The first College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday evening. And Notre Dame has some work to do.
The selection committee’s first ballot has the Irish slotted in at 10th in the country, a middle-of-the-pack one-loss team according to the 12-person voting panel.
Three of the top four spots are filled with SEC teams, with unbeaten Mississippi State atop the first pole, while one-loss Auburn and Ole Miss surround No. 2 ranked Florida State. Following that group is Oregon, Alabama and TCU, with Michigan State and Kansas State filling out the top ten with Notre Dame.
While the initial reaction for most Notre Dame fans will be panic, there is still a lot of football to be played. The top two-loss teams slot in at 18th and 19th, with Oklahoma and LSU, starting a five-team run of two-loss teams, with West Virginia, Clemson and UCLA slotting before East Carolina, the only non-Power Five conference team.
Here is the evaluation process, according to the College Football Playoff’s website:
Selection committee members will have a wealth of information including review of video, statistics and their own expertise to guide them in their deliberations. They will emphasize obvious factors like win-loss records, strength of schedule, conference championships won, head-to-head results and results against common opponents. The playoff group has retained SportSource Analytics to provide the data platform for the committee’s use. While the details of the platform have not been finalized, it is anticipated that it will include countless pieces of statistical information for every Football Bowl Subdivision team. It will also include general information such as each team’s opponents’ record and opponents’ opponents’ records. The platform will allow the committee members to compare and contrast every team on every level possible.
While the compare and contrast function isn’t fully formed, it’s worth doing a little of it as we try and make heads or tails of how the committee viewed a single loss. For Ole Miss, who just lost to LSU in Baton Rouge, they slid only to No. 4, with a victory over Alabama helping their lofty rating. That Michigan State can lose by 19 points to Oregon and still be rated ahead of Notre Dame (who had a more impressive win over Michigan than the Spartans as well) is a bit confusing.
Right now, it looks like a big win is valued more than a close loss, explaining why the Irish slot at ten. And while three conference frontrunners make it look difficult for Notre Dame to bump past one or the other, Nick Saban’s comment echoes those from Kelly earlier this afternoon.
“None of it matters. I don’t even care, to be honest with you. Don’t know. Don’t care.”
That won’t be the reaction from fans across the country, who now ratchet up the value of every regular season game played once the calendar turns to November. In fact, the Irish and the Crimson Tide are the first big losers of the initial pole, with Notre Dame four spots lower in the initial committee rankings than the AP poll, while Alabama is three spots lower.