The College Football Playoff selection committee released its latest set of rankings Tuesday night, kicking off the latest cycle of trying to objectively determine how the committee arrived at its inherently subjective results. The second guessing is really the only reason to release these rankings week to week — it keeps the conversation going and I am a willing participant in the game.
We could talk about Nebraska moving up a spot to No. 18, though there’s not a lot to unpack there. We could talk about the rise of the Big Ten (four teams in the top eight) or the leveling of the SEC (one team in the top 14). We could talk about Boise State being the top-rated Group of 5 team despite the fact that Western Michigan is undefeated.
But instead let’s just take a moment to appreciate the committee. I know, they are supposed to be the enemy, the shadow organization that only makes a token pass at transparency, but that’s not the committee’s fault. This is an almost impossible task. It can only be so transparent by nature.
Kirby Hocutt, the selection committee chair, gets the unenviable task each week of trying to explain that which can only be explained to a limited degree. Here is a transcript of Hocutt’s Q&A from last night, and here are some highlights:
How did the committee sort through Michigan, Clemson and Louisville at 3-4-5? The Wolverines and Tigers both lost to unranked teams last week (teams that are still unranked this week), while the Cardinals’ lone loss came on the road to Clemson.
Hocutt was ready for that one. Michigan and Clemson both have three top-25 wins each, Louisville has one.
What about Ohio State at No. 2? The Buckeyes could win out and not play in the conference championship game. Seems like the Buckeyes would be in the playoff if that were the case.
“We don’t look forward,” Hocutt said. Fair enough.
Then let us look at West Virginia. The one-loss Mountaineers are only ranked 14th. Why?
Hocutt points out that West Virginia has played one game against a top-25 team (Oklahoma State) and lost it.
It’s at that point that it becomes time to block quote:
What is the difference between them and Oklahoma, who’s sitting up in the top 10 and has two losses and I don’t believe has a top-25 win?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Yeah, the difference there is the committee discussed the last couple of days is the head-to-head win over West Virginia.
No, not Oklahoma State, Oklahoma.
KIRBY HOCUTT: Okay, I’m sorry. You know, Oklahoma is a team that has a tremendous offense. They’ve continued to bounce back from two early-season losses. They’re on a seven-game winning streak. The committee believes that Oklahoma is deserving of that 9 spot, and still looking at West Virginia to get a quality win.
The general response to this exchange seems to be to point and laugh. Look at the shifting logic! Holcutt can’t explain why Oklahoma is No. 9 beyond “we think Oklahoma is better.”
But the real folly here is expecting things to be any different. It is the “selection committee” after all. Some teams make it easier than others, but at the end every pick the committee makes ultimately comes down to “we think X is better.” Its job is to choose.
Until that job description changes, expecting any of this to make total sense is unrealistic. That’s maddening for some.
Me? I just think it’s what defines college football. It’s a big, sloppy, lovable mess and always has been. I’m as data-driven as they come, but I’m not even sure I would want it to be any different.
From the Desk of Hail Varsity
Few things on the site I thought you should know about. The big news is that we rolled out our new recruiting pages on Tuesday. You can click the ‘Recruiting’ tab at the top of the page and dive right in, but CEO and founder Aaron Babcock has put together this handy guide to help you get where you’re going. Lots of good stuff over on those brand new pages.
Finally, plenty of defensive updates in last night’s practice report.
The Grab Bag
- Good read from Jeff Sheldon of the Omaha World Herald on Nebraska volleyball’s win over Penn State in 1996, one of the best matches in history.
- Still plenty of uncertainty at quarterback for Maryland heading into Saturday, which has sort of been par for the course for the Terrapins this season.
- Ted Miller of ESPN writes that the College Football Playoff rankings are the Big Ten’s show for the next three weeks.
- Nebraska’s athletic department posted in all-time high in the NCAA’s Graduation Success Rate.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.