Crisper weather and looming clock re-adjusting bring the initial College Football Playoff rankings. Tonight the committee tasked with invites for the sport's extremely exclusive party will give us the shape of their thoughts headed down the stretch. Those are the only ones that matter, though others having gripes and opinions is backed into the rationale for creating and preserving such a methodology. Therefore, off we go on a journey into the future, specifically 30 seconds after they are revealed.
A group of people pulled off the street could have slotted the Bulldogs in their rightful position atop the rankings. Kirby Smart is leaning on an eye-popping and terrifying defensive unit that is putting together a season that could go down in the history books as one of the best in the sport's history when measured against the points-friendly era. Florida was treated to an extremely unpleasant hangover right before halftime of their shared outdoor cocktail party in the form of 21 devastatingly quick points. Nothing over the last third of the regular season inspires much fear and most believe the SEC title game against Alabama wouldn't be necessary conclusive, though it would be the first opportunity to boot the Tide from the tournament entirely.
Oh goodness, a lot to unpack here. On one hand, there will be widespread admiration for the committee for expanding its horizons and looking outside the blueblood box. The Bearcats' spotless record is not the shiniest, though the victorious trip to Notre Dame may remains as one of the year's most impressive and essential. On the other, it's easy to see the handwriting on the wall and the promise of future drama. Putting the Bearcats behind Alabama or even Michigan State at No. 4 would have sent the strong signal that this is yet again fait accompli for a Group of 5 team. Don't agree with it, but certainly respect it.
The feeling that this is another inevitable Alabama year is gaining steam and Nick Saban's team has responded to a somewhat confusing primetime stumble in College Station. Bryce Young is every bit as talented as any other quarterback who has filled that role and the offense has the capacity to overcome a mid-tier-by-own standards defense. Fair ranking, no complaints
4. Michigan State
Now, my bias here is obvious. A feverish comeback against Michigan proves, once and for all, that this isn't pyrite Mel Tucker has mined in East Lansing years ahead of schedule. Kenneth Walker III is establishing himself as a top-two contender for the Heisman Trophy and the defense has bent, but never broken to the point it couldn't rescue itself with a clutch sack or turnover. The analytical side of my brain understands that being in this slot means absolutely nothing for two reasons. First, there exists an opportunity for Sparty to establish an unimpeachable résumé. Secondly, there's no way they're emerging without a loss, either in West Lafayette, Columbus or against a still-frisky Penn State in the finale. Deep breaths, people.
5. Ohio State
The Buckeyes survived a scare from those aforementioned Nittany Lions, yet another week they've summoned a championship spirit completely absent in the Oregon loss, which will ultimately be an example of a good growing pain. Ohio State sports the best offensive in the nation most days and the selection group will continue to treat them as the cold-weather Alabama.
Though I'd have them a spot higher, the Sooners should be used to life as a Big 12 school desperate for impressive wins on the schedule required to sway public perception, which may or may not be fair. A quarterback controversy has come and gone and it's full-steam ahead for Lincoln Riley, who understands winning out is all that's required.