Time is ticking away for teams trying to prove they are worth a spot in the top four of the rankings that determine the CFP semifinalists. Tuesday’s third rankings came out after a weekend in which No. 1 Georgia and No. 3 Notre Dame took major tumbles.
So, which teams should be angry after the latest CFP rankings were released? Which teams should be worried about how little time they have left to impress the committee? Here are our thoughts:
No. 5 Wisconsin (10-0)
Only once has an undefeated Power 5 team been held out of the top four this late in the CFP rankings in favor of a team with one loss: In 2015, Iowa and Oklahoma State, both 10-0, were ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, with one-loss Alabama and Notre Dame in front of them. That’s the situation facing Wisconsin, which at 10-0 is No. 5 behind two one-loss teams, No. 2 Clemson and No. 4 Oklahoma. Wisconsin routed then-ranked Iowa on Saturday, a week after the Hawkeyes smashed Ohio State.
The Badgers have one win over a team which is now ranked, No. 23 Northwestern … and that is the problem. Wisconsin is unbeaten but its schedule is ranked 63rd by Jeff Sagarin and 67th by ESPN. Its non-conference slate consisted of Utah State, Florida Atlantic and BYU.
So what should the criteria be?
This is maybe the biggest philosophical debate behind the CFP, or any other rankings. If an unbeaten record — an easy and objective measurable — is the most valuable aspect of a team’s resume, then Wisconsin could easily argue to be higher. But if subjective judgement matters more, if the real question is which teams are the most talented at any one time? Then records, and losses, matter less. Which leads us to …
No. 6 Auburn (8-2)
I have a confession for our good SaturdayDownSouth.com readers: I’m a native Midwesterner, born and raised in Ohio. Even after 30 years of living in Florida I still have a soft spot for IndyCar racing, cool autumns and the Big Ten. And I have seen Wisconsin play enough to say … that Auburn would beat the Badgers by about 10. That’d be my opening betting line at a neutral site, anyway.
Anybody who has watched the Tigers can see how this team has steamrolled opponents in the month since they inexplicably squandered a 20-0 lead in a loss against LSU. And if Clemson is No. 2 (I still think the defending national champs are ranked too high, but OK) then what does it say about Auburn, which lost only 14-6 at Clemson in a game without the SEC’s leading rusher, Kerryon Johnson? If a two-loss SEC team has a good argument for being better than Wisconsin, and it does, then how about …
No. 7 Georgia (9-1)
The Bulldogs had a bad day on The Plains on Saturday, no doubt. Their 23-point loss to rival Auburn sent the Bulldogs tumbling down the rankings, and there is a fair amount of logic in Georgia falling one spot behind the Tigers with their head-to-head meeting so fresh in the memory. But Georgia’s entire body of work is still worth a second look.
The SEC East has not been impressive (Sagarin rates the division ninth, one slot above the American Athletic Conference West) but the way Georgia has steamrolled its division foes has been. Heading into their SEC finale on Saturday against Kentucky, the Bulldogs have outscored their division opponents by an average of 41-12 through five games. Wisconsin has outscored its five Big Ten West division foes by an average of 30-15, and the Big Ten West is no great shakes.
No. 12 TCU (8-2)
The Horned Frogs might well get another shot at Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game. But if they do, then Gary Patterson, one of America’s best defensive-minded coaches, will have to stay up extra late to scheme for a way to stop Baker Mayfield and an awesome Sooners offense. TCU should get credit for hanging in there after a bad-looking first half on Saturday in a 38-20 loss in Norman.
TCU has a fair argument that it should be ranked above No. 10 Penn State and it absolutely should be ahead of a vastly overrated USC team that stayed at No. 11. It won’t matter for the playoffs — that ship has sailed for the Horned Frogs — but it could matter for an at-large berth into a New Year’s Day 6 bowl, which means big bucks.
No. 13 Oklahoma State (8-2)
Many of the same arguments regarding TCU apply to the Cowboys, except of course that Oklahoma State lost at home to TCU. Again, the Playoff is not the issue here. The question is, will a 10-2 Cowboys team (assuming they defeat Kansas State and Kansas in the next two weeks) be left with a bid to the Alamo Bowl or will it take its place in the NYD6? Oklahoma State owns two road wins over two teams that were ranked at the time they met, West Virginia and Iowa State.
After their losses to TCU and Oklahoma, all of the realistic tiebreakers for the Big 12 title game work against the Cowboys. But a major bowl would still be a just reward for this team and its explosive offense.
Source: Saturday Down South