In the new college football playoff rankings revealed late Tuesday afternoon, Oregon has slipped into the No. 2 spot behind unbeaten Mississippi State, with Florida State third and TCU fourth. Alabama is No. 5 and Arizona State No. 6.
Most interesting is that for the first time in the three weeks of the poll, a one-loss team (Oregon) has nosed ahead of an unbeaten (Florida State). That seems to say that the committee — at least now when it doesn’t necessarily mean anything — isn’t going to be beholden to the reflex of allowing an unbeaten to skate merely because it’s unblemished. Strength of schedule is going to matter.
That could be an important concept in a few weeks, although you’d figure that Florida State, if it stays unbeaten, will pick up some juice by winning the ACC title against somebody like Duke (No. 21) or Georgia Tech (No. 22).
Could TCU eventually pass an unbeaten FSU? Doubtful, because the Horned Frogs don’t have a tough schedule the rest of the way, playing Kansas, Texas and Iowa State. That looks like a recipe for winning out, but not impressing the committee. (And remember, there’s no Big 12 title game.)
But what about somebody like Ohio State, suddenly No. 8, and with a road game Saturday at Minnesota (No. 25) and prospectively, a Big Ten title game against say, Nebraska (No. 16) or Wisconsin (No. 20)? If the Buckeyes should keep rolling up style points as they did in thrashing Michigan State, how might that sway the committee?
There’s also No. 7 Baylor, which has a finishing game against Kansas State (No. 13).
What the rankings also say, if we didn’t know it already, is that it would take something monumental for a one-loss Pac-12 champion not to make the playoff. Oregon, with one loss, would be a lock if it beats Arizona State. If it’s the Sun Devils beating Oregon, they would be well-positioned as a one-loss team. A (prospective) two-loss Pac-12 winner in UCLA (No. 11) or Arizona (No. 14) would probably be a different story.