Judging the College Football Playoff Rankings: Florida, Houston are underrated – CBS sports.com (blog)
Another week, another set of College Football Playoff Rankings to dissect, and while we have plenty to talk about, the top four remains exactly the same as last week.
It’s elsewhere we start to see changes, as the rankings react to Louisville Cardinals ‘s loss to Houston Cougars — and it affected both significantly — with the top 10 seeing some shuffling.
What does the CFP Selection Committee have right? Where could it have done better?
Let’s dive in, starting with one team that’s severely underrated.
No. 15 Florida Gators — Underrated
It wasn’t that long ago when the first CFP Rankings were released and I claimed that Florida was overrated, as it was No. 12 at the time, and I didn’t think it deserved to be that high. Now, here we sit, with Florida finally notching some impressive wins, and it’s only ranked No. 15.
Florida’s two losses this season are to No. 17 Tennessee Volunteers — without the Gators’ starting quarterback — and to Arkansas Razorbacks . The loss to the Razorbacks isn’t great, but when you look around at all the other two-loss teams, most of them have at least one loss they aren’t proud of.
Florida just picked up a win over previously-ranked LSU Tigers on the road last weekend with its backup quarterback, yet it remains behind three teams directly in front of it with three losses. I understand that LSU is no longer ranked by the committee, but it was a team the committee deemed the No. 16 team in the country just last week, so obviously there’s some respect for it in that room.
A win over Florida State Seminoles this week would boost Florida further, but I can’t help but feel the Gators are currently being ranked based on their injury report rather than their record.
No. 12 Southern California Trojans — Just right
I just mentioned three teams ranked ahead of Florida with three losses, and USC is one of them, but USC is one of the three loss teams I can justify keeping ahead of the Gators (though I could put Florida at No. 12 and move USC down at No. 13).
That doesn’t matter much to me.
Where I think the committee is dead on with the Trojans is that they should definitely not be ranked any higher than they are. Yes, they are one of the hottest teams in the country right now as winners of seven straight, and they just beat No. 5 Washington Huskies in Seattle a few weeks ago.
But they also have three losses. It wouldn’t be fair to just pretend the USC team that lost to Alabama Crimson Tide by 46, to Stanford Cardinal by 17 and to Utah Utes by four didn’t exist in September.
I mean, I remember the argument against the playoff by detractors always being that under the old system, every game counted. Well, they still do, and to put USC higher than 12 or in the top 10 right now would go against that. The only way USC should even sniff the top four with three losses is if it wins the Pac-12 and everybody else has at least three losses, too.
No. 18 West Virginia Mountaineers — Overrated
The Mountaineers sit at No. 18 ahead of three Group of Five teams, and the only reason West Virginia is ahead of those three teams is because it’s a Power Five school. That’s it. If we want to compare actual resumes between those schools, they’re not all that dissimilar.
West Virginia now has two losses against the two best teams it has faced this season. It lost to Oklahoma Sooners and Oklahoma State Cowboys by a combined score of 93-48. I was impressed by West Virginia’s defense six weeks ago when it held Texas Tech Red Raiders to 17 points, but I just saw Iowa State Cyclones hold that same Tech offense to 10 points, so maybe I was overvaluing the Red Raiders’ offense.
Moving past that, what’s West Virginia’s best win? Based on record, it’s either 7-4 Brigham Young Cougars or 6-4 Kansas State Wildcats . Two perfectly fine teams, but not exactly the kind you build a resume on.
No. 20 Houston — Underrated
Houston, Boise State Broncos and Western Michigan Broncos are all underrated in the sense I believe they all have legitimate cases to be ahead of West Virginia, but I’m going to focus on Houston when it comes to overall place in the rankings.
Houston is a two-loss team with wins over No. 8 Oklahoma and No. 11 Louisville. And these are not skin-of-your-teeth wins. We’re talking resounding victories as Houston beat Oklahoma and Louisville by a combined 69-33.
Now, how many other two-loss teams have two wins against teams in the current top 11? Wisconsin Badgers doesn’t. Penn State Nittany Lions doesn’t. Oklahoma certainly doesn’t. Neither do Colorado Buffaloes , Oklahoma State, Louisville, Florida nor West Virginia.
So why is Houston ranked so far behind them? Is it the loss to Southern Methodist Mustangs ? Because a loss to a now-No. 25 Navy Midshipmen shouldn’t be a huge drain on Houston’s reputation. And while the SMU loss is a bad loss, Penn State has a loss to Pitt, and Oklahoma State has a loss to Central Michigan Chippewas (admittedly with an asterisk, but a loss is a loss). As we know, Oklahoma and Louisville both have losses to this Houston team.
So what is it about Houston that has it not just behind all these teams but in some cases more than 10 spots behind all of these teams in the rankings?
Oh, right, it’s not a Power Five team. It’s just won five straight against Power Five opponents with four of those wins coming against schools currently in these rankings (Pitt is the fifth win).
No. 23 Washington State Cougars — Just right
I don’t have a lot to say here. I was just pleasantly surprised to see that Washington State remained in the rankings following last week’s loss to Colorado. With its resume and that loss to Eastern Washington, this isn’t a team that should be getting higher than No. 20, but it’s still a team that deserves to be ranked, and I thought the committee would penalize the Cougars for losing on the road to what’s turning out to be a pretty good team.
I’m happy to see common sense prevailed.