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Sport Opinion: Big 12 gets major College Football Playoff boost in latest rankings

17:06  27 november  2019
17:06  27 november  2019 Source:   usatoday.com

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With two weeks left in the season, the Big 12 got a boost to its College Football Playoff outlook with Baylor and Oklahoma's rise in the rankings . The flip-flop at the top grabbed most of the attention. But the more important developments in the latest College Football Playoff rankings came a few spots

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The flip-flop at the top grabbed most of the attention. But the more important developments in the latest College Football Playoff rankings came a few spots lower, where the intrigue over who’ll eventually be No. 4 continues to grow.

a group of people playing football on a field: Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer tries to avoid the tackle of Oklahoma cornerback Parnell Motley during their game at McLane Stadium. © Jerome Miron, USA TODAY Sports Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer tries to avoid the tackle of Oklahoma cornerback Parnell Motley during their game at McLane Stadium.

Ohio State is No. 1 in the latest Top 25, bumping LSU to No. 2, sparking celebration from one fan base and outrage from another. The bigger move – for this week and perhaps beyond – came with Baylor, which leaped five spots to No. 9 after blowing out Texas.

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Two weeks into the College Football Playoff rankings , and we have consensus at the top. This only means chaos might be coming, of course. Georgia is No. 4 this week, getting the nod because of those wins against Notre Dame and Florida – and yeah, despite that terrible loss, at home, to South

(Never mind that in either of these debates, repeat after the selection committee: These rankings are meaningless. Except, of course, sometimes they’re not.)

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In the playoff picture, No. 1 vs. No. 2 might not mean much – though this year might be an exception. So let’s begin with what Baylor’s move means.

We can debate whether beating Texas (now 6-5) should’ve prompted such a dramatic move upward, but it’s just as likely that the committee finally figured out that Baylor is pretty good.

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The end result makes for a wild reversal of fortune in the race for No. 4, which is essentially down to the Big 12 vs. the Pac-12, with Alabama hoping for help.

Just a week ago, when Baylor was ranked No. 14, it seemed the Big 12’s eventual winner was going to have to hang its hat on something like, “several Top 25 wins down the stretch,” while the Pac-12 trumpeted “Top 10 matchup in the conference title game.” How the committee evaluated those competing resumes was going to be interesting.

But now, with Oregon’s eight-spot drop to No. 14 after a loss to Arizona State, the Pac-12 won’t have a top 10 matchup. Meanwhile, the Big 12’s champion is on track for a resume with those Top 25 wins – oh, and also a marquee, top 10 matchup in the Big 12 championship game.

It’s not one resume point vs. the other. It’s the Big 12 with both.

That’s why it’s fair to forecast the Big 12 – especially if it’s No. 7 Oklahoma, but likely also Baylor – passing No. 6 Utah by the time the final rankings are released.

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Get College Football Playoff rankings , the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll Top 25 here. We received the second-to-last College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday, Dec. 3. The top four remained the same: Ohio State, LSU, Clemson and Georgia, With Alabama losing to Auburn, teams like Utah and

Of course, forecasting is a perilous endeavor. Oklahoma, which has made an art form of escaping playoff-ending situations recently, is going to win out against rival Oklahoma State and then Baylor? Baylor should beat Kansas, sure, but the Bears are going to beat Oklahoma in a second try?

Things happen. As a fairly vivid example: We can forecast a one-loss Big 12 champion passing the Pac-12 champion only because of Oregon’s astonishingly bad performance against the Sun Devils. Upsets happen. We’ve still got two weeks for contenders to be revealed as pretenders.

But if the Big 12 emerges with a one-loss champion, it’s suddenly in prime position to pass Utah.

And this is also a pretty important piece: A one-loss champion from either league would almost certainly vault No. 5 Alabama in the final rankings.

All of this presumes Ohio State, LSU and Clemson win out – which would mean LSU knocking No. 4 Georgia out of the picture. If Georgia wins (or Ohio State or Clemson lose), things get pretty chaotic. Assuming the top three win, though, the Crimson Tide’s talking point is, “What if Alabama blows out Auburn with Mac Jones at quarterback?”

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The answer – other than that a blowout seems fairly unlikely, considering Auburn’s defense – is that ‘Bama would still be 11-1, without a conference championship and with only one Top 25 win (Auburn). Auburn would also mark only Alabama’s third win against a team with a winning record (the others: Texas A&M, currently 7-4 with LSU ahead, and Tennessee, which is 6-5).

The resume is not strong. The argument is simply: But ‘Bama. And if compared with a one-loss conference champion (with one more victory at 12-1, and with 10 games against conference opponents while Alabama played only eight), it seems unlikely Alabama wins the comparison.

But until those final rankings are revealed, we’re going to hear a lot of, “But ‘Bama.”

The other piece of Alabama’s resume is a quality loss to No. 1 LSU – oh, sorry, that’s No. 2 LSU. Kudos, y’all, to 2-9 Arkansas for knocking the Tigers off the top in, um, a 56-20 loss.

We’re kidding, of course. It’s not so much a negative referendum on LSU as an indication that the selection committee was impressed by Ohio State’s 28-17 win against previously-No. 8 Penn State (now No. 10), as the Buckeyes’ resume begins to match their eye test.

LSU has beaten teams ranked No. 5, 11 and 15. Ohio State has beaten teams ranked No. 10, 12 and 19. Selection committee chairman Rob Mullens indicated those resumes were very similar. But the committee sees Ohio State as more complete, which is to say it sees the Buckeyes’ defense and LSU’s defensive issues.

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“That’s a key piece,” Mullens said. “I mean, they’re a balanced team, strong on offense and defense. Obviously LSU has a very strong offense, but to date their defense isn’t quite as strong as Ohio State’s.”

It makes sense. And again, other than for bragging “We’re No. 1!” – does it matter all that much? But this year, for perhaps the first time in the brief history of the playoff, it just might. Why? Because of who’s ranked No. 3.

Once the false narrative that Clemson was struggling was finally extinguished -- the Tigers escaped North Carolina, but have dominated everybody else – the focus, if there was a focus at all, shifted to the softness of the ACC schedule. That was correct – the ACC is waaaaaaay down. But Clemson is not. And it’s very possible Clemson, sitting at No. 3, is at least as good as Ohio State or LSU, and is positioned to defend its national championship.

At the very least, it’d be nice to avoid Clemson in a 2-vs.-3 semifinal. Thus, grabbing the No. 1 seed might be important for more than a potential geographic advantage. Still, that’s probably not the reason Ohio State fans were ecstatic and LSU fans were disappointed … or outraged.

It’s Utah fans who probably should be most concerned. Because while the Utes moved up a spot to No. 6, there’s no certainty they’d remain ahead of either Oklahoma or Baylor.

Oregon’s loss, coupled with the committee’s sudden regard for Baylor, might have crippled the Pac-12’s chances. It certainly seems to have elevated the Big 12’s hopes.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Opinion: Big 12 gets major College Football Playoff boost in latest rankings

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