If you’re a Tennessee fan, prepare yourself for the wild, wooly world of the College Football Playoff Committee. Things could get weird.
Just remember this: Tennessee’s odds of making the College Football Playoff will NOT be affected by anything that happens in tonight’s selection show. Why? Tonight’s show is made for television. Only the final announcement matters and it isn’t held in early November. The Vols have a 64-percent chance of making the College Football Playoff per ESPN’s Football Power Index. They’ll have the same odds on Wednesday morning.
One could make an argument that the Vols could be anywhere from fourth to ninth in tonight’s updated rankings. It just depends on what the committee deems most important among a host of factors.
It’s fair to say that one factor will trump all others, as it should. There’s not much arguing about a win-loss record. Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan and Texas Christian deserve to be in the top four. I’ll let you decide the order. Some might say that the Vols deserve to be ranked higher than Texas Christian because Tennessee has played a tougher schedule. Well, somewhat.
It’s not as if TCU has been playing middle schools all season. The Horned Frogs have beaten four teams that were ranked at the time they played them. The Vols have beaten five teams that were ranked when they played them. TCU’s strength of schedule ranks 17th in the nation. Tennessee’s schedule is second-best in the country. Those two metrics are negligible compared to 9-0 and 8-1. Sorry, TCU deserves the nod.
How about Oregon? Do the Ducks deserve to be ranked above the Vols. The guys in the goofy uniforms lost to the same team that Tennessee did, Georgia. Oregon’s strength of schedule is 29th in the nation. Comparing the losses to Georgia is difficult. The Bulldogs probably could have scored more on the Vols if they needed to in a 27-13 victory. Oregon lost to Georgia 49-3. So it’s hard to make an argument that the Vols don’t deserve to be above the Ducks tonight. The Vols deserve the nod.
West Coast Woes
Southern California and UCLA both have one loss like the Vols. However, their strength of schedule is 39th and 47th, respectively. I’ll remind you that the Vols have the second-toughest schedule to this point in the nation. Another nod for the Vols.
So, in summary, don’t be surprised nor overreact to anything you see tonight. Tennessee should be a solid No. 5, especially considering the Vols beat the other one-loss team in question, LSU. The other one-loss teams that could make a move – Ole Miss, Clemson and North Carolina – could be a factor even though they shouldn’t. Let’s remember the show tonight is like “Survivor” for college football. However, the plain and simply eye test would seem to come into play at some point and those three teams just don’t cut it, especially not Clemson. Sorry.
Instead of being concerned about how the Vols might be ranked, think about how they might react. This is the first time that a Tuesday has rolled around this season and the Vols have a loss on their schedule. They can take this out of the committee’s hands if they react the right way.
If Tennessee hammers the remaining teams on their schedule, and they could, then things will work itself out and the Vols will be in the College Football Playoff. It’s hard for me to imagine a scenario in which the Vols, who have so much to play for, won’t close out the season strong. They’ve shown focus, determination and, fortunately, good health for the vast majority of the season. Georgia proved to be a better team than Tennessee, but that doesn’t end the Vols’ championship hopes.
As for the College Football Playoff Committee’s declaration tonight. Don’t be dismayed, affected or even concerned by that whatsoever. The rankings will not be a complete indication of what the committee thinks of the Vols. The goal of these shows is to drum up interest and sell advertising. Otherwise, the College Football Playoff Committee would just update everyone on its website and via email like every other ranking in this history of college football.
I can’t tell you where the Vols will be ranked, but they should be fifth. However, I can tell you that nothing that happens tonight will affect the committee’s final decision whatsoever. The days of having to climb over the competition ended when all games were nationally televised. The Vols proved that by being No. 1 last week.