B1G mailbag: Playoff rankings angst, Penn State winning out?

The Big Ten mailbag is back in its regular Wednesday time slot. And after the College Football Playoff selection committee issued its first rankings on Tuesday night, there's no doubt a lot on your mind. So let's have at it:

Brian Bennett: I get where you're coming from. If the committee was truly interested in wins against teams that were over .500, a strange new metric that chairman Jeff Long introduced on Tuesday night, then the Hawkeyes should be higher than No. 9. They have more good wins than Ohio State or Baylor, and it's not particularly a close debate on that.

But Long did specifically say that the committee gave weight to the "explosive offenses" of Baylor and TCU when judging them against Iowa. That's troubling for the Hawkeyes, because though they have generated many more big plays this season than in the recent past, they are never going to be confused for a Big 12 team. I'm not exactly sure when explosiveness became part of the criteria, but clearly the committee is concerned with some of Iowa's close calls. And it's true that Kirk Ferentz's team does not have a huge margin for error.

The best counterargument: win all of your games.

Brian Bennett: Notre Dame makes a little bit of sense to me, as the Irish's only loss was by two points on the road to the No. 1 team in the rankings (Clemson) in a rain storm. The undying love for Alabama, I just don't get.

Sure, the Crimson Tide are loaded with talent and might well be one of the four best teams. But no other program has its losses wiped away so easily. Alabama lost, at home, to a team that has two losses (Ole Miss, which was handled decisively by Florida and Memphis). I would have no problem with Alabama working its way back into the playoff field if it beats LSU and wins the SEC. But to put them in the top four before they've even played LSU is ludicrous when there are so many deserving, unbeaten teams -- like Michigan State.

It's amazing. If Alabama were running for president and lost in the primary, it would still wind up in the Oval Office. If Alabama finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby, it would still get a blanket of roses in the winner's circle.

Again, though, the Spartans don't have to worry about that. Win out, and they're in.

Brian Bennett: Consistency is not a word I'd use to describe any of the committee's work since last year. Just look at what happened with TCU, or how Mississippi State mysteriously jumped Michigan State in the final rankings after neither played.

Here's why: this is a committee, meaning it's a bunch of people with different outlooks voting on teams. Some members, I'm sure, use the eye test more, while others lean toward résumés. In the end, the rankings are a compromise. Which is fine. The silly part is when they trot Long out to try and use some overarching theme for the way teams are ranked, when none exists. I actually feel bad for him on Tuesday nights, because it's an impossible task.

Brian Bennett: Of course, you mean will he throw it, and Miller has attempted one pass this season. It went for three yards. You don't remember that exciting play?

Miller's arm is not what it once was after his shoulder injuries, but he can still get the ball downfield. And I think you will see him let loose soon, likely as early as this week's game against Minnesota with J.T. Barrett out. If nothing else, having Miller throw the ball makes him an even more dangerous threat, and I bet the Buckeyes would at least like to make Michigan State think about that possibility in a couple of weeks.

Brian Bennett: Penn State is an odd 7-2 team, isn't it? Its two losses are to teams that are a combined 15-1, and San Diego State is the only team currently with a winning record the Nittany Lions have beaten. I think James Franklin's club could be dangerous down the stretch, with an excellent defense, a healthy Saquon Barkley and Christian Hackenberg coming around. Michigan and Michigan State should be on upset alert for the Lions.

But winning out against a schedule that has those two teams and Northwestern seems too tall of a task. Penn State fans should be happy if the team goes 2-1 down the stretch to finish with a nine-win season.