Perhaps it is true that expectations at Alabama are so high that number one is blasé…at least until final. Or maybe it's true that the traditional polls are irrelevant.
To be sure, nothing is final yet, but when the College Football Playoff Selection Committee provided its weekly poll Tuesday evening, it was comforting that the Crimson Tide had held on to its position – number one in the only poll that really matters. The top four had no change with the Tide followed by Oregon, Florida State, and Mississippi State.
Bama still has hurdles to the national championship, and the next game – as coaches are wont to say – is the most important. Alabama (10-1 overall and 6-1 in Southeastern Conference play) hosts Auburn (8-3, 4-3) at 6:45 p.m. CST Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. ESPN will televise the game.
A win over the Tigers would give Bama the SEC West title and a trip to the SEC Championship Game. An Alabama win there would make the CFP selection committee’s job easy at the top.
Alabama is not the only team with work to do. Oregon is number two in the selection committee rankings, but has a rivalry game against (an albeit weak) Oregon State this weekend and then the Pac-12 Championship Game, probably against improving UCLA, which is lurking at eighth – the top two-loss team – in the CFP standings.
Number three Florida State is coasting through its ACC schedule to an undefeated season, though some suggest the ACC title game against Georgia Tech could provide some problems for a Seminoles team that has been far less impressive than in last year’s national championship run.
Number four is Mississippi State, which has Vandy and at Ole Miss remaining. If it wins both games and Alabama loses to Auburn, the Bulldogs would make the SEC Championship Game with an excellent chance to advance to the inaugural four-team playoff. If Alabama beats Auburn and wins the SEC Championship, MSU will be holding its dog breath.
Although number eight UCLA and even Georgia, which is ninth, are working on scenarios that could get them in the final four (UCLA probably would with wins over Stanford and Oregon), the real drama is with those teams lurking right behind Mississippi State – 5. TCU, 6. Ohio State, and 7. Baylor. As has been pointed out on numerous occasions, TCU and Baylor don’t have a Big 12 Championship Game. As teams in that league point out, they don’t need one since they play each other. And some would say, “Where does that get you, Baylor?” The Bears beat TCU head-to-head and has the same record, but is ranked behind the Horned Frogs in every poll.
In between them is Ohio State, which seemed out of the race almost from the starting blocks after suffering a home loss to a very weak Virginia Tech. But the Buckeyes have fought back and could face No. 14 in a Big Ten championship that might propel them into the group of four.
Each week Jeff Long, the Arkansas athletics director who serves as chairman of the 12-person selection committee, tries to shed a little light on the process. This week’s nugget was that Mississippi State, which has only one win over a top 25 team (Auburn), is holding onto its position because it beat teams like LSU and Texas A&M that were ranked when the Dogs got those wins.
Some might consider that new to the list of criteria, and also to the pledge that the committee was judging teams week-by-week, a clean slate after every Saturday game.
Michigan State is 10th, Arizona 11th, Kansas State 12th, Arizona State 13th, Wisconsin 14th, Auburn 15th (down from 14th last week), Georgia Tech 16th, Missouri 17th, Minnesota 18th, Ole Miss 19th (down from eighth last week before Arkansas put a 30 to goose egg on them), Oklahoma 20th, Clemson 21st, Louisville 22nd, Boise State 23rd, Marshall 24th, and Utah 25th.
Only 11 voters participated this week as former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese was ill and unable to travel to the resort at Grapevine, Texas, where the committee conducts in voting.