- The first playoff ranking is out and Georgia is No. 1.
- There are still lingering questions about Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Miami, Wisconsin, and even Auburn.
- One thing we do know is some teams are going to be unhappy when the music stops.
The first College Football Playoff ranking of the season is out, and while it answered some questions, there are still several important unanswered questions that will have an impact on who will compete for this season’s championship.
With the first ranking we learned: the committee would not have Alabama No. 1 based on reputation alone; that Notre Dame is considered one of the four best teams in the country right now, despite their loss at home to Georgia; and that Oklahoma’s big win over Ohio State early in the season is more important than the Sooners’ loss to Iowa State at home.
But there is still much left to be answered. Here are the five biggest questions.
Would the committee be willing to include two SEC teams and Notre Dame in the final four?
If the season ended today, Alabama, Georgia, and Notre Dame would all be in the playoff. That scenario would mean that three of the Power 5 conference champions would be left out.
It already looks like Pac-12 teams are out of contention with Washington as the only one-loss team left in the conference and at No. 12 in the ranking. But that would still leave just one spot and the committee would have to decide between the ACC champ (possibly undefeated Miami or defending champs Clemson), the Big Ten champ (possibly undefeated Wisconsin or Ohio State), and the Big 12 champ (possibly Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, or TCU).
It is hard to imagine only one of those teams being selected for the playoff, but it is also hard to imagine Notre Dame being left out if they run the table, and the loser of the Alabama-Georgia game missing the cut if that game is close.
Can Ohio State get into the playoff if Oklahoma finishes with just one loss?
As it stands now, Oklahoma is the first team in line for the playoff if one of the top four falters, with Ohio State one spot below the Sooners at No. 6. The assumption here is that the committee valued Oklahoma’s head-to-head win over Ohio State more than the idea that Oklahoma’s loss (at home to Iowa State) is worse.
Oklahoma has three games left against ranked teams, including the Big 12 title game. Ohio State will likely have just one game left against a ranked team. However, that game — against a potential undefeated Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game — would likely be viewed as a better win than any of Oklahoma’s remaining wins.
It would seem that Oklahoma would stay ahead of Ohio State if both win out. But at the same time, it is hard to imagine the committee leaving the Big Ten champ out of the playoff when it has arguably been one of the two best conferences in college football this season.
Do Miami and Wisconsin still control their own destinies?
At first glance, it seems that the committee doesn’t think too highly of Miami or Wisconsin, despite their statuses as undefeated teams in Power 5 conferences. But what we don’t know is how that perception will change if either remains unbeaten after the conference championship games.
Miami would seem to have the stronger case. If they go undefeated, that would mean adding wins to their resume over Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, and possibly Clemson in the ACC title game.
Wisconsin’s best chance to add a big win to their resume would be against Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. The Badgers would then be the undefeated champion of one of the best conferences, but they would have done it by marching through the Big Ten West division, which is probably no better than the Pac-12 this season.
Are all of the two-loss teams already eliminated?
We have seen teams who were outside the top ten in the first playoff ranking make it into the playoff, but those were one-loss teams. So far, the committee has not included a two-loss team in the playoff.
The best chance of that changing this season would appear to be Auburn, who is ranked No. 14. If they win the remainder of their games, they would be adding a win over Alabama and two (!) wins over Georgia (assuming Alabama beats LSU which would put Auburn in the SEC title game). Auburn’s two losses would be a one-score loss to Clemson on the road and a one-score loss to LSU on the road. In addition, Auburn has looked dominant in most of their wins.
Auburn still has a long way to go, but if they run the table, they could get in.
Will Notre Dame be penalized for not playing in a conference title game?
Of all the potential controversies, this could be the biggest. As of now, Notre Dame is in the playoff. The proverbial dung will hit the fan if Notre Dame is in the top four at the end of the regular season, and then, let’s say, Ohio State and Oklahoma both jump ahead of the Fighting Irish after impressive wins in their conference title games.
That scenario would be a tough one to swallow for many, especially considering Notre Dame has played a tough schedule and their one blemish would potentially be a one-point loss to the No. 1 team in the country.
If that did happen, we would then add another question to the list: Would Notre Dame finally join a conference for football if they get penalized for not playing in one?