Like, literally, days.
For more than a month now, we've been putting together our Playoff Digest, our thoughts on the latest College Football Playoff committee rankings. Now, it's crunch time -- one more day of games followed by the heavily anticipated unveiling of the first-ever field of four.
Since the first release after the Penn State game in late October, Ohio State has jumped from 16th to fifth, one spot out, but there are still plnety of variables at play. But what we do know is that in a few short days, we'll know everything about who's going where.
In the meantime, we soldier on with our usual questions. What does the Buckeyes ranking mean? What other games matter? What college football team has a spirit animal?
These are the big questions of the day our panel of BSB editor Jeff Svoboda, writers Blake Williams and Ryan Ginn and intern Kane Anderson will attempt to answer each week. So sit back and enjoy the #hotsportstakes.
Is Ohio State’s ranking (5th) fair?
Ryan: The Buckeyes’ ranking is, but the position they’re being put in is not. I think it’s fair to place Ohio State fifth with a chance to move into playoff contention with a win, but TCU at third seems to indicate that Ohio State will need a team above it to lose in order to make it into the final four. That’s not something I (or others, apparently) anticipated prior to the newest batch of rankings. I’m sure it will be a tough pill to swallow if everyone at the top of the rankings wins out and TCU ends up fourth instead of Ohio State.
Blake: Yes and no. In isolation No. 5 seems to be fair. The Buckeyes jumped one spot after Mississippi State suffered its first loss. That’s all fine and dandy. Put Ohio State’s ranking in context with the teams around it, however, and it becomes more dubious. Being two spots behind TCU does not seem fair to me and I simply don’t get the committee’s apparent infatuation with the Horned Frogs. To be sure, TCU’s loss is way better than Ohio State’s, but I don’t think it merits a two-team separation given the Buckeyes’ wins. TCU at No. 3 is bad news for Ohio State and I’m not sure it’s fair.
Kane: Ohio State’s ranking is fair. There’s not much for the Buckeyes to complain about. Only one team ahead of them fell and OSU moved up one spot, which is all you can ask for I guess. A better question is whether TCU’s ranking is fair, jumping over Florida State to No. 3. That doesn’t bode well for any team thinking to crack the top four without having one of those teams lose. It seems the committee has its four.
Jeff: I think so. It's so hard to differentiate these teams now. Alabama is No. 1 on the strength of recent performances vs. teams like Auburn and Mississippi State, but the tide (no pun intended) seems to be turning agianst the SEC being the best conference. Yet here we are with the Tide above everyone else. Oregon looks set to come out of a strong Pac-12 so they should be pretty high, and most people think the Big 12 is pretty good, too, and TCU has been impressive. But is OSU really worse (or better than those teams)? Based on the body of work, it's so hard to tell. But with the committee not knowing what to do in relation to the J.T. Barrett injury, I'm OK with the body taking the wait-and-see approach and putting OSU here. Moving TCU up above Florida State is not a good sign for OSU, but I have a feeling anything could and will happen this last week.
A #hotsportstake on the CFP rankings...
Ryan: If the SEC is going to get the benefit of the doubt, Florida State should, too. Time after time, teams like Alabama have escaped losses in the mid-to-late portion of the season largely because other teams fell by the wayside too and, all things equal, the SEC team got the benefit of the doubt. That’s all well and good, but it’s bizarre to me that Florida State – which hasn’t lost since 2012 – doesn’t get the same deference as the defending champions. I don’t think Jameis and Co. should be No. 1, but slotting them at fourth seems low.
Blake: I think the Buckeyes should be rooting for Baylor to win this weekend against No. 9 Kansas State. It sounds crazy to hope a team behind you gets a top-10 win, especially considering it would be the Bears' best win of the season. But if the Bears and Horned Frogs both win Saturday, Baylor will have the tiebreaker as the Big 12 champ. I still think that will be hard for the committee to ignore, meaning TCU would have to fall. A loss by Baylor, however, makes TCU the outright champs and gives the Horned Frogs a spot in the playoff for sure.
Kane: The way the final four is setting up is interesting for geographical reasons. It is almost as if the committee had a preconceived notion of helping the fan bases travel to the bowl games. Alabama is No. 1 and will go to the Sugar Bowl, where most SEC teams end up, and is slated to play Florida State. That’s much easier travel than if the Seminoles remained at No. 2 or 3 and had to go out to California for the Rose Bowl. Instead, it’s looking like the Pac-12 champion (Oregon) will remain in Pasadena, facing a Big-12 opponent in TCU. Easy drives for all teams.
