Getting upset at the College Football Playoff committee because of their weekly rankings is like stepping outside this morning and raging at autumn because there was frost on your lawn. Sure it sucks, but as summer drew to a close did we somehow think the changing of the season wasn't going to be accompanied by blasts of cold air and thin layers of frozen moisture on our windshields?
I won't pretend that I didn't watch last night's rankings reveal with high hopes for the UC Bearcats. Not only are they unbeaten with one of the very best wins of the entire college football season, but no "Group of 5" program in the history of the CFP era carried with it the kid of preseason hype and expectations of this year's Cincinnati squad, and while their unblemished record may cover up the fact that they've not been completely perfect on the field, it's almost impossible to argue against the notion that Luke Fickell's team has lived up to what most thought it could be.
I also won't lie and try to tell you that I don't take issue with much of what we watched unfold last night. If you did believe that Ohio State stood a decent chance to being ranked ahead of Cincinnati, then you had to at least consider the possibility that the team that beat them at home would also be in front of them, but that doesn't make it any easier to swallow when you see an Oregon team with a resume that includes bad loss included in the top four while the Bearcats sit in relative no-man's land at number six.
But come on, we knew some version of this was coming, right? And don't we know what's next?
Selection committee chair Gary Barta tipped his hand last night, casting the talking points that surely won't be limited to 2021's initial rankings...
"The committee has been watching games all year and most recently in the last two weeks - a 2-6 Navy team and then a 1-7 Tulane team with a freshman quarterback starting so ... very impressive win against Notre Dame - a lot of respect - but looking at the whole picture, we felt (No.) 6 was the right place for Cincinnati."
The implied message from Barta is that nothing else Cincinnati has done or will do will be enough to overcome the fact that UC's performances against Navy and Tulane were just substandard enough to leave them out of the top four, not just this week, but every subsequent week. I mean, even if the Bearcats do run the table and blow out their remaining opponents, do we really believe that a process designed to exclude schools from outside Power 5 conferences will simply ignore what was clearly the biggest deciding factor in ranking Cincinnati behind three schools that have already lost?
It's not that the way UC played against the Midshipmen and The Green Wave shouldn't be factored in, it's that the way that Oklahoma played against both Tulane and Kansas seems more likely to be glossed over in the event the Sooners win their remaining games. It's that seemingly no one wants to mention how Tulsa was within a touchdown of Ohio State in the fourth quarter when the Golden Hurricane traveled to Columbus.
Didn't hear much scrutiny last night of how Michigan State only beat a crummy Indiana team by five, or how one-loss Alabama escaped with a two-point win over a Florida team that has spent a month in freefall.
Even if those things do enter the discourse, does anyone who's followed this process since its inception believe they'll have the same reverberations as the two UC wins that Barta went out of his way to mention?
ESPN's Andrea Adelson wrote this after last night's rankings were released...
The sad truth is this: Every year, the goalposts keep moving. When the playoff was created, we were fed the line that this would help Group of 5 teams finally have a chance after the BCS shut out every undefeated Group of 5 program from the top two. So go undefeated and the top four will await!
But then finishing undefeated was not enough. Then they were told they should build strong nonconference schedules, and also go undefeated. But also make sure their conference is strong enough to help. But maybe they also need to blow out every opponent now. Cincinnati struggled against Navy and Tulane before pulling away to win the past two weeks. Guess that is not allowed, either.
So now let me consult this very long checklist that applies only to the Group of 5:
- Get yourself a tough nonconference schedule.
- Make sure those games are on the road.
- Make sure everyone in your conference is good.
- Make sure you blow everyone out in your good conference.
See? Nothing these teams do will ever be enough.
She's absolutely right, but she's absolutely not uncovering anything we did not already know. Has there ever been evidence to suggest that a school like Cincinnati or whatever non-Power 5 program you want to add to the conversation won't continue to have the goalposts moved?
Barta not only laid the groundwork for the argument that will be used against UC until the final rankings come out on December 5th, but the committee also set itself up to be able to dismiss possible wins over good SMU and Houston teams by not ranking either. As much as we'll try to take comfort over he possibility of Alabama losing again, or Oklahoma still having some major tests on its schedule, or the Big Ten sorting itself out in the regular season's final weeks, haven't we come to expect by now G5 programs getting the same cold shoulder from the committee this morning's wind gusts gave me when I opened my back door this morning to my me dog out?
We don't really believe that a two-loss Alabama team will be instantly dismissed right? We're not really going to convince ourselves that Oklahoma's close calls and UC's "narrow" wins will be given the same treatment once both teams have played all of their games? We won't really be shocked if the fact that Wake Forest played no one of consequence out of conference and gave up 56 points to Army will be given the front and center attention that UC's schedule was given in the event everything falls apart and the committee has to compare an ACC team with one from the AAC? We're not really going to assume that just because Cincinnati drastically outplayed Notre Dame in South Bend that one simple head-to-head win would ensure that at the very least, the Irish won't pass the Bearcats if they win out, are we?
I'm doing neither of these things, and not because I'm angry with the process, but because I understand how it works, who it's been created by, and what it's designed to accomplished. I'm not exactly shrugging my shoulders, but I can't bang on the table in anger when what we at least accepted as a likely outcome turned out to be reality.
What I will do is refuse to allow the College Football Playoff Committee to decide how I should be feel about the team I root for and the season its having. I'm not allowing subjective rankings, shifting goalposts, built-in double standards, and Iowa's goofball AD to have any bearing on how much I've enjoyed what the UC program has become, the joy this particular team has given me, and my hopes for what it may still accomplish.
This process will have no affect on how I celebrate its triumphs, and even if a 13-0 UC finish would be met with what will seem like an almost inevitable middle finger from Gary Barta and his buddies, there's nothing the committee can do and nowhere the Bearcats might be ranked that will make me feel like an undefeated season isn't an overwhelming success and keep me from reveling in how the Bearcats held up their end of the deal by taking care of the only part of this entire stupid process that they have any kind of control over.
No one is going to ignore the College Football Playoff Rankings.
It's up to each of us to determine how important they really are.