Yes, the first priority of the College Football Playoff rankings is to determine which teams are best positioned to make a run at a national championship. But only slightly less important is the giant tub of gasoline the rankings inevitably throw on the simmering fires of fan anger.
Throughout the final weeks of each season of the four-team playoff, we’ve reenacted some version of the same drama.
Step 1: Rankings are released.
Step 2: Everybody gets mad.
Step 3: The poor sap chosen to head the committee — in this case, NC State AD Boo Corrigan — has to attempt to explain the inexplicable while the nation pelts him with metaphorical tomatoes.
Well, we hear you, and we’re happy to serve as your tomato. We can’t change the committee’s mind but we can provide a soapbox to air your grievances.
With that in mind, here’s our first installment of the 2023 Anger Index, ranking the teams with the most coherent arguments against their current rankings by those fools in Dallas.
The committee rightfully rewarded Ohio State for its two marquee wins against Notre Dame and Penn State, even if the Buckeyes haven’t always looked particularly dominant — even against the likes of Indiana or Wisconsin. But if the committee was wise enough to value Ohio State’s strengths rather than focus on nitpicking, why not do the same for FSU?
Florida State has a win over No. 14 LSU by 21. Ohio State’s big wins, by the way, are by a combined 11. Florida State also has wins over SP+ top-30 teams Duke and Clemson. FSU is undefeated against the No. 49 schedule (per ESPN Stats & Information) and ranks second in strength of record.
We’re open to giving Georgia the benefit of the doubt. The Bulldogs have proved they’re postseason behemoths. But Michigan? Even with a full 23andMe DNA database on every scholarship player, the Wolverines couldn’t get past TCU.
Given that FSU’s remaining schedule isn’t exactly difficult, starting at No. 4 is a potential red flag if the race for the top four gets crowded.
The Irish are behind No. 14 LSU, another two-loss team, and, honestly, it makes no sense.
Notre Dame endured a brutal four-game stretch against ranked teams. It came away with wins over Duke and USC, and if it had remembered you can play with 11 guys on defense, it might well have a win over No. 1 Ohio State. Its two losses are to two teams ranked in the top 13, and it has a dominant win over the Trojans.
Are we possibly holding K-State’s two losses against the Wildcats because they looked bad at the time? In retrospect, losing on a ridiculous late field goal to No. 12 Missouri and by eight to No. 22 Oklahoma State doesn’t seem so bad. K-State is a victim of bad vibes more than bad performances.
A quick comparison of some two-loss teams:
Team A: 3-2 vs. FPI top 40 with an average points margin of 11.4; top 25 in offensive and defensive SP+, No. 13 overall in SP+
Team B: 3-2 vs. FPI top 40 with an average points margin of 3.2; top 5 in offensive SP+ but 43 in defensive SP+, No. 12 overall in SP+
Team A, you might have guessed, is Kansas State. Team B is LSU, which checks in nine spots higher in the rankings.
And don’t even get us started on USC being ranked higher than the Wildcats, too.
We can understand the Iowa snub. The committee members likely fell asleep during its games.
We can even understand UNC’s snub, despite its head-to-head win over Miami. The past two losses to Virginia and Georgia Tech are inexcusable. Indeed, the committee might be doing UNC a favor. The Heels don’t play well with a little number next to their name.
Oh, not at the committee. We get its decision. We’re just still fuming over Mario Cristobal’s refusal to kneel against Georgia Tech. If he had, Miami would be 7-1 and likely in the top 15.
JMU can’t be mad at the committee for its unranked status. This is the result of the ridiculous rule that requires any team moving from FCS to FBS to serve a two-year “transition” period in which it is ineligible for postseason play. Frankly, JMU is lucky it doesn’t have to apply a “trainee” badge on every uniform and stick a “student driver” sign on the back of the team bus, too.
But while they are not allowed to compete in the postseason quite yet, the Dukes’ on-field performance would suggest otherwise. Indeed, JMU has a good case as the best team from the so-called Group of 5 and, therefore, would otherwise be in position for a New Year’s Six Bowl — a bid that would net about $4 million for the Sun Belt, by the way.
Indeed, there are only three Group of 5 teams that currently own multiple victories over FPI top-60 opponents: Tulane, Wyoming and JMU. Only one of those teams is undefeated.
JMU also owns a road win over a Power 5 opponent (Virginia), has the No. 10 strength of record in the country (ahead of Oregon, Penn State or Notre Dame) and has won 11 straight games dating to last year.
But hey, if the NCAA says JMU should be ineligible, who are we to argue? It’s not like the NCAA has ever gotten something like that wrong before.