The only rankings of the season that truly matter are out, and the Big 12 finished the season with three teams ranked in the CFB Playoff rankings. It was all good news for Oklahoma, but TCU and Oklahoma State certainly finished lower than they probably deserved. Although it would have been nice for the Big 12 to get more respect from the committee regarding TCU and Oklahoma State, it is still a great day overall for the conference.
All that really matters these days when it comes to conference perception is the playoff, and the Big 12 could not afford to be left out for the third time in four years. Oklahoma will once again represent the league in the playoff as the second seed, and they are in a good position to make a run at the national championship. If the Sooners can win it all this season, then the conference will benefit with a massive improvement in national perception.
— College Football Playoff (@CFBPlayoff) December 3, 2017
Back to TCU, it is unfortunate that the committee punished the Horned Frogs for having to play a 13th game against a top-caliber team. The committee had set a precedent in previous seasons that teams that had to play on championship Saturday typically did not drop in the rankings much. However, TCU now finds itself below a 4-loss Stanford team, who admittedly also lost in a conference championship game, and 2-loss teams like Penn State and Washington, who sat on the couch on Saturday.
TCU has a stronger Strength of Record (SOR) than four teams ranked ahead of them by the committee: Penn State, Washington, Stanford and Notre Dame. Stanford and Notre Dame at least played top 10 schedules, but Washington and Penn State ended up with Strength of Schedule (SOS) rankings of 55 and 60, respectively. And now they have been rewarded with New Year’s Six bowl games. Give me a break. I know TCU got blown out twice, but it was to Oklahoma, who may be the best team in the country, both times. Again, this is mainly about teams who got to stay at home on Saturday being rewarded for doing so.
Outside of the Big 12, the controversy that took grip of the college football world today is the CFP committee putting Alabama into the playoff over Ohio State. Put me in the camp of those who are okay with it. It definitely bothers me that the SEC got two teams into the playoff in a season that even SEC fans would admit was a down year overall for their conference. However, I also would not be able to justify giving Ohio State the benefit of the doubt once again after suffering a 31-point blowout loss to Iowa. The CFP committee has never included a 2-loss team into the playoff, and this year’s Ohio State squad did not fit the bill of a team that deserved inclusion. Auburn would have been worthy on the other hand. For what it’s worth, the top four teams in SOR all made the playoff, and the Sooners ended the season with the best SOR in the country.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway for me is that once again the committee’s rankings prove that a conference is always better off being top-heavy versus balanced. The SEC was able to get two teams into the playoff despite the middle of the conference being as weak as we can remember. There was discussion earlier this season that the ACC could get two teams into the playoff if games had played out a little differently, and they only had three out of their 14 teams ranked multiple times this year. Meanwhile, the Big 12 has eight teams going bowling, but only three teams finished ranked in the top 25 because of the round robin schedule and competitive balance in the conference among those eight teams. Having a cluster of 7-5 and 6-6 teams certainly hurt the resumes of the teams at the top of the Big 12.
The other common denominator between the SEC and ACC is that they are the only two Power 5 conferences that only play eight conference games. The ACC at least added a requirement that their schools have to schedule two Power 5 opponents, but the SEC is still staunchly opposed to adapting their schedules to be more like the other conferences because quite frankly why should they? The status quo has certainly worked out for them.