Strength of schedule matters. Quality wins matter.
The AP and coaches poll do not.
One glance at the College Football Playoff Top 25 and the other rankings clearly illustrates the committee truly started with a clean slate.
There are several discrepancies that illustrate this point:
GRAPEVINE, Texas -- The suspense is over.
In what was a historic day for college football, the 12 members of the College Football Playoff’s selection committee have determined that three SEC West teams are among the top four in the country, along with undefeated defending national champ Florida State.
The committee’s top four was: 1. Mississippi State, 2. Florida State, 3. Auburn, 4. Ole Miss.
Semifinal: Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss (Allstate Sugar Bowl)
Semifinal: Florida State vs. Auburn (Rose Bowl Game Presented By Northwestern Mutual)
That’s right, the committee just delivered Egg Bowl II and a rematch of the 2013 national championship. The Sugar Bowl looks like the perfect spot for the state championship, and why not have FSU and Auburn return to the scene of what was an instant classic to end the BCS era?
The displaced conference champions that aren’t playing in the semifinals are guaranteed spots in the other New Year’s Six bowls. Based on the committee’s rankings, ESPN.com is projecting No. 5 Oregon to win the Pac-12, No. 7 TCU to win the Big 12, and No. 8 Michigan State to win the Big Ten.
The Capital One Orange Bowl lost the ACC champion (FSU) so it gets the next highest-ranked ACC team, No. 21 Clemson. Then the Orange selects the next highest-ranked team from the Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame. That would pit Clemson against No. 6 Alabama.
Now here’s the rest, including the highest-ranked conference champion from the Group of 5, which would be No. 23 East Carolina:
Fiesta: No. 5 Oregon vs. No. 9 Kansas State
Cotton: No. 7 TCU vs. No. 8 Michigan State
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: No. 10 Notre Dame vs. No. 23 East Carolina
Here’s the final look:
12:30 p.m. ET – Peach Bowl – No. 10 Notre Dame vs. No. 23 East Carolina
4 p.m. ET - Fiesta Bowl – No. 5 Oregon vs. No. 9 Kansas State
8 p.m. ET - Orange Bowl – No. 21 Clemson vs. No. 6 Alabama
12:30 p.m. ET – Cotton Bowl – No. 7 TCU vs. No. 8 Michigan State
5 p.m. ET – Rose Bowl – No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Auburn (Semi No. 1)
8:30 p.m. ET – Sugar Bowl – No. 1 Mississippi State vs. No. 4 Ole Miss (Semi No. 2)
Of the 18 one-loss teams left in the country, the committee decided Auburn was the best, and it showed it valued head-to-head competition by ranking Ole Miss ahead of Alabama, Auburn ahead of K-State, and Oregon over Michigan State. The Ducks were also ahead of Arizona, though, even though they lost to the Wildcats on their home turf. No. 7 TCU was also ranked ahead of No. 13 Baylor in spite of the loss to the Bears.
“Head-to-head is important,” committee chair Jeff Long said, “but it’s not the only factor, obviously.”
No. 10 Notre Dame had the biggest difference between the Associated Press rank, where it was No. 6, and the committee’s. Louisville was the only team not in the Associated Press Top 25 that was in the committee’s, replacing undefeated Marshall. That showed that the committee valued No. 23 East Carolina’s strength of schedule ahead of Marshall’s undefeated season.
GRAPEVINE, Texas -- The College Football Playoff selection committee has spoken -- and it likes the SEC.
At least for now.
The first of seven Top 25 rankings compiled by a 12-member selection committee was released Tuesday night. The selection committee will ultimately pick the four teams to play in the national semifinals and set the matchups for the other four big New Year's Day bowls that are part of the playoff rotation.
"It was extremely difficult, more difficult than any of us had expected having gone through our mock selections before," Arkansas athletic director and committee chairman Jeff Long said. "There are 18 one-loss teams in FBS at this point in time, and the difference between many of them is very slim."
Oregon was fifth and Alabama was sixth, giving the Southeastern Conference's West Division four of the top six teams. There are still four games remaining matching those SEC West rivals, starting with Saturday's matchup of Auburn and Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi.
"We don't analyze it by conference," Long said. "We look at those teams and evaluate the teams they played and the success they had, or the failures they had."
The final rankings will be released Dec. 7, the day after the most of the conference championships are decided.
