Sports

College Football Power Rankings, Week 13: We Don’t Envy The Playoff Committee Right Now


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WELL, YOU’VE REALLY DONE IT NOW, BIG TEN!

Thanks to some questionable officiating and, sure, fine, many incredible plays, Ohio State beat Michigan in The Game, arguably the biggest game of the season so far. And what does the Big Ten have to show for it? Thanks to Penn State, nothin’!

Its two best teams are out of the conference championship, and the Playoff committee is going to have to make the hardest call in its short history in just a few weeks. Do you leave out one of the clear best teams in the country in Ohio State? Or do you respect the drama of conference play and recognize that to be considered one of the top four teams in the country, you must surely at least win your division?

Enjoy the bar-guments for the next month folks, both before and after the Playoff teams are announced. Unless a long list of upsets happen, there’s probably no way somebody isn’t left out feeling robbed. This may be an unpopular opinion, but here’s one Power Rankings’ bloggers take: conference titles matter!

Look, I get it. I get it! A lot of people think the playoff should be the four best teams, and the four best teams nationally, period. I just can’t get on board that you should be considered one of the best teams in your country if you can’t even win your division, let alone your conference title. I understand that’s wanting it all, that we want big teams to play tough out of conference schedules (and OSU certainly met that criteria this year, while Washington most definitely did not) but then we also want to say “but don’t forget, you also better win your conference.”

But I also think that, for those of you wishing for the Playoff to expand to 6 or 8 or 64 teams, you’re missing the playoffs right in front of you. Conference games are de facto playoff games! By agreeing that you have to at least make your conference championship to be considered for the playoff, you’ve now made that early November game to Ames, Iowa, or Chapel Hill, N.C., or Tucson, Ariz. into a playoff game. Want to win your conference and get into the top-four? Don’t slip up in the games that aren’t circled on the calendar.

For what it’s worth, the “Selection Committee Protocol” states that there will be an emphasis on winning conference championships, strength of schedule and head-to-head competition when comparing teams with similar records and pedigree. Are Ohio State and Wisconsin or Penn State similar teams worth comparing? Sure, but I would argue the conference champion aspect makes a big difference. But they also take great pains to note that they’re free to choose anyone, they’re not restricted to the Power-5 conference champions, so who knows?

In the meantime, all we can do is rank the teams to our own wildly varying sets of criteria, and with that in mind, let’s welcome the Hawkeyes to the Power Rankings for the first time this year. Joining them is South Florida, Navy, and West Virginia, all returning for the final regular season edition. See ya next year, Boise State, Washington State, UNC and Arkansas.

Here we go folks: only a few teams have meaningful games to play in this weekend, but everybody’s got meaningful games to watch. Let’s roll for the FINAL POWER RANKINGS OF THE SEASON.

(Opening Credits)

1. Alabama (12-0)
Last week: 1
Last game: Beat Auburn, 30-12
Next up: Saturday vs. Florida (SEC Championship in Atlanta)

Listen, all this talk about who should be in the Playoffs is silly anyway. What’s the point in arguing, when Alabama hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown in the entire month of November? Point is, all we’re doing is picking sacrifices here, people, let’s not stress too much over it.

Joe Namath at least had a hell of a time at the Iron Bowl, even if the rest of us turned it off early.

At least we got to see the human side of Nick Saban? Sure, that’s something to be encouraged by.

2. Ohio State (11-1)
Last week: 3
Last game: Beat Michigan, 30-27
Next up: Waiting on Bowl Placement

OH MAN, WHAT A GAME.

I don’t think it’s at all hyperbolic to say this was the best game of the year. In terms of stakes, of quality of play, of controversy, it had everything.

And now, the Buckeyes wait. But let’s be clear: are they one of the top four teams in the country? Absolutely. Should they be in the Playoff? Nope. Can’t be best in the country when you’re not even best in your conference.

3. Clemson (11-1)
Last week: 4
Last game: Beat South Carolina, 56-7
Next up: Saturday vs. Virginia Tech (ACC Championship in Orlando)

Clemson is finally rounding into top form, looking like the team that took Alabama down to the wire in last year’s national championship. I mean, just look at this touchdown by Mike Williams:

That’s ‘Bama strength right there!

