We must admit, our knee jerk reaction to the CFP rankings released on November 2 was a mixture of disappointment, bewilderment, anger, and resignation. The combination of Cincinnati being ranked at 6 and CFP Chair Gary Barta comments on the rationale for the ranking took us from a simmer to a full-on boil. Listening to numerous sports talk radio shows on November 3, it seems as though we aren’t the only ones.
However, instead of firing off a quick opinion piece, we decided to go the more analytic route. Below this article is a table showing the “tale of the tape” for all 25 teams in the CFP rankings. We will reference points from this table as we give our opinion on the CFP Rankings.
Let’s remind everyone of CFP “talking points” from previous seasons. These include “conference championships matter”, “we evaluate the full body of work”, “head-to-head is important”, and “you need quality wins”.
With that in mind, let’s look at Cincinnati’s resume. There are three teams with 2 CFP Top 25 wins including Georgia, Alabama, and Oregon. More on that in a bit. There are 12 teams with one win over a CFP Top 25 team, Cincinnati is one of them. There are four teams with a Top 10 CFP win. Cincinnati is one of them. Only two of the four teams with a Top 10 win did so on the road. Cincinnati is one of them.
Now let’s look at performance year-to-date. I especially want to call attention to Mr. Barta’s “concern” over Cincinnati’s past two games against Navy and Tulane. Ranking the CFP teams by year-to-date scoring margin, Georgia is number 1 with an average differential of 31.3. Cincinnati is second at 28.5. Of the five unbeaten teams in the CFP all have had one score victories. Georgia won by 7 over 3-loss Clemson. Michigan State won by 3 over 6-loss Nebraska and by 5 over 6-loss Indiana. Oklahoma won by 5 over 7-loss Tulane, by 7 over 6-loss Nebraska, by 3 over 3-loss West Virginia, by 6 over 3-loss Kansas State, and by 7 over 4-loss Texas. Wake Forest won by 3 over 4-loss Louisville, and by 3 over 4-loss Syracuse. Cincinnati won by 7 over 6-loss Navy.
Let’s also talk about the three one loss teams in front of the Bearcats. Remember each of these teams have LOST a game. Alabama won by 2 over 4-loss Florida. Oregon won by 7 over 2-loss Fresno State, by 7 over Ohio State, by 7 over 5-loss Cal, and by 3 over 4-loss UCLA. Ohio State is the only team without a one score victory, though the Buckeyes did lose a one score game and was only leading 5-loss Tulsa 27-20 in the fourth quarter before pulling away late to win 41-20.
Ranking all the performances of the Top 6, we would place Cincinnati just behind Georgia in terms of “taking care of business”.
Cincinnati ranks second among CFP teams in points allowed, behind only Georgia. The Bearcats rank #6 in scoring among the CFP teams. In other words, they are a balanced team with a strong defense and a very capable offense.
So, let’s now address strength of schedule. Cincinnati strength of schedule (SOS) (games played) is rated at 90 out of 130 FBS teams, which is 23rd out of the 25 CFP teams. Obviously, a big measure a team’s strength is “quality wins”, which was called out by Mr. Barta. Unfortunately, it seems a team must be a Power 5 team to qualify as a “quality win”. As evidence, consider there are 18 Power 5 teams with a record of 6-2 or better. All 18 are represented in the CFP rankings. There are 15 Group of five teams with a 6-2 record or better, only 3 of them are represented in the CFP rankings. Included in these teams not ranked are two members of Cincinnati’s conference, SMU and Houston, both of which are 7-1 and ranked in both the AP and Coaches Top 25.
In fact, the only teams ranked in both the AP Top 25 and Coaches Top 25 and not in the CFP are Group-of-Five teams including SMU, Houston, UTSA, and Coastal Carolina. Conversely there are 3 teams from the Power 5 that are not ranked in either poll but show up in the CFP. In other words, strength of schedule is a self-fulfilling prophecy. To have a high strength of schedule you must predominantly play Power 5 schools, which is, of course, impossible if you are in a Group of Five Conference.
Cincinnati’s ranking isn’t our only beef with the committee. We are devoting a lot of attention to Cincinnati’s plight because the committee seems to choose which “rules” they wish to apply to which teams. Despite numerous close wins and a loss to a team with a losing record, Oregon is #4. Oregon has the 14th highest margin of victory and have only beaten 3 teams with a winning record (Fresno State, Ohio State, and UCLA), yet they sit at #4 because they had to be there to rank Ohio State in front of Cincinnati. Think about it, Fresno State is at #23 at 7-2. The Bulldogs deserve their ranking, but do they deserve it more than say, UT San-Antonio who is the only undefeated FBS team not in the CFP rankings? Fresno’s ranking lends credence to Oregon’s ranking.
