“No more foreplay,” as Pierce Brosnan said when he played James Bond in the 1990s.
Now, the Tuesday night College Football Playoff “dog and pony show” — which is nothing more than a publicity-creating, outrage-stirring, distraction-generating, TV inventory-filling nuisance before Thanksgiving Day — actually contains some news value.
Yes, the CFP rankings show means nothing before Thanksgiving, but the last revelation before Selection Sunday is worth discussing, because it gives everyone in college football the ability to identify a set of rankings; look at the final weekend of conference championship games; and plot out a series of outcomes.
“If Oklahoma loses here, and Georgia loses there, and Ohio State somehow loses over there, THIS could happen.”
THIS would refer to the UCF Knights having a chance at the playoff.
The big question for UCF entering Tuesday is simple but freighted with great meaning: Can the Knights crack the top six? That’s the specific detail Knight fans will likely point to as a sign of their chances on Sunday, should they beat Memphis to complete a second straight perfect season.
This past weekend, three teams ranked above UCF managed to lose: Michigan, Washington State, and LSU all fell. This certainly invites the possibility that UCF could rise to the top six, particularly No. 5 or 6 in the rankings If that happens, it becomes especially reasonable as an extension of logic to conclude that the Knights really do have a chance to get the No. 4 playoff seed if Oklahoma, Georgia and Ohio State all lose on Saturday. That is the genuine news value of tonight’s rankings. Everything which has happened in previous weeks was just television filler meant to get people riled up.
A word of caution from me, as someone who has very intentionally blown off this rankings show after the first year of weekly revelations in 2014, the season when this playoff format began: Even if UCF goes get voted No. 6, do NOT think that is a guarantee that the Knights are in with a couple of losses from the right teams on Saturday.
TCU fans could tell you all about that story.
TCU was No. 3 in the penultimate playoff rankings heading into the final weekend of the 2014 season. The Horned Frogs defeated a bad Iowa State team, 55-3.
The Horned Frogs fell to No. 6 on Selection Sunday, dropping not merely one spot — to No. 4, which still would have meant inclusion in the playoff — but THREE SPOTS.
That was the year, if you remember, when the Big 12’s clumsy and awkward (in other words, very “Big 12”) handling of its conference champion gave the selection committee an excuse to cite the confusion between TCU and Baylor as a reason to select Ohio State as a compromise or alternative candidate.
Ohio State won a conference championship game and therefore carried no ambiguity as a conference champion. The Big 12 saw TCU as a prime playoff contender, but the Frogs’ one loss was to Baylor, which muddied the waters. That first College Football Playoff verdict — TCU dropping three spots in the final week, and Baylor finishing above TCU (No. 5 compared to TCU’s No. 6 finish) — conveyed the verdict that being a “clear-cut conference champion” mattered a great deal.
If you expected the committee to be consistent, however, you were sadly mistaken, which is PRECISELY why I ignored these Tuesday ranking shows after that first 2014 season’s outcome.
In 2016 and 2017, non-champions of conferences were allowed into the playoff: Ohio State in 2016, Alabama in 2017. Many people think that if Georgia upsets Alabama in the SEC Championship Game this Saturday, the Crimson Tide are still safely in the field, and the SEC will get two playoff teams for the second straight year, with the Big Ten being locked outside the candy store once again.
In conclusion: YES, being ranked in the top six tonight would contain a measure of real-world value for UCF, if it happened. Even then, however, the College Football Playoff has shown that a favorable ranking before the final games of the regular season does not guarantee anything.
Caution: flammable. Handle these rankings with care.
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