For the briefest of moments, for reasons I neither can comprehend nor articulate, I allowed myself to believe. There are no excuses for this. I abandoned my own knowledge and logic and caution to others. It was foolish, as ever, to expect the College Football Playoff to operate like a legitimate sporting competition.
Never before the evening of Nov. 2 had I squandered even a few minutes of my time to watch the CFP rankings show on ESPN, and even that night I tuned in mostly out of curiosity. As the names of the top 25 teams gradually were revealed, though, I allowed myself to begin buying that the committee in charge of the rankings might at last judge the various contenders’ accomplishments and not their brand appeal.
I’ll not be so obtuse again.
The CFP committee has made it clear to all their first and only priority is to include those programs with historic achievement and broad recognition, and only the most glaring and repeated failures will cause such teams to be excluded.
Which means, as I knew all along, Cincinnati has zero chance.
It’s always been an invitational and not a playoff, and only members of the Power 5 club will be invited.
Even with the Bearcats owning a road victory against the team with the most hallowed name in the sport, even with them entering the first November rankings with a perfect record, even with the broad panel of writers and broadcasters who vote weekly in the Associated Press poll evaluating them as the nation’s No. 2 team, UC is going to be stationed somewhere outside the four positions that matter in the CF(I). And if the committee tries to create buzz by placing them temporarily in the top four in a future ranking — should someone ahead of Cincinnati lose (again), such as Oregon against Utah or Oregon State — it will not matter what is on Cincinnati’s resume when it’s finally time to do serious business. They’ll be put right back in their place, so to speak.
Consider what Cincinnati has achieved to date. Then examine what the three teams ahead of them by the CFP committee have accomplished.
|TEAM||W-L||LOSSES||TOP 25 WINS||SCORE DIFF|
|Cincinnati||9-0||None||at No. 9 ND||23.7|
|Alabama||8-1||at No. 11 TAMU||No. 16 Ole Miss||23.1|
|Oregon||8-1||at Stanford||at No. 4 Ohio St.||12.6|
|Ohio State||8-1||No. 3 Oregon||Penn State||25.9|
The only significant disparity between those three teams and Cincinnati is that UC has not lost, and that the Bearcats have won at Notre Dame and only Oregon has a victory that would be considered in the same category.
It’s impossible to argue against the contention the American Athletic Conference – beyond Cincinnati, of course – is enduring one of its poorest seasons, or that the Bearcats to date have played mostly against the weaker teams in the league. Their past three victories have come against teams placed sixth, eighth and 11th, with a combined record of 6-21. The Bearcats will try to push their record to 10-0 Friday night at South Florida, and the once-proud Bulls are just one more 2-7 team.
If there were four or five other teams out there with perfect records and top-10 wins, it might be fair to rank the Bearcats at the bottom of such a list. There aren’t, though. There is undisputed No. 1 Georgia. There is CFP No. 8 Oklahoma, which has not beaten a team in the current AP top 25, and there is UTSA, whose best win is over 6-3 UTEP or 5-4 Memphis or 4-6 Illinois.
The committee’s chicanery, though, is evident from No. 25 all the way to No. 2. Consider that Houston is 7-1 and ranked No. 17 by the AP voters but does not even crack the top 25 for the CFP committee. Why? Well, if the Bearcats were to meet UH in the AAC title game, that would give the Bearcats an opportunity to earn another victory against a CFP-ranked team. Can’t have that, can we?
Alabama’s No. 2 ranking is indefensible for any reason beyond, “Hey, they’re Alabama.” The Tide have played only two opponents that are more than a game over .500, Ole Miss and Texas A&M, and split those games.
Wait, no, that’s incorrect. The Crimson Tide beat Mercer, and they own a record of 6-2. That record has been compiled primarily in the Football Championship Subdivision – what we used to call Division I-AA. Alabama indeed played and defeated somebody good, just not someone on their level. If they’d played and beaten IMG Academy, it would have meant about as much.