CFP Anger Index: Why Washington, Alabama and the Group of 5 should be mad this week

ByDavid Hale ESPN logo
Wednesday, November 8, 2023

There are two types of anger in any given walk of life. The first is instant outrage, like when you get a look at the first College Football Playoff rankings and realize the committee applied one line of logic to Ohio Stateand another to Michiganand seemed entirely unfazed by that seeming paradox.

The second type is the long simmering furor that builds over time, becoming all the more irrational and indignant the longer it's left untended -- like your partner failing to hang the toilet paper roll the right way (loose end in front) or the committee leaving the top eight teams unchanged from week to week in spite of the aforementioned paradoxical justifications even when we've calmly explained its mistake and given it ample time to adjust particularly when, say, Ohio State struggled against Rutgers or when Washingtonnotched another solid win and -- sorry, we blacked out for a moment there due to sheer outrage.

Anyway, the second College Football Playoff rankings are upon us, and rather than rehash similar frustrations from a week earlier amidst a relatively unchanged top 25, let's dig deeper, truly connect with our super ego, and unleash our hostilities upon the committee anew.

Let's compare resumes for a moment.

Team A: 9-0, No. 2 strength of record, No. 3 average win probability, No. 3 overall offense in SP+ with wins over Nos. 4, 17 and 27 in SP+ by a total of 20 points.

Team B: 9-0, No. 1 strength of record, No. 11 average win probability, No. 3 overall defense in SP+ with wins over Nos. 5, 10 and 28 in SP+ by a total of 25 points.

Pretty similar resumes, right?

You probably know Team A is Washington, fresh off a double-digit win over USCthat may have raised a red flag or two about the Huskies' defense.

Team B, of course, is Ohio State, fresh off a double-digit win over Rutgers that may have raised a red flag or two about the Buckeyes' offense.

Do you lean Ohio State between the two? We can see that. But would you say there's a four-spot difference between the two?

Washington's win over the Trojans actually helped the Huskies leapfrog Florida Statein ESPN's Strength of Record metric, but it didn't sway the committee (the same committee that, inexplicably, thought USC was the No. 20 team in the country just a week ago).

Now here's a fun what-if: Ohio State loses to Michigan in the regular-season finale in a close game, then sits back and watches as Washington loses to Oregon by 10 in the Pac-12 title game.

Who's getting into the playoff? Two Pac-12 teams or two Big Ten teams?

I think we know the answer to that. (And not just because all of them will be in the Big Ten soon enough.)

In any other years, we'd be applauding the committee for sticking to its guns and keeping big, bad Alabama below seven other teams, in spite of the fact that Alabama is, well, Alabama. Typically the committee's chief responsibility is to reverse engineer Alabama's narrative, then rank accordingly. This year, it has afforded grace to each undefeated team, rewarded Oregonfor playing Washington tough and beating Utah, and credited Texasfor its head-to-head win over the Crimson Tide way back in Week 2.

So, kudos, right?

This time, we actually think maybe Alabama is being overlooked a bit. (Hey, you, stop throwing things at us! We'll explain!)

Yes, head-to-head should matter, and the fact is Texas beat Alabama. But that's only part of the story.

That game came at a very precarious time for the Crimson Tide as they were still trying to figure out their QB situation. Well, if you watched Jalen Milroe in last week's 42-28 win over LSU, I think we can officially say, problem solved.

Or how about this comparison?

Team A: 5 wins vs. Quad 1 (i.e. top 35) teams in FPI, with its lone loss coming to a top-10 team

Team B: 5 wins vs. Quad 1 (i.e. top 35) teams in FPI, with its lone loss coming to a top-10 team.

Clearly a good comparison ... except Team A is Alabama, and Team B is Oregon and Texas combined.

Indeed, it's almost been accepted as fact that Oregon is the best one-loss team in the country, despite the fact the Ducks' only impressive win came against Utah, a team playing a safety at tailback and a former walk-on at QB. The next-best item on their resume is a loss.

Now look at Alabama: 14-point wins vs. No. 9 Ole Miss, No. 13 Tennesseeand No. 19 LSU.

Moreover, just consider the trend line. This, of course, will be the fun of the 12-team playoff, when the hottest teams will have a true advantage in the postseason, but it's worth appreciating now, too.

If the playoff started tomorrow, and your favorite team was in, who's the team you'd least want to play in the semifinal?

We'll wait, but the answer is Alabama.

It's pretty clear everyone believes Louisville has been lucky to face a weak schedule, showed its true colors in a horrible loss to Pitt, and is without question the worst of the one-loss teams.

Well, the Cardinals did lose to Pitt, and that's a genuine blemish considering how bad the Panthers have been. Never mind that Louisville actually out-gained Pitt by nearly 150 yards or that its best offensive weapon, running back Jawhar Jordan, got hurt early on and had just two carries or that three turnovers were the real difference in the game. It was still a bad loss.

But how about the wins?

That easy schedule actually hasn't been such a cakewalk. Louisville has five wins over Power 5 opponents with a winning record. Ohio State is the only other team with as many. Louisville has four wins over Power 5 foes 6-3 or better. Only Oklahoma State Cowboys has as many. Those four wins over 6-3 (or better) P5 foes came by an average of 17 points.

And Louisville ranks 18th in offensive efficiency and 11th in defensive efficiency so far this year. The only teams to rank higher in both? Florida State, Michigan and Ohio State.

Put some respect on the Cardinals' name.

4. The Group of 5

Blame Air Forcefor this one. Last week, the committee afforded the Falcons the No. 25 spot and they promptly coughed up six turnovers in a brutal loss to Army . So, this week, the lone school from outside the Power 5 is Tulaneat No. 23.

Fresno Stateat 8-1 and winners of 17 of its past 18? Unranked.

Libertyat 9-0 with one of the nation's most underrated QB performances of the season? Unranked.

Toledoat 8-1 with its lone loss coming on the road to Illinoisin Week 1 by two points? Unranked.

James Madison? Not even allowed to be ranked!

And yet, here's Iowa, whose game film is used to quell prison riots, checks in at No. 22.

The Scarlet Knights have two quality losses against top-three teams. If they were in the SEC, they'd be ranked 12th right now.

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