For play­off con­tenders, start­ing third has been bad news

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - AP Col­lege Foot­ball Writer

By Ralph D. Russo

If the five-year his­tory of the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off has taught us any­thing it is this: Don’t start off third in the ini­tial rank­ings.

The 13-mem­ber se­lec­tion com­mit­tee headed by Ore­gon ath­letic di­rec­tor Rob Mul­lens gath­ered at a ho­tel in Grapevine, Texas, on Sun­day to ham­mer out its first top 25 of the sea­son. It will be re­vealed Tues­day night.

It will pro­vide the first look at what the com­mit­tee is think­ing about the con­tenders. LSU, Alabama, Ohio State, Clem­son and Penn State are all ex­pected to be in the mix for those pre­cious top four slots.

Over the last five years, 11 of the 20 teams to ap­pear in the top four of the com­mit­tee’s ini­tial rank­ings went on to reach the play­off. The hit rate has been go­ing up.

In 2014, just one of the ini­tial first four ad­vanced to the play­off: sec­ond-place Florida State. That in­creased to two the next two years. The last two years, three of the ini­tial top four made the play­off.

But never the team ranked third out of the gate.

Last year, that was LSU, be­hind Alabama and Clem­son and ahead of Notre Dame. Like last year, days af­ter the first play­off rank­ings are re­leased, the Tigers and Crim­son Tide will play. Ac­cord­ing to the AP Top 25 rank­ings, it will be a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup — just the 26th in the reg­u­lar sea­son in the 83-year his­tory of the poll and the first since LSU and Alabama matchup in 2011.

Last year, LSU had al­ready lost a game go­ing into the Alabama show­down. When the Tide smoked the Tigers, they were never in se­ri­ous play­off con­tention again.

This year, LSU and Alabama are un­beaten, and even be­fore the first CFP rank­ings are re­leased the ques­tion is: Will the lat­est Game of the Cen­tury be an play­off elim­i­na­tion game or just a way to de­ter­mine seed­ing for two of the best four teams in the coun­try? LSU-Alabama is one of sev­eral huge re­main­ing games in­volv­ing play­off hope­fuls. An­other one is Penn State at Min­nesota on Satur­day in a matchup of un­beaten teams. Down the road, un­beaten Bay­lor will play oneloss Ok­la­homa and Penn State also has a show­down at Ohio State which could be the Big Ten’s ver­sion of LSUAlabama.

What could re­ally turn the race in­side out are up­sets. With four weeks left be­fore cham­pi­onship week­end when the play­off and bowl game berths are set, un­ranked teams with op­por­tu­ni­ties to pro­vide po­ten­tial twists and turns: WEEK 11 Iowa State at No. 9 Ok­la­homa. The Cy­clones came into the sea­son ranked and con­sid­ered maybe the thirdbest team in the Big 12. They have lost three times, but by a com­bined 10 points. If the Soon­ers were to take a sec­ond loss, sud­denly Bay­lor be­comes not just the best play­off hope for the Big 12, but maybe the only one. WEEK 12 UCLA at No. 8 Utah. The Bruins have won three straight games af­ter a ter­ri­ble start and are still in con­trol of their Pac-12 South cham­pi­onship hopes. The Utes have been dom­i­nant, but coach Chip Kelly could turn this into his first sig­na­ture win at UCLA and ruin the Pac-12’s hope of a UtahOre­gon ti­tle game match­ing 11-1 teams.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.