By Brad Carroll
The College Football Playoff rankings have been ripe with controversy from the first time a list was revealed to its most recent form Tuesday. There will always be differences of opinion, and there will always be multiple fan bases that will cry foul that their team isn't where they think it should be. It was the same with the BCS and it's carried on to the CFP, even though the latter was supposed to solve all of our problems.
But even those looking at college football from the top, the ones who (supposedly) want the best for the sport and crowning a true champion, know the College Football Playoff committee got it wrong yet again this week. It's starting to sound like a broken record, but the fact remains the committee should be put on notice that their own egos aren't greater than the game itself, yet that's exactly how they treat their own version of the top 25. Forget everything that has been put forth so far, from rankings to eye tests to all the information that is readily available, this group will put their own thought-processes ahead of the rest and make the Playoff rankings more about them than the game itself.
Some of the decisions this week aren't surprising, even though they are flat-out wrong. I wrote in last week's column that whoever won the LSU-Alabama game could move into the top spot in the rankings. I came close, as Alabama jumped from No. 4 to No. 2. I'm sure LSU would have jumped to No. 1 if it had beaten the Crimson Tide. The problem with Alabama being No. 2 is it is ranked ahead of four undefeated teams from big conferences. No. 1 Clemson, which beat Florida State last week to improve to 9-0, is the only unbeaten ranked higher than the Tide. Ohio State, Iowa, Baylor and Oklahoma State are all ranked lower, and all but the Buckeyes are ranked lower than one-loss Notre Dame. That's absurd.
The playoff tournament was supposed to fix these type problems, not make new ones, yet here we are.
Alabama might be better than Ohio State, Iowa, Baylor and Oklahoma State, but only one of that group has a loss this season, a home loss mind you, and that's the Crimson Tide. And that one loss looks pretty darn terrible right now, as Ole Miss has lost three times already, to Florida, Memphis and Arkansas.
The top of the rankings shouldn't be rocket science at this point, as the five unbeaten programs should be clear leaders, with Alabama sixth and Notre Dame seventh. You could put the five undefeated teams (and we'll leave Houston out for now, as it still needs a marquee win to move up substantially) in any order at the top of the rankings and nobody could complain. Of course, if this was the final week of the season with this many unbeaten teams things would be a whole lot more serious.
I would have the top seven run as this: 1. Clemson, 2. Baylor, 3. Ohio State, 4. Iowa, 5. Oklahoma State, 6. Alabama, 7. Notre Dame. Whether or not you agree with that list isn't the issues, it's the fact that there should be a difference between an undefeated team and one with a loss. Now, that isn't to say Alabama or Notre Dame wouldn't beat Iowa or Oklahoma State, but it's to say undefeated teams are more valuable than a one-loss team. It's simple math.
For Alabama and Notre Dame fans, all you have to do is win out and then sit back and wait for the teams ahead to lose, because either Baylor or Oklahoma State is guaranteed to lose and so is either Ohio State and Iowa. That would leave at least one spot open in the College Football Playoff for a one-loss team. Of course, all the unbeaten teams could lose and then it's easy to make the case Alabama and Notre Dame could be 1-2 in the rankings. But not yet.
As usual, trusting the College Football Playoff committee to do the right thing is darn near impossible.
Luckily, there is actual college football to talk about on the field, and we have you covered all day Saturday with analysis, previews and picks against the spread for the biggest games of the day. Below we break down the early afternoon games. You can check out our late afternoon previews and picks here and our primetime previews and picks here. As always, follow us on Twitter here.
No. 11 Florida at South Carolina, 12 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: Florida -8; South Carolina +8
Analysis: Florida is another one-loss team stalking the top four if a host of other teams slip up before the regular season ends. But the Gators didn't make believers out of anyone with their 9-7 victory over Vanderbilt at home. Vanderbilt was a team that was shut out by Houston the week before, 34-0. But Florida does have a legitimate chance at making the College Football Playoff, as it will get a chance to play and win the SEC championship game. The Gators would have to beat Alabama or LSU in that game, which would carry significant weight in the eyes of the committee, which obviously values SEC football better than any other conference. Now, if the Gators lose to Florida State in the regular season finale and then win the SEC title game, it would be hard to argue for Florida getting a final four spot, but this committee doesn't work in reality. South Carolina has had a terrible season, terrible enough for coach Steve Spurrier to step down in the middle. The Gamecocks are 3-6 and far removed from a 17-13 victory over red-hot North Carolina in the season opener. South Carolina already struggles putting points on the scoreboard, which will be even rougher against a strong Florida defense. The Gators have to bounce back from a close win over Vanderbilt if they have designs on moving into the top four with a big win over the Gamecocks.
