So the new College Football Playoff Rankings came out Tuesday night and Louisville wasn't in the top four. People were very confused, frustrated and upset about this. Some of that, I think, is justified, but a lot of it isn't.
Let's break all this down.
What shouldn't concern you: Louisville still being outside the top four
I get it. Louisville was No. 6 last week, won by 32, and three teams ahead of them lost to teams not in consideration to make the playoff. Years of poll conditioning taught us that this meant the Cardinals would move up at least two spots into the top four. The thing is, the CFP rankings don't work like the AP Top 25 polls that we've been putting too much emphasis on for decades.
The committee has made it clear for weeks now that who you've beaten matters more than who you lost to. With Michigan, Clemson and Ohio State all having three or more top 25 wins and Louisville having only one, Tuesday night's top five was fairly predictable.
If the Cardinals had been No. 3 last night, they still would have wound up being jumped by a Clemson team that won out and won the ACC title, by a Michigan team that won out and won the Big 10 title, and potentially a Washington team that won out and won the Pac-12 title.
Which leads me to the biggest point in all this and the one thing above all else that I hope you take away from this post: At this moment, Louisville is in exactly the same position at No. 5 that it would be if it were ranked No. 3.
All things being equal, I'll take the No. 5 ranking because it keeps a chip on the shoulder of the players as they prepare to head down to Houston for an extremely dangerous game against the Cougars. You saw the tweets, and you remember what happened the last time this team felt roundly disrespected by the committee.
I'm not necessarily saying that some members of the team would have gotten an inflated ego if Louisville had popped up at No. 3 or No. 4 last night, but I am saying that I'm glad that we don't even to worry about that now.
What should concern you: Six Pac-12 teams being in the new top 25
The committee had been so low on the Pac-12 during the first two weeks of the rankings that there had been some thought that a 12-1 Washington team which won the conference would still be up against it. It appears we may have jumped the gun a little bit on that one, as the Huskies stayed in front of Wisconsin and Penn State in the rankings, Colorado moved into the top 10, Utah and USC are No. 12 and No. 13, and Stanford somewhat surprisingly entering the rankings at No. 24. Washington State is also ranked for the second straight week.
What this says is that USC's upset of Washington didn't finish the job. Louisville fans still need to be rooting for the Huskies to lose to either Arizona State this weekend, Washington State in two weeks, or in the Pac-12 title game.
What shouldn't concern you: Michigan and Ohio State both making the playoff
The biggest thing about last weekend's chaos wasn't what it accomplished, but what it set up.
Michigan losing on the road to Iowa didn't vault Louisville ahead of the Wolverines, but it did eliminate the extremely likely scenario of both Jim Harbaugh's team and Ohio State crashing the playoff. The loser of that regular season finale in two weeks is now done.
If Michigan wins (which you should absolutely be rooting for), a two-loss Ohio State team that didn't win its division is out, and the Big-10 is a one-bid league at most -- I say that because if the two-loss champion of the other division beats Michigan in the title game, it could open up a scenario where Louisville and Washington claim spots two and three.
If Ohio State wins, the 11-1 Buckeyes would seem to be a safe bet to make the semifinals despite not winning their own division. That honor would go to Penn State, which would move on to face Wisconsin in the Big 10 title game.
Which leads us to ...
What should concern you: Multiple Big 10 teams making the field is still very much in play
The committee loves the Big 10. Adores it. Wants to take it to Olive Garden and then come home and pound out the first five episodes of Westworld.
With the Big 10 comprising exactly half of the current CFP top eight, the idea of the committee taking both an 11-1 Ohio State AND the conference's two-loss champion (Wisconsin or Penn State) seems more real than it should. Again, we all need to be rooting for Michigan to take down the Buckeyes.
Louisville's greatest hope if OSU does beat Michigan and Penn State or Wisconsin making the playoff becomes more of a realistic possibility is that sanity takes hold of at least one of the committee members.
We need one guy to stand up and be like: "Ok but we all agree that if we do this, Alabama is winning its first game by like 50, right? So why are we even doing this? We don't have to do this."
You could be that guy, Ty Willingham.
How are Oklahoma and Colorado in the top 10 and West Virginia isn't?
Dude, I have no idea.
Based on this transcript from his post-rankings media session, I don't think Kirby Holcutt does either.