Take care of Virginia Tech in Orlando this weekend and you’ll get a shot at revenge, Tigers.

4. Washington (11-1)
Last week: 8
Last game: Beat Washington State, 45-17
Next up: Friday vs. Colorado (Pac-12 Championship in Santa Clara, California)

Speaking of escalating quickly, this was the score in the Apple Cup after one quarter:

That’ll happen when you’ve got receivers like Dante Pettis who can make catches like this:

Now, to the elephant in the room. Assuming they beat Colorado next week in the Pac-12 Championship (far from a safe assumption), the prevailing thought seems to be that Washington is the odd team out if the Playoff decides to take a Big Ten champion AND Ohio State. Now, it might seem insane that they would take two teams from the Big Ten, but the way I see it, if Penn State wins, they can’t take the Buckeyes OVER the Nittany Lions, who actually beat them head-to-head AND won the conference. They can MAYBE take both if the Badgers win, or, failing that, maybe get by with taking the Buckeyes over a conference champion-Wisconsin.

But come on, look at that team and tell me you don’t want to see what they can do against Clemson or Alabama. Would they be challenged? Sure, but Chris Petersen is a hell of a coach, if anyone can devise a winning strategy against Alabama it might be him. After all, he’ll have a month to do so.

5. Wisconsin (10-2)
Last week: 6
Last game: Beat Minnesota, 31-17
Next up: Saturday vs. Penn State (Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis)

Which brings us to the Badgers! They’ve had a heck of a year, sitting at 10-2, with losses against only Michigan and Ohio State, arguably two of the top four teams in the land. They’re also heading to the Big Ten championship thanks to incredible focus and an ability to rebound from those two losses to take care of business.

If they beat Penn State for the Big Ten title, should they get in over Ohio State, who beat them in Madison, albeit in overtime? HAVE FUN, COMMITTEE.

6. Penn State (10-2)
Last week: 5
Last game: Beat Michigan State, 45-12
Next up: Saturday vs. Wisconsin (Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis)

And coming out of the Big Ten East, Penn State! Also with two losses, the Nittany Lions are a bit less glamorous in that their losses are to Michigan (good) and Pitt (bad.) But they also beat Ohio State! If they beat Wisconsin, does that mean they should be the sole representative of the Big Ten? THESE ARE EASY QUESTIONS FOR NO MAN.

So let’s just watch this great touchdown catch by Mike Gesicki instead:


7. Michigan (10-2)
Last week: 2
Last game: Lost to Ohio State, 30-27
Next up: Waiting on Bowl Placement

Let’s get this over with, Wolverines. Rip the band-aid off.

For what it’s worth, yeah, I thought that was a rough spot. (I’m not the only one, either.) But I also think you got incredibly lucky that a previously almost-perfect kicker (his only miss this year was the Penn State block that lost Ohio State the game) missed two field goals. You also gifted the Buckeyes six points on a pick-six, while giving up six of your own by fumbling down at the one-yard line. Point is you had your chances to make sure it didn’t even get to overtime.

No, you don’t deserve to make the Playoff. But you had a hell of a season, far better than any of you expected. (And if you tell me differently, you’re a liar.) You were heading into this weekend on house money, on the road, against possibly the second best team in the country.

Enjoy the path that got you there, and keep your fingers crossed the committee values conference champions enough to keep the Buckeyes home on New Year’s Eve too. Nothing heals an open wound like cold, bitter spite.

8. Oklahoma (9-2)
Last week: 7
Last game: Beat West Virginia, 56-28
Next up: Saturday vs. Oklahoma State

You’ve got the chaos you need, Oklahoma. You might still not have a chance. But if there’s anyone out there with the brand name panache and late-season momentum to catch the eye of the committee, it’s the Sooners. Can you play well enough for the committee to ignore the beating you took at the hands of Ohio State earlier in the year?

