College Football: Why The Initial Playoff Rankings Mean Absolutely Nothing


Oct 24, 2015; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney celebrates his win against the Miami Hurricanes at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Clemson Tigers were awarded the No. 1 overall seed in Tuesday’s first official college football playoff rankings of 2015, and surprisingly, there wasn’t much blowback from the national media or college football fans. That is until Alabama was placed in the top-4, rounding out the first grouping of playoff contenders.

What’s officially now come to life is the Alabama bias among poll and ranking voters. It seems as though every other team in the country would be heavily scrutinized and condemned from premiere ranking slots with a key loss on their record, but seemingly not Alabama.

Alabama was awarded the fourth overall ranking in the initial college football playoff rankings, even with a 43-37 loss at home to Ole Miss, which raised eyebrows, considering Notre Dame is also 7-1, with their only loss coming on the road to the No. 1 ranked Clemson Tigers, in one of the toughest atmospheres in college football, in the pouring rain, with a backup quarterback.

With the SEC bias remaining in full effect, it’s important to understand that the initial playoff rankings are essentially useless. Why, you ask? Well, the 16th ranked team from the initial playoff rankings last year ended up winning the National Championship; the Ohio State Buckeyes. So, while these rankings are good measure for where contending teams stand as of week 10, it’s also important to proceed with caution that this is the group of four we’ll be seeing contend for a National Championship in January.

For instance, the second-ranked LSU Tigers head out on the road to play the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide, which will ultimately decide which of the two will remain in contention for the playoff. Baylor heads out on the road on Thursday to face the Kansas State Wildcats, before beginning their November-from-hell stretch that includes Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, (Kansas) and TCU. Notre Dame faces a possible trap-game opponent in Pittsburgh, after narrowly inching out a victory on the road against Temple.

The beauty behind the madness of the initial rankings is that there’s still a month of meaningful, deciding football to be played before the committee hands down their final rankings on December 6. Yes, that means Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, and Clemson could all be out of the top-4 just one month from today. There’s still conference championship games, preceded by rivalry week, which has proven to be the hammer-and-nail of many college football seasons…kick six, anyone?

So, please. Save your outrage and illogical wall-punching until December 6th. The committee has done a much better job than the previous system in selecting the best four teams to compete for a National Championship. It’s not without flaws, of course, but it’s a system that’s working in favor of the betterment of college football. The next few weeks will truly be the deciding factor of who belongs where in the rankings, not who the panel personally or professionally believes should be there.