<
>

Reranking teams that made the New Year's Six

They say hindsight is 20-20, which is a way of pointing out that we know stuff better after it happens rather than before.

So we have college football after the bowl season. We know more now than we did on Dec. 6 when the College Football Playoff selection committee laid out the CFP semifinals and New Year's Six bowls.

It seems pretty clear that Clemson and Alabama -- or is that Alabama and Clemson? -- are the two best teams. It seems pretty clear that the SEC West, despite some regular-season meanderings, is still pretty darn rugged. And it seems that the teams that played for the Big Ten championship weren't as good as we thought.

So why don't we rerank the 12 teams that made up the CFP and New Year's Six?

1. Alabama: The Crimson Tide opened up a can of whup butt against Michigan State, looking dynamic on both sides of the ball in a 38-0 throttling. Since losing to a good Ole Miss team on Sept. 19, Alabama has won 11 in a row, with only one victory by fewer than two touchdowns. Only one foe scored more than 16 points against what might be Nick Saban's best defense.

2. Clemson: The Tigers dominated Oklahoma, the nation's hottest team before the playoff, but their quality wins during the regular season took a hit when Notre Dame, Florida State and North Carolina all decisively lost bowl games and the ACC went 4-5 in bowls overall. Still, the Tigers remain the nation's only undefeated team and they'll certainly get a shot to move up to the top on Jan. 11.

3. Ohio State: The Buckeyes know they blew their playoff shot by losing at home to Michigan State. After whipping Notre Dame in the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl, they didn't whine about being left out of the playoff. That said, their high regard for themselves matches what most observers believe: Ohio State is one of the nation's best four teams.

4. Stanford: To be honest, the only reason Stanford jumps Oklahoma here is what the Sooners did against Clemson, which was fall apart in the second half. The Cardinal manhandled Iowa in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual and that suggests, at the very least, that they might have given Clemson or Alabama more trouble because they are stouter at the line of scrimmage than Oklahoma.

5. Oklahoma: While the loss to Clemson was bad, that doesn't take away from what Oklahoma did over its final seven regular-season games, which was become a dominant offensive juggernaut. Oklahoma might well be better than Ohio State and/or Stanford, but these rankings reflect the old "What have you done for me lately?" and that measure drops the Sooners.

6. Michigan State: The Spartans felt disrespected in advance of their game with Alabama, but that chip-on-the-shoulder scrappiness didn't help much against the Crimson Tide, who were bigger and faster and deeper. While we appreciate the Spartans for contributing some of the most thrilling finishes of the season, it's not difficult at this point to wonder if Ohio State or Stanford might have offered more resistance to the Tide.

7. Houston: There was nothing fluky about the dominant win over Florida State in the Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl. The Cougars also have quality wins over Louisville, Memphis, Temple and Navy. The Cougars' loss to UConn is one of the season's more baffling results.

8. Notre Dame: A lot of folks smirk at the whole "quality loss" concept, and not without reason. But the Fighting Irish lost this season to (CFP selection committee rankings) No. 1 Clemson, No. 6 Stanford and No. 7 Ohio State in competitive games -- the defeats to Clemson and Stanford being certifiable nail-biters. Pretty clear the Irish were a good but not great team this fall, particularly with all their injury issues.

9. Ole Miss: The Rebels are a team that is good enough to beat anyone -- see wins over Alabama, LSU and Oklahoma State in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. They also were inconsistent enough to lose three times to fair-to-middling teams: Florida, Memphis and Arkansas.

10. Iowa: Wisconsin and Nebraska beating USC and UCLA in bowl games boosted the Hawkeyes' weak regular-season résumé, but they didn't beat any highly ranked teams this season and they got romped by Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Iowa had a good season, but it's pretty clear this wasn't an elite team.

11. Florida State: The Seminoles took a step back this fall. Their only quality wins came over Louisville and Florida, the latter not looking so strong after the Gators were pulverized by Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.

12. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys closed with three consecutive defeats by double digits. Their lone quality win was impressive -- 49-29 over TCU with Trevone Boykin -- but they didn't post any wins over a Power 5 team outside the Big 12.