The earthquake that rocked college football last weekend may have felt like the Big One, but it barely registered as a tremor in the latest playoff rankings.
Alabama, undefeated and, so far, unquestioned, remained at No. 1. After that, the College Football Playoff selection committee found itself hesitant to make any seismic changes.
“I would say that the margin of separation was small between teams two though six,” said Kirby Hocutt, the committee’s chairman.
Saturday marked the first time in decades that the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 teams lost on the same day. Yet, two of those upset victims barely dropped, with Michigan hanging on at No. 3 and Clemson at No. 4.
Washington, the other surprise loser, landed at No. 6 after falling to USC, but that still leaves the Huskies within striking distance if they can win out and add a Pac-12 Conference title to their resume.
In other words, the resurgent, 13th-ranked Trojans now count as a quality loss.
“When you talk to the coaches that are in the selection committee room, I don’t think any of them, if they were coaching today, would want to play that Southern California team right now,” Hocutt said.
Though Ohio State made a seemingly big jump to No. 2, the Buckeyes still do not control their destiny. They won’t qualify for the Big Ten Conference championship game unless Penn State loses.
There is, however, a chance they could make the playoffs without a conference title.
“As we looked at Ohio State, we see a very talented team,” Hocutt said.
Louisville remains something of a longshot at No. 5. It seems the committee is still questioning the Cardinals’ strength of schedule and isn’t awarding any bonus points for quarterback Lamar Jackson, a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Down the list, a couple of two-loss teams, No. 7 Wisconsin and No. 8 Penn State, could be dangerous if either wins the Big Ten championship. And Oklahoma has risen from the ashes of two early defeats to rank at No. 9.
It would take a few more shakeups to get any of them into the playoffs, but Michigan could be without quarterback Wilton Speight the rest of the way, so the final four is hardly settled.
Ask the selection committee.
“You know, we just do not talk hypotheticals,” Hocutt said. “As we saw this past weekend, so many things can change in a given week.”
Pac-12 flexes muscles
The Pac-12 might not have a dominant team this season, not after Washington lost, but the much-maligned conference is staging a rally with six teams in the top 25.
How strange has it been out West?
No. 10 Colorado and No. 22 Washington State seem every bit as worthy of national attention as Washington and No. 12 Utah. The surprises are USC and No. 24 Stanford, traditional powers that struggled early but have battled back.
Not much love for San Diego State
Not all West Coast teams are getting so much love.
San Diego State finally made it back into the Associated Press poll at No. 24 this week, but the CFP selection committee apparently hasn’t forgiven or forgotten that October stumble against South Alabama.
So, while Tennessee can lose three games in a row and cling to No. 19, the one-loss Aztecs can’t draw votes.
At least they will stay in the news with running back Donnel Pumphrey chasing history. He gained 198 yards in a win over Nevada on Saturday, passing DeAngelo Williams for fourth place on the all-time NCAA list.
The senior has a shot at finishing his career as the game’s most-prolific runner.
“Pumphrey is about as talented as there is in the country,” Coach Rocky Long said.
Open to debate
Another minor controversy is brewing in the lower rankings.
One-loss Boise State stands at No. 20, a spot higher than this season’s underdog darling, undefeated Western Michigan. Boise State’s win over Washington State was a determining factor for the committee, but it wasn’t an easy decision.
“It was debated,” Hocutt said. “It went back and forth in our room.”
Just like pretty much everything else this fall.