Hook, line and sinker.
We told you not to take the selection committee’s initial rankings too seriously. But did you listen? No. So now you’re all worked up about Alabama being ranked No. 4, the Big 12 being shut out of the top four and Notre Dame on the precipice of making the playoff.
If you didn’t take our advice, at least listen to Aaron Rodgers … R-E-L-A-X. There are still five more weeks of games to be played and frankly, we haven’t gotten into the good part of the season yet. The committee’s rankings will change wildly from week to week, as we learned from last year.
We know the committee’s only real guiding principle is “making up (stuff) as we go.” Last year chairman Jeff Long gave us “game control.” This week he came up with “record vs. .500-or-better teams.” Don’t be fooled by all the fancy graphics and alleged use of analytics. At the end it all comes down to 24 eyeballs. No more, no less.
The 12 members of the committee will return to the Metroplex this weekend to watch games and come up with some new metric. But at least there’s something to watch, unlike last week. Out of all the games on national TV, these will be the ones they might pay particular attention to:
(Rankings by selection committee)
Game of the Week
2. LSU at 4. Alabama, 8 p.m. ET, CBS
This will serve as a de facto quarterfinal game of the playoff. The winner will control its own destiny in the SEC West and be heavily favored to claim the conference title. The loser probably will be shut out of the playoff, as it’s highly unlikely we’ll have any sort of a rematch as we did in the BCS debacle of 2011.
The Tide lost to LSU, 9-6, in that 2011 regular-season showdown but somehow ended up playing for the BCS title despite not winning its division or conference. Nick Saban decisively beat Les Miles in the rematch, 21-0, and has won the next three meetings as well. Miles desperately needs to end this losing streak to his predecessor at LSU and a win Saturday will finish off Alabama as a title contender for 2015 as it already lost to Ole Miss earlier this season.
Other games the committee will be watching
5. Notre Dame at Pittsburgh, noon ET, ABC
16. Florida State at 1. Clemson, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
8. TCU at 14. Oklahoma State, 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX
9. Iowa at Indiana, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Minnesota at 3. Ohio State, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Checking in as a surprising No. 5, Notre Dame is in position to move into a playoff spot – theoretically – since two of the teams ahead of it (LSU and Alabama) are playing each other. The Irish’s supposedly soft middle part of the schedule has turned out to be anything but. After a tough tussle in Philly last week against Temple, they move across Pennsylvania to play at Pitt, which is having a renaissance season under first-year coach Pat Narduzzi.
Clemson, the committee’s choice as the top team, will have a chance to slay the dragon that’s barred its path to the ACC title the past three seasons. The Tigers lost just four conference games from 2012-14, but three of them were to Florida State and each loss denied them a shot at winning the conference championship. A win on Saturday will make Clemson a prohibitive favorite to make the playoff, as none of its remaining opponents have a winning record.
But the weekend’s only game featuring a pair of unbeatens is in the BIg 12. The conference intentionally back-loaded its schedule this season so its four heavyweights – TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State – have yet to play each other. They begin the elimination rounds now with the Frogs paying a visit to Stillwater.
Also keep an eye on …
Navy at 13. Memphis, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Memphis is by far the highest-ranked Group of 5 team, and its placement in the committee rankings now indicates that it might have a shot to make the playoff, besides claiming the Group of 5 New Year’s Six bowl bid. But the Tigers face a tough challenge against Navy, which is also undefeated in American Athletic Conference play.
In fact, Saturday’s game against Navy begins a three-game gauntlet for the Tigers, whose next two opponents – Houston and Temple – are also unbeaten in AAC play. We’ll find out just how legit Memphis is after these tests.
7. Michigan State at Nebraska, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Bo Pelini got fired despite never winning fewer than nine games per season. Enter Mike Riley. Nice guy, mediocre coach. In his first season leading the Big Red, the Huskers repeatedly melted down in the games’ final moments, leading to a 3-6 record and on the verge of not being bowl eligible.
And worse news for Nebraska: It’ll be facing a Michigan State team playing with a chip on its shoulder. The Spartans under Mark Dantonio specialize in taking great offense at anything and everything, and being ranked behind a one-loss team coached by a guy (Saban) who left East Lansing because he didn’t believe he could compete there will only fuel their imaginary fire.
Last week’s Despicable Meet: Arkansas 63, Tennessee-Martin 28.