G5 Gurus believes there should be three additional teams from the Group-of-Five in the rankings. These include UT San-Antonio, Houston, and SMU. We believe Louisiana and Coastal Carolina are just outside the top 25 but are knocking on the door. The 3 Power 5 teams that shouldn’t be in the Top 25? Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Mississippi State. Wisconsin and Mississippi State each have 3 losses. Sorry, we just don’t buy into the notion of “good losses”. Minnesota has two wins over teams with winning records and has an ugly loss to Bowling Green.
We admit, we have a bias towards the Group of Five. We are guilty as charged. But the College Football Playoff Committee was supposed to pick the best college football teams, not the best Power 5 football teams. Despite what SEC, Big 10, ACC, Big 12, and Pac 12 fans may think, those two are not the same.
Note: Place cursor in the table snd slide left to right and see all columns.
|Rank||Team||Record||CFP Top 25 Wins||Best Win||Loss(es)||Opp Comb Rec||Opp Win Pct||SOS Rnk||FCS Wins||PPG||PAPG||Margin|
|2||Alabama||7-1||2||#16 Mississippi||#14 Texas A&M||36-28||0.563||29||1||45.9||20.6||25.3|
|3||Michigan State||8-0||1||#7 Michigan||n/a||29-35||0.453||30||1||34.6||20.5||14.1|
|4||Oregon||7-1||2||#5 Ohio State||Stanford||30-36||0.455||81||1||36.1||23.2||12.9|
|5||Ohio State||7-1||1||#20 Minnesota||#4 Oregon||33-31||0.516||41||0||47.2||19.2||28|
|6||Cincinnati||8-0||1||#10 Notre Dame||n/a||27-38||0.415||90||1||39.9||11.4||28.5|
|7||Michigan||7-1||1||#21 Wisconsin||#3 Michigan State||38-27||0.585||8||0||37.1||17.1||20|
|10||Notre Dame||7-1||1||#21 Wisconsin||#6 Cincinnati||37-28||0.569||4||0||32.6||24.5||8.1|
|11||Oklahoma State||7-1||1||#12 Baylor||Iowa State||34-30||0.531||59||1||29.4||18||11.4|
|12||Baylor||7-1||1||#15 BYU||#11 Oklahoma State||33-32||0.508||83||1||37.4||19.4||18|
|13||Auburn||6-2||1||#16 Mississippi||Penn State, #1 Georgia||37-26||0.587||24||1||34.9||19.8||15.1|
|14||Texas A&M||6-2||1||#2 Alabama||Arkansas, #17 Mississippi State||34-30||0.531||53||0||29.6||16.1||13.5|
|15||BYU||7-2||0||Virginia||Boise State, #12 Baylor||40-34||0.541||25||0||30.4||25.4||5|
|16||Mississippi||6-2||0||Arkansas||#2 Alabama, #13 Auburn||34-30||0.531||18||1||39.1||28.6||10.5|
|17||Mississippi State||5-3||1||#14 Texas A&M||Memphis, LSU, #2 Alabama||37-28||0.569||20||0||28||24.6||3.4|
|18||Kentucky||6-2||0||Florida||#1 Georgia, #17 Mississippi State||38-26||0.594||35||1||27||20.8||6.2|
|19||NC State||6-2||0||Clemson||#17 Mississippi, Miami||30-34||0.469||68||1||31.5||16.2||15.3|
|20||Minnesota||6-2||0||Purdue||#2 Ohio State, Bowling Green||32-35||0.478||34||0||28.4||18.9||9.5|
|21||Wisconsin||5-3||1||#22 Iowa||Penn State, #10 Notre Dame, #7 Michigan||43-23||0.652||1||0||21.9||17||4.9|
|22||Iowa||6-2||0||Penn State||Purdue, #21 Wisconsin||34-30||0.531||16||0||25.4||16.1||9.3|
|23||Fresno State||7-2||1||#24 San Diego State||#4 Oregon, Hawaii||35-40||0.467||103||1||35||20.8||14.2|
|24||San Diego State||7-1||0||Air Force||#23 Fresno State||31-35||0.470||118||1||29.6||17.5||12.1|
|25||Pittsburgh||6-2||0||Clemson||Western Michigan, Miami||29-35||0.453||67||1||43.9||21.9||22|