West Virginia as a one-loss team has over the last two weeks kind of fallen further and further behind the other one-loss teams, and this week they're even behind a three-loss team. What is the committee seeing with West Virginia that is causing hesitation to move them higher?
KIRBY HOCUTT: The committee spent a great deal of time this week talking about West Virginia, and I think at this point in time, West Virginia having only played one game against a current CFP top-25 team, which was a loss for them, and that is what we spent a great deal of time debating, discussing, is the fact that the quality win is not there yet for West Virginia. Their only game against a top-25 team was a loss to Oklahoma State.
What is the difference between them and Oklahoma, who's sitting up in the top 10 and has two losses and I don't believe has a top-25 win?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Yeah, the difference there is the committee discussed the last couple of days is the head-to-head win over West Virginia.
No, not Oklahoma State, Oklahoma.
KIRBY HOCUTT: Okay, I'm sorry. You know, Oklahoma is a team that has a tremendous offense. They've continued to bounce back from two early-season losses. They're on a seven-game winning streak. The committee believes that Oklahoma is deserving of that 9 spot, and still looking at West Virginia to get a quality win.
Will Louisville get the same post-Kentucky bump that Tennessee did?
I mean I hope, damn.
The Vols, who have been boiling garbage for the last month, suddenly go from not sniffing the rankings to No. 19 after beating Kentucky in a game where the Cats piled up 600 yards of offense.
Here's hoping we get some similar love in a couple weeks.
How much does Florida State barely moving up hurt?
It doesn't help, but it's not a crushing blow.
The crazy thing about FSU is that they're two plays against Clemson and North Carolina away from being a 9-1 team whose only loss came by 43 against us. If you don't want to take it that far, just imagine that UNC kicker pushes his 53-yard game-winner slightly right. The Seminoles are an 8-2 team that's probably in or just outside the top 10 right now.
FSU is and will remain Louisville's only potential top 25 win. The Cards really need the Seminoles to not slip up this weekend against Syracuse, and to beat Florida to end the regular season.
So let's simplify all this. What do we need to happen?
There's no way to make that simple, but let's try.
--First, obviously, Louisville needs to win its last two games. They don't necessarily need to do so with "style points," but it wouldn't hurt in the event that the Cards find themselves in a beauty pageant against Washington or a 2-loss Big Ten champ.
--Second, Wake Forest beating Clemson Saturday night would change everything. If that happens, we suddenly control our own destiny. No more "paths" or teams to root against: Louisville would simply have to win three straight and they'd be in.
Unfortunately, of course, the Demon Deacons are a three touchdown underdog that's unlikely to pull the massive upset. Still, you should be keeping an eye on that.
--In the event that Clemson does lock the Atlantic on Saturday, everyone need to root for Washington to lose once more. The committee's new rankings make it seem more likely than not that a 12-1 Husky team would jump Louisville. U-Dub plays Arizona State this weekend, Washington State to end the regular season, and if they win those, they'll play in the Pac-12 title game in three weeks.
--Another Ohio State loss almost certainly turns the Big 10 into a one-bid league. The Buckeyes are on the road at Michigan State this weekend and then host Michigan to end the regular season. Win both loss and they're likely in at 11-1 even though they'd be unlikely to win their own division. Lose one of those, and the Big 10 champion would be the conference's only potential representative.
--Root against Wisconsin and Penn State just in case. Surely to God a third loss would be the death blow that finally eliminated these two cockroaches.
I get that last night felt like a slight, but to reiterate an earlier point, it really didn't change anything for Louisville. The Cards don't control their own destiny at the moment, and that would still be the case is they had a little No. 3 next to their name.
That doesn't mean that U of L has no chance, that they're "going to get screwed," or that there's some vast conspiracy at play. On the contrary, I think Louisville has better than a 50 percent chance to make the playoff if it wins its final two games. I don't think Washington's going to win out, and even if OSU doesn't lose again, I still struggle with the notion that the committee would deem, say, a two-loss Penn State team as "unequivocally better" than 11-1 Louisville. Let's hope it doesn't get to that.
Also, the subject at issue is Louisville playing for a national championship in football. That's something we've never had the luxury of doing as late as Nov. 16. That's cool.
Go Cards. Beat Houston.