I know Dede Westbrook can:

9. Colorado (10-2)
Last week: 9
Last game: Beat Utah, 27-22
Next up: Friday vs. Washington (Pac-12 Championship Game in Santa Clara, CA)

Way to go Colorado. Let us remind you, Colorado went 4-9 last year, and 1-8 in the Pac-12. And now they’re in the conference championship. That is one hell of a turnaround, no matter what happens against Washington.

This, however, will not make it any easier:

10. USC (9-3)
Last week: 11
Last game: Beat Notre Dame, 45-27
Next up: Waiting on Bowl Placement

Usually a highly-fraught rivalry game, USC-Notre Dame this year had the feel of somebody taking their sick horse out behind the barn to put it out of their misery. In this case, that somebody was Adoree’ Jackson:

USC fully recovered from an early-season slump to win eight in a row, while Notre Dame limped away to a 4-8 record, but not without kicking an injured player and stomping on some feet first.

Since that debacle, Brian Kelly has pulled his trademark “it’s not me, it’s the players” and is reportedly looking to leave Notre Dame, unaware that coaches who go 4-8 with rosters like his don’t usually get too many offers.

USC, meanwhile, looks forward to a bowl game with the knowledge that they are in fact a very talented team and can look forward to competing next year for that Pac-12 title once again.

Just watch out for the refs next year, ok?

11. Western Michigan (12-0)
Last week: 10
Last game: Beat Toledo, 55-35
Next up: Friday vs. Ohio (MAC Championship in Detroit)

You know all that stuff I said up above about going undefeated and winning your conference title? Sorry Western Michigan, that doesn’t apply to you. I really wish it did though, truly. I love an underdog as much as anyone. But if you take care of Ohio on Friday, you’ll get a shot to show the country what you can do against a major Power 5 opponent.

12. Florida State (9-3)
Last week: 16
Last game: Beat Florida, 31-13
Next up: Waiting on Bowl Placement

Take note, players. You want to go down in school history and never have to buy a drink again in your college town? Play like this against all your school’s biggest rivals:

But Dalvin’s had enough highlights this year. The real gem of this game? 6’1, 240-pound fullback Freddie Stevenson running over the defensive line to score from 26 yards out:

13. Oklahoma State (9-2)
Last week: 15
Last game: Beat TCU, 31-6
Next up: Saturday at Oklahoma

See above, under “Oklahoma.” The only catch is that the Cowboys, despite being as hot a team as any with seven wins in a row, lost to Central Michigan. And sure, maybe it shouldn’t technically be a loss thanks to some questionable officiating, but let’s be honest: if you want to be considered a possible Playoff team, you should have Central Michigan put away by the 4th quarter.

14. West Virginia (9-2)
Last week: Unranked
Last game: Beat Iowa State, 49-19
Next up: Saturday vs. Baylor

Sure, what the heck — throw the Mountaineers back in here because Florida, Nebraska, and Houston all lost. But there are reasons nobody is considering you as a Playoff contender, even at 9-2. You know what they are.

But at least you had a very pleasant trip to Ames:

15. Virginia Tech (9-3)
Last week: 19
Last game: Beat Virginia, 52-10
Next up: Saturday vs. Clemson (ACC Championship in Orlando)

Big, big week for VT. First, they got new ownership of two turkeys, recently pardoned by your dad, the President of the United States:

Then they went and stomped out Virginia for the 13th year in a row, clinching the ACC Coastal and getting the chance to play for the ACC title against Clemson!

16. Stanford (9-3)
Last week: 21
Last game: Beat Rice, 41-17
Next up: Waiting for Bowl Placement

Get your last Heisman plugs in for Christian McCaffrey, Stanford:

Stanford’s season hasn’t gone to plan, mostly due to injuries. In fact, it hasn’t gone to plan for any of the top three running backs’ teams. But we should all take the bowl season to recognize how damn special this season was, getting to watch McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, and Leonard Fournette. That’s been a special bunch, and there’s a good chance we’re looking at a historic draft class for running backs next spring.

