It’s time to talk about the College Football Playoff.
The initial playoff rankings will be revealed on Tuesday night and the anticipation is running high to see where both BYU and Cincinnati will be ranked by the committee.
No team from outside the “Power 5” (P5) conferences has been allowed/invited to play in the playoff games, however, this year might be an exception thanks to 2020 and the wild and crazy season that it has been.
Because of some conferences starting later than others, combined with non-conference games not being played, the criteria is a bit different this year for the Playoff Committee.
Jerry Palm, a CBS senior writer and statistician, laid out the criteria the College Football Playoff Committee will look at to rank teams this season. Here’s what he had to say:
Normally, I would detail here some of the criteria the CFP Selection Committee uses to rank the top 25 teams and choose the top four. However, nothing about 2020 is normal, and that includes the information available to the committee. Here is the entire list of criteria for 2020:
- Eye test
- Head-to-head record (if applicable)
- Conference championship (if applicable)
That’s it. No strength of schedule or relative offense or any other analytic because four conferences have statistically distanced themselves from the rest of college football by playing only conference games. For example, mathematically speaking, there is no way to compare teams from the SEC to teams from the Big Ten or any other league for that matter.
The good news for BYU fans is that strength of schedule isn’t much of a factor as it has been in years past. The bad news is that the committee, which has always been biased towards P5 conferences, isn’t likely going to change their stance towards the “Group of 5 conferences” (G5) or any team from outside the power circle. It’s very likely that some P5 teams — looking at you Pac-12 and Big Ten Conferences — that are 3-0 and 4-0 right now, will get the benefit of the doubt over teams like BYU and Cincinnati.
Where Will BYU be ranked?
While we know the Playoff Committee doesn’t show a lot of love to teams from outside the P5 conferences, the first weekly release is usually the biggest slight for G5 schools and independents not named Notre Dame.
Since the playoff was implemented back in 2014, only 16 teams from outside Power 5 conferences have been placed in the committee’s initial rankings. The average ranking of these schools comes in at 21.4.
Meanwhile, during this same time, the AP Top 25 poll had 20 programs from G5 conferences ranked, with the average ranking coming in at 19.5.
As we can see, the Playoff Committee tends to drop G5 schools and independents not named Notre Dame down several spots from where they were ranked in the AP Poll. The average drop for G5 schools was anywhere from 3-6 spots during this time frame, while Power 5 schools got a boost in the rankings.
While it’s typical that non P5 teams drop 3-6 spots in the Playoff rankings compared to their AP ranking, this season throws a lot of that out the window as teams like BYU and Cincinnati are 9-0 and 8-0 respectively, while some Pac-12 and Big Ten teams have played just a couple of games. In fact, Utah played its first game last week in a 33-17 blowout loss to USC.
I believe BYU will come in at No. 11, dropping three spots from its ranking in both the AP and Coaches Poll. Cincinnati is coming off a nice win over UCF on Saturday so the Bearcats will likely drop just a spot or two based on playoff ranking history.
I’ve highlighted the AP Poll as well as what the Playoff rankings will likely look like below. Highlighted are all the “non-P5” teams.
The good news for Cougar fans is that the team was the only program out West playing in September/October and the committee has certainly had a bunch of opportunities to watch the Cougars play. BYU certainly passes the eye test as the Cougars are dominating teams by an average score of 47.5-13.8. A bunch of national pundits are big believers in BYU, including ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit who called the Cougars’ season-opening game against Navy on Labor Day.
The team also has a legit Heisman Trophy finalist in quarterback Zach Wilson. With strength of schedule not much of a factor as it has been in years past, BYU could very well land in the Top 10. However, I believe the Playoff Committee’s bias will likely push the Cougars out of the Top 10, with the program likely checking in at No. 11, or possibly No. 12.
While dropping from No. 8 in both polls is likely expected and will surely be disappointing for Cougar fans, the good news is that the team will likely make history as both BYU and Cincinnati are expected to be the highest ranked non-P5 teams in Playoff history.