"Everyone on the selection committee recognized that our rankings will change over the next six weeks," Long said. "I think that's important for us to emphasize. We expect our rankings to change over the next six weeks. One week's rankings won't influence the next week's rankings."
"2004, I want to say: Georgia Southern," VanGorder said, referring to when he was Georgia's defensive coordinator.
VanGorder takes an Irish unit into Landover, Maryland, that is still smarting from its first defeat of the season, at defending national champion Florida State last week. And he gets the benefit of a team bye week and student mid-semester break before preparation for the Midshipmen hits full force in the coming days.
When it comes to Navy, though, the biggest concern is not necessarily stopping the triple-option on a given Saturday. Yes, Keenan Reynolds has proven to be lethal, illustrating his brilliance again this past Saturday by rushing for 251 yards, the highest total by an FBS quarterback this season. His three rushing touchdowns in a win over San Jose State extended his FBS-leading active streak of games with a rushing touchdown to 14 games.
But peek ahead to what awaits Notre Dame Nov. 8 in Tempe, Arizona, and you see what is hardly an ideal recovery mission for the Irish when they go to Arizona State. And when it comes to facing Navy, recovery time is usually what matters most for the Irish.
In the seven games Notre Dame and Navy have played since coach Ken Niumatalolo took over Navy before the 2007 season, the Irish have a 4-3 record against the Midshipmen, including a current three-game winning streak. In the seven games played immediately following their contests with Navy, the Irish are just 2-5. Those two wins: a seven-point victory at Wake Forest in 2011 and a three-point home win over Purdue in 2012.
The Irish have lost to a good Air Force team when they themselves were not good (41-24, 2007); they have lost to a terrible Syracuse team that had just fired its coach (24-23, 2008); they have lost to a Pitt team that was a few plays away from a Big East title (27-22, 2009); they have lost to a Pitt team that barely went bowling thanks in large part to beating the Irish (28-21, 2013).
This is not particularly unique to Notre Dame: Of the 4-4 Midshipmen's first seven opponents this season, just two -- Temple and Rutgers -- won the following game. And the Owls' win came against an FCS Delaware State squad after a bye week.
None of these setbacks, of course, came from a VanGorder-run defense. None of those prior Irish opponents, though, may be able to match the offensive firepower of the ASU team Notre Dame will face in two weeks.
The Sun Devils -- who have no picnic of their own this Saturday in hosting Utah -- are the 11th-best passing team in the nation, and they score nearly 37 points per game. That is a little off their nearly 40-points-per-game clip from a year ago, a season in which the Irish beat them, but the pace and expected desert heat will be a challenge nonetheless.
First comes Navy, though, as the Midshipmen appear to be hitting their stride coming off their top-two offensive outings of the season.
"I think the value of the week off right now through seven games and coming off a great game (Oct. 18), the most important thing right now is we get some rest and get away from the game a little bit," VanGorder said last week. "Let the coaches work the Navy game plan, let the players get away. I think that’s important. Hopefully they’re fresh in coming back and, yeah, they’ve got to adapt, it’s an entirely different game. But these guys will. Our players, again, are high-character, smart guys. They’ll adapt and be fine."
Few can doubt that. The last time they had excess time to prepare for Navy, the Irish won 50-10 in the 2012 opener in Dublin. The season before that, with the locker room on edge after a loss to USC, the Irish channeled their frustrations into a 56-14 rout.
Both of those years mark the only times out of the past seven that the Irish then went out and won the next week. With a team this season whose playoff hopes remain very much alive, it is safe to say these Irish are not taking anything for granted.
"Everybody’s got to be detailed," VanGorder said. "It’s assignment football, and if you have a breakdown it can be devastating."
Not as devastating as the fallout, win or lose Saturday, which makes the Irish's first trip West the following week all the more challenging.
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Mississippi's first loss of the season dropped the Rebels four spots in The Associated Press college football poll to No. 7 and left Mississippi State, Florida State, Alabama and Auburn in the top four as the College Football Playoff selection committee prepares its first rankings.
No. 1 Mississippi State (46 first-place votes) and No. 2 Florida State (14) are the only unbeaten teams left in the Big Five conferences.
Ole Miss was beaten 10-7 at LSU on Saturday night. The Tigers moved up eight spots to No. 16, the largest jump after a weekend when only two ranked teams lost.
The 14th-ranked Wildcats routed Washington State in Pullman on Saturday.