Brad's Score: Florida 28, South Carolina 14
Craig's Score: Florida 28, South Carolina 17
Glenn's Score: Florida 24, South Carolina 21
Matt's Score: Florida 42, South Carolina 20
No. 3 Ohio State at Illinois, 12 p.m., ABC
The Spread: Ohio State -16.5; Illinois +16.5
Analysis: Ohio State keeps on winning games, but doing so in the most unimpressive ways possible. Last week it was a 28-14 win over Minnesota, where the Gophers were within seven in the final two minutes of the game. That followed two strong performances from the Buckeyes, when they easily beat Penn State and Rutgers. It's those type of wins that could drop the Buckeyes to the bottom of the group of undefeated teams and no one could raise much hell from an unbiased viewpoint. But the fact remains if Ohio State wins its final three games and then the Big Ten championship, it will play for a national championship again. Nobody could keep them out if the Buckeyes beat Illinois, Michigan State, Michigan and then Iowa in the conference championship. So, look good or bad, Ohio State controls its own destiny. At quarterback, JT Barrett is back from a one-game suspension and will start Saturday afternoon. That should get the Ohio State offense back on track, as it has struggled under the direction of former starter Cardale Jones. Illinois is 5-4, breaking a three-game losing streak with a big win over Purdue last week. The Illini struggle on offense and have an above-average defense, which could give Barrett some problems in his return. But the Buckeyes should have enough to win going away.
Brad's Score: Ohio State 34, Illinois 17
Craig's Score: Ohio State 38, Illinois 14
Glenn's Score: Ohio State 52, Illinois 20
Matt's Score: Ohio State 63, Illinois 14
Kansas at No. 15 TCU, 12 p.m., FS1
The Spread: Kansas +45.5; TCU -45.5
Analysis: TCU's chances at making the College Football Playoff were destroyed by Oklahoma State last week, as the Cowboys blitzed the Horned Frogs, 49-29. It vaulted the Cowboys into the conversation, and dropped the Horned Frogs right out of it. Now, TCU's focus is on destroying other team's seasons. After playing Kansas Saturday, TCU plays at Oklahoma and then finishes with a home game against Baylor, which might work out to where the Bears would be one win away from the Playoff. But TCU has to be severely disappointed after coming so close last year and then only dropping out of the race this year into November. It could make for a sluggish start against a terrible Kansas team, which is 0-9 on the season. The Jayhawks have been blown out of four of their last five games, with a 10-point loss to Texas Tech the other salvageable game. TCU wide receiver Josh Doctson is probable to play after rolling his ankle last week, but it's not out of the realm of possibility for the wide-out to sit out this very winnable game. There is no way Kansas beats TCU, but of course, the question is whether or not the Jayhawks can keep the score to under 46 points? We'll do the unthinkable and go with Kansas plus the enormous amount of points.
Brad's Score: TCU 56, Kansas 14
Craig's Score: TCU 63, Kansas 10
Glenn's Score: TCU 65, Kansas 10
Matt's Score: TCU 56, Kansas 13
Maryland at No. 13 Michigan State, 12 p.m., ESPN2
The Spread: Maryland +15; Michigan State -15
Analysis: Michigan State has to be still steaming after its controversial loss to Nebraska last week, where a referee decision cost the Spartans a chance at a College Football Playoff berth. Big Ten officials came out and said the officials made the right call, but there are millions of college football fans in general who would disagree heartily with that ruling. The fact is Michigan State would need a miracle to move back into Playoff positioning, with a host of teams losing to even make it possible, so that Nebraska loss was devastating on a number of levels. But the Spartans could still play in the Big Ten championship game and, if it beats Iowa in that game, might jump enough spots to get into Playoff position, which is reason enough to come ready to play against a bad Maryland team. Michigan State needs to run the table, starting with a win over Maryland, then an upset of Ohio State on the road and finally a win at home over Penn State in the regular season finale. Then, it would be a game against undefeated, right now anyway, Iowa team. Then it would fall to the committee whether or not to add a one-loss Big Ten team to the final four. Maryland is 2-7 and riding a six-game losing streak. Quarterback Connor Cook and wide receiver Aaron Burbridge could have a big day through the air for the Spartans, and MSU will roll over the Terps.
Brad's Score: Michigan State 38, Maryland 14
Craig's Score: Michigan State 41, Maryland 21
Glenn's Score: Michigan State 31, Maryland 13
Matt's Score: Michigan State 49, Maryland 21