Jeff: The committee is not headed to a happy Sunday. I sort of, kind of hoped that things would work out and there would be an obvious top four so that some of the mouth breathers out there didn't feel the urge to crush the committee before it even got started, but this is gonna be a mess. I don't see any way there's an obvious top quartet, so there's likely going to be a lot of hand-wringing and cursing. It's a tough job. Most teams don't play each other. How does one determine a best four teams anyway? I've long thought that going undefeated is more a fluke than an actual evaluation of a team's ability, but at the same time, you play to win the game, right? The entire point of playing is to win, so a team that is unbeaten has accomplished the final objective each time it's gone out. Then again, I also think it's pretty fair to objectively look at, say, FSU and the one-loss teams and feel Alabama, Oregon, TCU and perhaps other are better football teams. This would be a fun discussion, but instead we're going to get a lot of screaming and upset people come Sunday, I fear.
Compare one team to ... their spirit animal!
Ryan: Alabama is a boa constrictor. Watching the Iron Bowl in the second half, I knew what was going to happen. Alabama takes teams that can’t stop the run and just hammers them, latching on and squeezing the life out of them. It’s a pretty hopeless feeling trying to stop the slow, inevitable death.
Blake: The low hanging fruit here is TCU as a frog. Not only is it their mascot, but they are inexplicably leaping people. I’m going outside the box though and saying Ohio State is a starfish. When starfish lose a limb, they regenerate it. The Buckeyes lost J.T. Barrett and are looking to regenerate that lost limb this weekend. Ohio State will be able to regenerate. Whether the Buckeyes can do it in time to beat Wisconsin and earn a sport in the playoff, I’m not sure.
Kane: Ole Miss is an opossum. After barely losing to LSU at the end of October, they just played dead for most of November. They looked especially dead after losing to Arkansas 30-0. They slid down the rankings and everyone forgot all about how they beat Alabama. Then they woke back up and flashed some pointy teeth to beat Mississippi State.
Jeff: You might think that Oregon is best summed up by its troublemaking mascot, Puddles, but Oregon is actaully Doge, the internet meme that just happens to be my favorite. For a long while, no one knew what Doge was, just like Oregon's program toiled with weird uniforms in relative obscurity for decades. Then suddenly, the program exploded; just like Doge was suddenly on Christmas sweaters and NASCAR hoods, Oregon is a meme that just won't go away in college football. There might not be any substance behind either, but that's not necessarily the point. Such offense. What scoring. Much uniform. Wow.
This weekend’s upset alert
Ryan: Florida State? There aren’t too many appealing options. I think Ohio State beating Wisconsin is the most likely upset in the literal sense (given that the Buckeyes are four-point underdogs), but I don’t know how many people that would surprise. Maybe this is the week the Seminoles fall apart – especially if that triple option keeps the ball away and grinds down the clock.
Blake: There are a lot of candidates here, but I’m going to go with the most obvious. Florida State has played like a team that could lose to Georgia Tech (or much lesser opponents) recently and that could come to fruition in the ACC championship game. Then again there’s the chance that the Seminoles have been trolling us all season long and FSU leaves with a double-digit victory.
Kane: The upset for championship weekend has to be Florida State. The Seminoles have been teetering along the razors edge forever now and this is the last but best chance for them to lose. Georgia Tech seems pretty legit to me after taking down Georgia and it will have the whole nation behind them in its fight against the Seminoles.
Jeff: I'll try to put my voodoo hex on Florida State one last time. I have gotten this category right just once, so I'll go ahead and say my prediction capabilities are lacking, but of all the teams on the bubble, I think the Seminoles are the one most likely to go down. They might be fired up by the perceived snub this week by falling to fourth in the rankings, but this is a team that hasn't been able to get up for games all season, plus there's the distraction of Jameis Winston hearings going on. Add in the fact that Georgia Tech runs a scheme that's hard to prepare for and I'll take the Ramblin' Wreck.
This Week's Relevant Jeff Long Quote
"Ohio State's situation has not been impacted at this point due to J.T. Barrett's injury. We will evaluate his injury and his replacement in this championship game. The No. 5 ranking of Ohio State was not affected at this point."