The College Football Playoff Committee folks were kind enough to provide insight into their world on their website, which includes answers to frequently asked questions like, “How are the teams that go to the playoff determined?”
Good question. Among the selection criteria: schedule strength, head-to-head results against common opponents, championships and other factors.
It’s the right answer, but a twist looms in the Big 12, the type of entanglement that gave the BCS leaders fits and damaged their credibility.
TCU and Baylor are the players, and the issue is a simple one. The Bears and Horned Frogs are an identical 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the Big 12, tied with Kansas State atop the standings. Both Texas schools are coming off terrific victories, TCU over the Wildcats and Baylor at Oklahoma.
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The Frogs have been ahead of the Bears in the two College Football Playoff rankings and are again in the AP poll released on Sunday.
But Baylor beat TCU, right there on the field in Waco on Oct. 11 in a crazy game. The Bears erased a 21-point deficit in the final 11 minutes to win 61-58.
Head-to-head against common opponents matters, but not as much as head-to-head against each other.
Baylor dropped in the rankings a week after the TCU victory when it lost at West Virginia by two touchdowns.
The fall also may have been a comment on Baylor’s schedule. To that point, the Bears’ only victory over a ranked team came against TCU. The Frogs had defeated three teams ranked at kickoff.
But a strength of the playoff committee, according to its chairman, is the ability rank teams on a weekly basis, “with a clean sheet of paper,” said Jeff Long, the Arkansas athletic director and chairman of the playoff committee, who insists the group isn’t bound by the previous week’s ranking.
One of the early controversial calls of the BCS era came in 2000, when Florida State played in the championship game instead of Miami even though the Hurricanes had defeated the Seminoles during the regular season and were ranked ahead of them in the AP and coaches’ polls.
A year later, Nebraska played in the BCS title game over Big 12 champion Colorado, even though the Buffaloes crushed the Cornhuskers in the regular-season finale.
In both cases, a committee, instead of the BCS bank of computers and wire-service polls, could have opted for a different final matchup. We’ll get a hint of the committee’s thinking when its next ranking is revealed Tuesday.
Coach Urban Meyer called the Buckeyes’ 49-37 victory at Michigan State “one for the ages.” That may be a bit of an overstatement — Ohio State has won some big games over the years — but this one felt good and puts the Buckeyes in command of the East Division.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota
Oregon’s lead over Utah, once 17, had fallen to 30-27 early in the fourth quarter. It helps to a have the Heisman favorite as your quarterback. Mariota threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Stanford and capped another drive with a 1-yard run to lead the Ducks to a 51-27 victory. Mariota passed for 239 yards, rushed for 114 and now has his first Pac-12 North Division championship.
The Owls are rolling. The 17-7 victory over Texas-San Antonio was the sixth straight victory for Rice, which has qualified for a bowl for the sixth straight year. Also, Rice owns 23 victories in the last three years, a school record.
Utah wide receiver Kaelin Clay
Clay got behind Oregon’s defense and was headed to the end zone for a 79-yard touchdown reception. But he nonchalantly dropped the ball on the 1, and Ducks defender Joe Walker returned what can only be called a fumble 100 yards for a touchdown in the Ducks’ 51-27 win over the Utes. If it’s not the bonehead play of the year, it’s among them.
Big problems in Soonerland. Oklahoma got crushed by Baylor 48-14. The Sooners led 14-3, but then the roof fell in. “It’s a game, it’s one game,” coach Bob Stoops said. “There wasn’t anybody out there quitting. That’s not the case. We didn’t execute very well and got whipped.”
The Tigers dominated much of the night. But when it needed one final stand, LSU couldn’t come up with a stop. The Tigers went ahead of Alabama 13-10 with 50 seconds remaining, but Tide quarterback Blake Sims came up with several big plays to move his team into field goal position. Alabama went on to win in overtime.
Committee of one
Projecting the national semifinals of the College Football Playoff
▪ Sugar Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Alabama
▪ Rose Bowl: Florida State vs. Oregon
▪ Knocking on the door: TCU, Baylor, Arizona State, Ohio State
Ranking the Big 12
d. Kansas State 41-20
Manhandled Kansas State
d. Oklahoma 48-14
Stunningly easy over Sooner
3. Kansas State
l. TCU 41-20
Lockett and little else vs. Frogs
l. Baylor 48-14
at Texas Tech
No national title for Sooners
d. West Virginia 33-16
at Oklahoma St.
Strong knows defense
6. West Virginia
l. Texas 33-16
No league title for Mountaineers
7. Oklahoma State
Looks to end 3-game losing streak
8. Texas Tech
Catching Sooners at low point
d. Iowa State 34-14
Game ball to Clint Bowen
10. Iowa State
l. Kansas 34-14
Program has seen better days
Ranking the SEC
1. Mississippi St.
d. Tenn.-Martin 45-16
Now the fun begins
d. LSU 20-13,OT
l. Texas A&M 41-38
Not out of division race
d. Presbyterian 48-0
Bama victory keeps division close
d. Kentucky 63-31
Do Dawgs have some momentum?
l. Alabama 20-13, OT
Have to regroup after crushing loss
at Texas A&M
Which Aggies do the Tigers get?
8. Texas A&M
d. Auburn 41-38
Allen’s performance encouraging
d. Vanderbilt 34-10
Harris more comfortable at QB
Got to have it for bowl chance
Bielema’s first league victory?
l. Georgia 63-31
Promising start a memory
13. South Carolina
Spurrier bowl used to have intrigue
l. Florida 34-10
Headed to winless SEC season