Tuesday marked a bit of history in college football — the release on ESPN of the first poll by the 12-member committee of athletic directors, former coaches, Condoleeza Rice, ex-USA Today sportwriter Steve Wieberg, etc., etc.
It goes without saying there will be tons of movement in and out of the top four, which now consists of Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn and Ole Miss. But some turf has been established, which means that if certain teams keep winning, they should maintain that ground.
To the early winners and losers:
Winner — Auburn (No. 3). Easy to say now, but I thought the War Eagles were being undersold in the pre-announcement speculation. Their win at Kansas State (No. 9) resonates with the committee, much as a big road win catches the eye of the NCAA basketball committee.
Loser — Michigan State (No. 8). Eighth is not a bad place to be, except when it appears there might be little to gain going forward. Sparty’s problem is Ohio State was dissed at No. 16 because of a home loss against Virginia Tech that keeps looking worse, and the Buckeyes are easily the best team left on MSU’s schedule.
Winner — The SEC, with four of the top six teams and five of the top 11. It seems almost assured the league gets two teams in, although it’s not out of the question the fratricide will leave only one team with less than two losses, which would no doubt augur all sorts of debate about the worthiness of two-loss teams there jumping one-loss teams from elsewhere. That would cause things like poisoned trees in the South, divorces, civil suits, etc.
Loser — Utah (No. 17). The Utes still have to be wondering how they kicked away a 21-0 lead against Washington State, a 2-6 team, for their only loss.
Winner — The Big 12. Both TCU (No 7) and Kansas State (No. 9) could sneak into the bracket by winning out. K-State has a fairly monstrous finishing run, but it’s ripe with opportunity in road games at TCU, West Virginia (No. 20) and Baylor (No. 13). Win all those, and it might be hard to deny the Wildcats no matter what happens elsewhere.
Loser — Notre Dame (No. 10). Good on the committee for seeing through all the fluff on the Irish schedule. Yeah, it’s impressive to go to Florida State and lose on a disputed offensive pass-interference call, but there’s just too little of substance elsewhere on that schedule. Meanwhile, I have to believe there are still questions on the committee about the power of Florida State, which might have gotten a favorable nod at No. 2 simply because it’s the defending champion.
Winner — Oregon (No. 5). True, the Ducks didn’t crack the first four, but I don’t think that’s a deal-breaker. The bigger thing is that they’re positioned, if they win out, to make the field.
Loser — The Big Ten. Unless Michigan State can pound Ohio State, and prospectively, Nebraska (No. 15) in the league title game, and also get some help, the conference seems the most likely one of the Power Five to be left out.