By John P. Lopez
The good news is Baylor and TCU can take care of the problem. But rest assured, the Bears and Horned Frogs have a big problem when it comes to stating a legitimate case to be included among the Top Four in the season’s first College Football Playoff rankings, which will be announced Tuesday.
The problem is, compared to the three teams that certainly should be included in the inaugural rankings — and three other teams that should rank ahead of Baylor and TCU — they have played embarrassingly soft schedules. The committee will look at a number of factors, including their personal collective opinion of which teams simply look most dominant and on that front Baylor and TCU certainly sparkle.
But here is what the first playoff rankings should look like, and then we will explain why:
- Michigan State
- Ohio State
- Notre Dame
For all the different elements the committee will weigh, two things should earn more credit than all others. Foremost, undefeated teams deserve bonus points. It’s extremely difficult to win, every week. No matter the conference. No matter the strength of schedule. Winning every Saturday is a chore. And this is where the Bears and Horned Frogs thrive.
But the second most decisive element should be the answer to the question, “What are their two best wins?”
And this is where Baylor, TCU and several others — including the Houston Cougars — fall well short. The Bears’ two best wins are against Texas Tech and Iowa State, both unranked teams with a combined record of 8-9. TCU’s two best wins also are against the Cyclones and Red Raiders. And neither Baylor nor TCU has played a ranked team all season.
The remainder of the schedule for both teams, however, could fix their issues, with the Bears and Frogs facing ranked Oklahoma and Oklahoma State this month, before facing off against each other Nov. 27. While neither deserve a spot in these initial rankings, winning out should well make the survivor the No. 1 seed in the final playoff rankings.
Without question, the three teams that should be at the top of Tuesday’s rankings are LSU, Clemson and Michigan State. The Tigers’ two best wins are against No. 11 Florida and No. 24 Mississippi State, whose combined record is 13-3. Clemson’s two best wins came against No. 8 Notre Dame and North Carolina State, whose combined record is 12-4. And Michigan State’s best wins were over No. 16 Michigan and Oregon, whose combined record is 11-5.
As for Nos. 4-6, you could almost pull a name out of a hat. Ohio State gets the nod at No. 4 because they’re undefeated and defending champs, but their schedule has been below-average, with their best wins over Indiana and Penn State, a combined 11-6. And I’d put Florida slightly ahead of Alabama. The Gators have wins over No. 19 Ole Miss and Georgia, whose combined record is 12-5, while the Crimson Tide’s best two wins were over No. 25 Texas A&M and Wisconsin, with a combined record of 13-4.
Rounding out the Top Ten are Notre Dame, whose best wins were over USC and No. 23 Temple, and Memphis, with wins over No. 19 Ole Miss and Cincinnati, whose combined record is 12-5.
As for the Houston Cougars, in a sense they are in the same boat as Baylor and TCU, but in a less-respected conference. The Cougars may be undefeated, but their best wins are over Louisville and Vanderbilt. The Cardinals are 4-4, while the Commodores have only one win over an FBS team and are 3-5. A lot has to happen in their favor in order to get into the mix, but it starts with wins over Memphis and perhaps Temple in the conference title game.