Mississippi State came in fourth in this week’s round of College Football Playoff rankings. The Bulldogs (9-1, 5-1 SEC) had been #1 in the first three releases of this inaugural CFP season, but a 25-20 loss to Alabama was sure to shuffle the standings. The Crimson Tide rode that home win from fifth last week to #1 in the new rankings.
In the process the Crimson Tide vaulted now-#2 Oregon and #3 Florida State, who had trailed the Bulldogs in that order last week.
Mississippi State was practicing while the rankings were released, getting ready for the home-field finale this Saturday against Vanderbilt. Kickoff on Scott Field is 6:39 for the SEC Network. But the Bulldogs have to focus hard for this one and not get distracted by what lies ahead the next week: a game that may well determine if MSU makes the committee’s final and only meaningful rankings on December 7.
Because the Bulldogs’ final opponent, Ole Miss, moved up to 8th this week. Other SEC members in the latest rankings were Georgia 10, Auburn 14, and Missouri 20. LSU fell out entirely of the top 25 after a fourth loss, all in league play.
Alabama’s win not only pushed them to the top CFP spot; it gave the Tide the Western Division tiebreak on State which is the only other one-loss league team. Alabama hosts Auburn in two weekends and a win sends them to the SEC’s Championship Game. The Bulldogs could still back-door into Atlanta by beating Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, and Auburn scoring an upset in Tuscaloosa.
At the same time there are solid scenarios which would allow a 11-1 Bulldog team to stay in the CFP committee’s final four, pending results elsewhere of course. The committee’s tendencies in the first releases has been to reflect the state of things ‘as is’ that day; rather than projecting who should or could emerge as conference champions or jump other contenders and so on. This way the committee does not have to defend positions after other results.
However this same strategy can set up somebody for a real final-rankings reality check. Or, not. No one really knows at this point of the first-ever Playoffs selection process. And that will keep everyone guessing for another three weeks.