17. Florida (8-3)

Last week: 12
Last game: Lost to Florida State, 31-13
Next up: Saturday vs. Alabama (SEC Championship in Atlanta)

Also, to show there’s no hard feelings UF, an embarrassing story of my own:

In college I was on a quiz bowl team (strike one) and we were facing a team from UF. The moderator started to say “This is the term for a word that has the same spell-” and I jumped the gun (strike two) because I thought she was on her way to saying “has the same spelling but different meanings.”

So I yelled out “homonym” but was buzzed as wrong. Then she completed it by saying “has the same spelling forward and backwards, like racecar or 41-14” (the score UF beat Ohio State by in the national championship that year.) The Florida team answered it while staring straight at me (strike three.)

That’s a super long way to say we’ll all get palindrome’d at some point in life, Gators.

But not all of us have to go through it two weeks in a row. Enjoy Alabama!

18. Houston (9-3)
Last week: 14
Last game: Lost to Memphis, 48-44
Next up: Waiting for Bowl Placement

Houston has absolutely collapsed, so let’s lead with the biggest news that head coach Tom Herman, who essentially built this program up into a nationally known team once again, is moving on to bigger expectations and bigger budgets at Texas.

By all accounts Herman is a hell of a coach and mentor, and the Big 12 has about one year to continue to get their licks in on the Longhorns before he undoubtedly takes one of the most fertile recruiting pools in the nation and returns them to national prominence.

19. Nebraska (9-3)
Last week: 13
Last game: Lost to Iowa, 40-10
Next up: Waiting for Bowl Placement

Let’s just forget that Iowa game even happened, Huskers. In fact, here’s a game you probably COULD win!

That is an amazing backyard. I bet that house also gives out the full-size candy bars at Halloween, because they’re clearly a go-big-or-go-home family.

20. Auburn (8-4)

Last week: 17
Last game: Lost to Alabama, 30-12
Next up: Waiting for Bowl Placement

You know it’s a mean rivalry when even the ice cream shops get into it:

21. Louisville (9-3)
Last week: 18
Last game: Lost to Kentucky, 41-38
Next up: Waiting for Bowl Placement

Speaking of collapses, Louisville went from one of the hottest teams in the country with only a nail-biting loss to Clemson on their record to losing their last two games and falling possibly out of even a New Year’s Day bowl. The saddest part? The last loss of the year was to rival Kentucky, who were 28-point underdogs.

But sure, Louisville, ignore all that and try to talk up Lamar Jackson for the Heisman (note: he should absolutely, totally win the Heisman.)

22. Iowa (8-4)
Last week: Unranked
Last game: Beat Nebraska, 40-10
Next up: Waiting for Bowl Placement

Welcome to the Power Rankings, Iowa! You know, just once we’d like to see you win a game and have some damn restraint when it comes to paying Kirk Ferentz:

Have some respect for yourself!

23. South Florida (10-2)

Last week: Unranked
Last game: Beat UCF, 48-31
Next up: Waiting for Bowl Placement

The “War on I-4”? Is that really a thing? That shouldn’t be a thing. Come on, guys, pick a better name. Something fierce yet still locally relevant, like “Apple Cup.” Nothing screams high-pressure, in-state rivalry like “Apple Cup.”

24. Utah (8-4)
Last week: 22
Last game: Lost to Colorado, 27-22
Next up: Waiting for Bowl Placement

Aw man, really? That’s unfortunate, Utah. You really need to close your seasons stronger.

25. Navy (9-2)
Last week: Unranked
Last game: Beat SMU, 75-31
Next up: Saturday vs. Temple

Goodness, Navy!

Might want to get that punter some reps though, there’s a chance you’ll need him at least like, once, in the Army-Navy game.

Next Five: Washington State, Tennessee, Boise State, LSU, and the warm holiday feeling of walking out of the snow and into a bar full of friends and a roaring fire.

So this is where we go our separate ways, folks. If you’ve enjoyed the Power Rankings this season, or even if you’ve disagreed with every single one, thanks for reading. You can catch me on Twitter (@eastchoast) and if you’re looking for ideas of where your favorite team might go bowling, nobody does it better than Jason Kirk.

It’s been a heck of a season, but we’ll see you at the crossroads.

(End Credits)

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