.
That’s not to say SEC champion Auburn wouldn’t get in over a one-loss Oklahoma or a one-loss Washington, but Auburn isn’t an automatic in if it wins out.
Okay, so play this out. If Auburn beats No. 1 Georgia twice, and takes down a No. 1 Alabama – who would be No. 1 going into the Iron Bowl if it beats Mississippi State and Georgia loses – it’ll be right on the verge of the top four.
So who would be in over a two-loss Auburn?
A one-loss ACC champion Clemson – who beat Auburn – would get in.
An unbeaten Wisconsin would get in, as would a one-loss Miami if it loses once, but beats Clemson for the ACC title.
An 11-1 Notre Dame would probably get in over a two-loss Auburn, too. And then it comes down to whether or not there’s a one-loss Big 12 and a one-loss Pac-12 champ.
But precedent might matter.
One-loss Washington got in last year over two-loss Big Ten champion Penn State. The same argument might be made this time around, no matter what Auburn does.
Remember, the Tigers lost to LSU and Clemson, too. Those were close battles and acceptable defeats, but they were losses.
In the 20 years of the BCS and College Football Playoff, no unbeaten Power Five team was ever left out of a national title or the CFP for a one-loss team.
With all that said, there could absolutely be a two-loss Pac-12 and Big 12 champion, and Notre Dame could absolutely beat Miami. In that case, the CFP would be SEC Champion Auburn, Notre Dame, and, probably, a one-loss Alabama – with one spot open.
As far as the second round of the rankings …
You know that these get thrown out, and you know that it’s all about the final resume, but it’s still hard to keep that in mind. Remember, if Miami wins out, that means it’ll have beaten Notre Dame and, likely, Clemson. It’ll blow up past the No. 7 spot.
If No. 3 Notre Dame beats No. 7 Miami, it’ll be solidified in the top three, and could even make an argument for No. 2.
No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 6 TCU will play this weekend – obviously, one of them won’t be this high up in next week’s rankings.
And now, technically, Wisconsin finally has a win over a top 25 team – Northwestern – and it’ll close out with wins over No. 20 Iowa, Michigan – who should be ranked, but isn’t – and likely the Michigan State-Ohio State winner. It might not be amazing, but it’ll be fine if it’s 13-0. Not good enough if it’s 11-1.
Only once in the 20 years of the BCS/CFP era have there been more than two unbeaten Power Five conference champions – 2014, when USC, Oklahoma and Auburn all had a zero in the loss column. If that happened this year, all three would be in. The point? There almost certainly won’t be more than two unbeaten, and if there are, both are probably in.
Who’s the big winner? The Pac-12. Last week it was the big loser, but with Washington moving up to ninth, it’s starting to get a little respect after starting out 12th. But USC moving up six spots to 11 is a huge overall help.
Now, if the two get play each other in the Pac-12 championship – and they don’t lose before then – it’ll probably be No. 6 Washington vs. No. 9 USC. That might be enough to get the Pac-12 in.
The biggest loser? Oklahoma State. The Cowboys lost in a battle against No. 6 TCU and in a firefight last week to No. 5 Utah, and yet it dropped like a rock four spots to 15. It’s not like it was in the CFP hunt anymore, but it didn’t get any respect for a possible New Year’s Six slot.
So, based on these first rankings, what would the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six be? Of course, the rankings will be different at the end of the rainbow, but if this was it …
CFP PEACH: No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Clemson
CFP ROSE: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Notre Dame
Based on what the committee would want as the best matchups and geography …
NY6: ORANGE: No. 7 Miami vs. No. 8 Wisconsin. The Orange has to take an ACC team, and it would love to have Miami. If this was the CFP right now, the bowl would go crazy to get the two Power Five unbeatens.
NY6: SUGAR: No. 10 Auburn vs. No. 11 USC. Here’s your 2005 BCS Championship, Auburn fans. The two hottest two-loss teams would get to battle it out.
NY6 FIESTA: No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 9 Washington. The possible showdown of two Power Five conference champs would be a wild and crazy shootout.
NY6 COTTON: No. 6 TCU vs. No. 18 UCF. The hope would be for the relatively local TCU fan base and the fired up UCF fans to show up and pack the AT&T house.