Let’s talk about college football, shall we? First off, having watched college football for as long as I can remember, and particularly in recent weeks, I have absolutely no issues saying that it’s product is unquestionably more exciting than the NFL. Not to mention cleaner, more pure, and without Roger Goodell’s weekly nonsensical hogwash, to put it lightly.
Every week, something new, thrilling, and important happens. In case you’ve been living under a rock and have deprived yourself of the pleasure of watching college football’s weekly insanity, you would have missed Michigan State’s last second botched-punt-fumble-return-touchdown to defeat bitter rival Michigan. You would have missed BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum’s last second Hail Mary to defeat Nebraska, and then the very next week to defeat Boise State.
Suffice to say, college football has provided consistent mayhem and excitement that we all revel in on a weekly basis. And, much to the credit of the NCAA, the recently installed College Football Playoff has only increased the excitement and thrills.
But, as perfect as this system could seem, it has flaws; flaws that have reared their ugly head lately. The biggest flaw that the system has can be summed up in two words.
Double standards? Where in the world are there double standards in the College Football Playoff? Well, what I’m going to focus on is the idea of dropping certain teams in the polls, but not other teams. It sounds vague and complicated but we’ll dive into it, I promise.
Now, before we get into the main event this evening I want to say this. If last year’s Playoff taught us anything, the polls before the finals poll are just feigns designed to get us talking and arguing…I think. So we’re going to do exactly what those polls are designed to get us to do; talk and argue.
For the sake of this article, we’ll be using the AP poll as our source of rankings, so any ranking that I reference will be from that poll.
Anyway, let’s rewind to the preseason rankings, which had Ohio State at #1, TCU at #2, Baylor at #4, and Utah unranked. So far, Ohio State’s ranking as the top team in the nation has not budged, but all of those other teams have been thrown in a bucket and jumbled around like nobody’s business.
Ohio State has looked nothing like the #1 team in the country. Argue all you want, but the team that’s 39th in total offense in the FBS and 19th in total defense, with an average margin of victory of about 17 points, is just not the #1 team in a stacked field. Not to mention, all of this coming against 7 unranked teams, none of them appearing particularly formidable.
Yet, as I touched on earlier, Ohio State’s ranking as the top team in the country hasn’t budged. Now, granted, the only thing that matters at the end of the season is the win column, and Ohio State has not faltered and has seven of those said wins. But when I say the only thing that matters is the win column, whoever produces the rankings seems to disagree with me. Baylor is 7-0, TCU is 7-0, Utah is 6-0, Michigan State is 8-0; yet all of these teams have been shuffled around almost nonsensically from week to week.
So, my question is, why do all of those teams – among others – get shuffled around from week to week, yet Ohio State’s ranking never changes? What do you, as a committee, value?
Let’s look at Michigan State and Ohio State specifically here.
Both have played Indiana, and both have beaten Indiana. But, both have struggled mightily in defeating the Hoosiers. Indiana is 4-4 and not considered a top team, so it is a bit of a cause for concern that both teams struggled with the Hoosiers.
Ohio State only won by seven points, and anyone watching that game knows that Indiana really should have won, but the Buckeyes eked it out. Michigan State struggled for three quarters before a 24 point fourth quarter pulled theme away and gave them a 52-26 win.
Now in the past, Michigan State has been dropped in the polls for struggling to beat teams they were favored to beat. The Spartans only defeated Purdue by three points, and were dropped two spots in the polls following the victory. While, that very same week, Ohio State should have lost to Indiana, yet didn’t, and was not moved from their perch atop the polls.
And the week after, Ohio State struggled against 2-5 Maryland – winning by 14 points – while Michigan State slogged to a 7 point victory over Rutgers. You can probably guess what happened next, as the Spartans were dropped three spots in the polls, yet the Buckeyes remained atop the polls.
A 7-0 Michigan State team, that had been ranked #2 just two weeks earlier and has beaten two top 15 teams, was now ranked #7. While a 7-0 Ohio State team that had mostly struggled against unranked cupcakes was still ranked #1.
Am I the only one that’s questioning this?
Meanwhile, during all of this, just about the same thing is happening in the Big 12 with Baylor and TCU.
In the preseason poll, TCU was slotted at #2, and Baylor sat at #4. As we stand today, both teams are 7-0. TCU’s average margin of victory is about 24 points against the 26th hardest schedule in the country. Baylor’s average margin of victory is 36 points against the 38th hardest schedule in the country. Baylor currently sits at #2, while TCU sits at #4.
One last argument here. Let’s take a look at the high-rising surprises of this season. The Iowa Hawkeyes and the Utah Utes. Utah is 6-0, and Iowa is 7-0, and both were unranked at the start of the season. Utah now sits at #3 in the country, and Iowa currently sits at #17.
Utah has defeated a now highly ranked Michigan team, but looking back on their schedule, that’s their only really quality win. They struggled at home against Utah State and Arizona State, and their 42 point road throttling of Oregon currently looks way less impressive than it did at the time of victory considering the Ducks’ freefall to a poor 4-3 record.
Iowa has defeated a ranked Pittsburgh team, and has road wins at ranked Wisconsin and a 30 point throttling of ranked Northwestern. They’ve looked extremely impressive in the formidable BIG 10.
Yet, Utah sits at #3 and is right in the thick of Playoff talk, and Iowa sits at #17 and the biggest compliment you’ll hear about them is that they are, “an upstart.”
I can’t be the only one confused at all of this. So, to the committee, I ask, what matters to you? How do you make your rankings? What do Ohio State, Utah, and Baylor have that Michigan State, Iowa, and TCU don’t have? Why are you dropping certain teams in the rankings while not dropping other teams?
Now, as I mentioned earlier and as we learned last year, these rankings really carry no weight. They are just the committee’s loose representation of the current standing of college football. But still, why can’t there be a double standard for all teams? Why do some teams get untouchable special treatment while others are so heavily scrutinized and punished when they make simple mistakes or slog to a victory?
The only thing we count at the end of the season is wins, so shouldn’t those be the only things that matter? After all, as the immortal Ricky Bobby said, “If you’re not first, you’re last.” I don’t think Ricky Bobby cared about his margin of victory or how many running yards he had.
And, right now, neither should any of us. A win is a win, and it should be counted that way. We can get nit-picky later. All I’m calling for is consistency right now, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.
Thanks for reading…