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Playoff rankings: TCU's too high, Nebraska's too low; Irish at No. 18

A friend said it well on Twitter: The College Football Playoff selection committee is trolling us every week by releasing rankings that don’t actually mean much, given the eventual final four will be determined by events yet to unfold on the field.

I get his point and might’ve agreed with it a couple of weeks ago — or even last week — but I think we’ve reached the point where the rankings officially matter. They tell us which teams definitely control their own destinies, which might or might not (more on that in a bit) and which definitely don’t. We also learn more each week about what matters to the committee (schedule strength, top 25 wins) and what doesn’t (head-to-head results, particularly when it comes to Baylor and TCU).

Of course, ESPN wins with a weekly ratings bonanza for its CFP rankings show, and that sort of thing never ceases to be annoying. But what’re you gonna do? Some more pertinent thoughts on the new rankings, with the full 25 listed at bottom.

• Big 12 mates TCU and Baylor are ranked fourth and seventh, respectively, even though both teams are 8-1 and the Bears beat the Horned Frogs head-to-head. What hurts BU is its ultra-easy non-league slate (SMU, Northwestern State, Buffalo) compared to TCU’s (Samford, Minnesota, SMU) as well as TCU’s slightly more challenging Big 12 schedule to date.

I believe the committee has this one wrong. The No. 4 spot probably is too high for either TCU or Baylor, but the Bears deserve to come before the Horned Frogs in the rankings. Not only did BU win head-to-head — mounting a giant comeback and outgaining TCU by nearly 300 yards — but the Bears have the more impressive next-best victory as well. Indeed, TCU crushed a strong Kansas State team 41-20 in Fort Worth. That’s mighty impressive. But Baylor went to Oklahoma Saturday and dealt Bob Stoops the worst home loss of his illustrious career. It was 14-3 in favor of the Sooners before BU ripped off the next 45 points. That just about blew my mind.

• Right behind TCU is No. 5 Alabama. TCU at 4 and ’Bama at 5 means the committee honestly believes the Horned Frogs are a little better than the Crimson Tide, correct? OK then. Yet I’m willing to bet the 12-person committee doesn’t truly believe that to be the case. If I can raise a silly “gun to the head” hypothetical: Ten bucks says every single member of the committee would pick the Tide to beat the Frogs on a neutral field this Saturday. Just sayin’.

• Got a feeling Nick Saban will play up this not-in-the-top-four business big-time with his players. The Tide will be sky-high come Saturday afternoon against No. 1 Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa. By the way, the Bulldogs are eight-point underdogs. That’s a huge number.

• Nebraska dropped three spots to No. 16? Seriously? The 8-1 Huskers, who were off last weekend, currently sit behind seven — seven! — two-loss teams, including three from the SEC and two from the Pac-12. That’s quite a slap in the face to Bo Pelini and his program.

• But what if Nebraska wins out against Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa and then beats Ohio State in the Big Ten title game? It’s very doubtful even that would get the Huskers into the final four. I won’t say it’s impossible, though. Certainly they would overtake the two-loss teams as well as Ohio State (currently ranked No. 8), which would get them close.

• So, who controls their own destiny? Mississippi State, of course. Nos. 2 Oregon and 3 Florida State, absolutely. Alabama, for sure. That’s where I draw the first line.

• Who might/might not control their own destiny? TCU, for one. If both TCU and Baylor win out, it’s going to be very hard for the committee to select 11-1 TCU over an 11-1 conference foe to which it lost. It would be highly controversial to go with TCU and would shine a harsh light on the selection process.

Also: No. 6 Arizona State. If the Sun Devils win out, beating Oregon in the Pac-12 title game in the process, they’ll probably get into the playoff. But maybe not. Let’s say Mississippi State loses to Alabama in a very close game, then finishes 11-1. Let’s say Florida State and TCU/Baylor also win out. Might MSU stay in the top four at the expense of ASU? Certainly could happen.Then again, ASU might jump TCU/Baylor. Lots of possibilities.

• Who definitely doesn’t control their destiny? Baylor, Ohio State and everybody else. That’s life in the big city.


Twitter: @slgreenberg

And the full top 25:

1. Mississippi State (9-0)

2. Oregon (9-1)

3. Florida State (9-0)

4. TCU (8-1)

5. Alabama (8-1)

6. Arizona State (8-1)

7. Baylor (8-1)

8. Ohio State (8-1)

9. Auburn (7-2)

10. Ole Miss (8-2)

11. UCLA (8-2)

12. Michigan State (7-2)

13. Kansas State (7-2)

14. Arizona (7-2)

15. Georgia (7-2)

16. Nebraska (8-1)

17. LSU (7-3)

18. Notre Dame (7-2)

19. Clemson (7-2)

20. Wisconsin (7-2)

21. Duke (8-1)

22. Georgia Tech (8-2)

23. Utah (6-3)

24. Texas A&M (7-3)

25. Minnesota (7-2)