College football playoff committee aiming for only one SEC team?
The college football playoff committee announced its latest rankings, and this week may have revealed more about the committee’s thinking than any other so far.
The SEC placed three teams in the top 10 with LSU at No. 2, Georgia at No. 4 and Alabama at No. 5. The committee ranked the Auburn Tigers No. 15.
Here are three takeaways:
1. The playoff committee is imposing conference parity on college football. There has been griping for several years that the playoff has turned into an SEC invitational. This is the week the committee provided the most clues that it is consciously looking to ensure access to other conferences — at the expense of deserving SEC teams. The Big 12 got a bump out of nowhere in this week’s rankings with Oklahoma moving up to 7th and Baylor moving up five spots to 9th after beating a five-loss Texas team. A two-loss Penn State team with limited offensive ability stayed safely in the top 10, and seven-time national champ Minnesota checked in at No. 8 after its big win over a 9-loss Northwestern team. They look to be strengthening these conferences to justify putting in a team from each.
2. The committee is setting up the SEC championship game to be a win or go home affair. Conventional wisdom in recent weeks has been that LSU could lose in Atlanta and still make the playoff. Don’t count on it, now. Both the Big Ten and the Big 12 got collective bumps this week (see #1). Utah sits comfortably at no. 6 ahead of its conference championship game. And it’s also going to be a lot easier for the committee to drop LSU to the No. 5 spot from the No. 2 spot than it is from the No. 1 spot. Rankings for teams like Penn State, Baylor, Minnesota and Oklahoma are being over-inflated. The committee is sending up smoke signals that it wants a more inclusive playoff based on conference affiliation. Either LSU or Georgia will make the college football playoff. Not both.
3. The Alabama Crimson Tide are still in a tight spot. Oregon’s upset loss on Saturday night seemed to have pumped a little more oxygen in the Tide’s chances. But the rankings released tonight by the committee may have done the opposite. Big 12 and Big 10 teams got bumps. Utah is nipping at the Tide’s heels. And Ohio State overtook LSU. The committee is making sure each of those conferences get positioned for a top 4 seed. That’s not good news for an Alabama team not playing in Atlanta the first weekend in December. Chaos can still happen. It’s hard to go undefeated, and that’s why history would suggest losses are still going to be on the table for some of the top teams. Alabama could use a team like Clemson to get beat. Maybe more importantly, it needs some teams behind it to get beat in order to make it impossible for the committee to seed a multi-loss conference champ. The good news for Alabama is that there are lot more games to be played.
Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia