If you’re looking for controversy in the College Football Playoff rankings, you will always find it. With four spots for the five power conferences (plus Notre Dame), it’s a near guarantee that at least one deserving team (and conference) is going to be left without a chair when the music stops. And the music stops on Dec. 6, when the committee stops teasing us with its fickle weekly standings and issues its final rankings.
Right now the Big 12—which was the one conference left without a chair last season—looks jilted again this year, despite boasting a pair of undefeated teams in Baylor and Oklahoma State. Neither team appeared in the committee’s top four in this week’s rankings, yet there is hope: From what we learned last year, the committee isn’t willing to leave out even the shakiest of undefeated teams from the top four.
Last year it was then-reigning national champion Florida State that actually went from 4th to 3rd in the final rankings with another wobbly win—this time a 2-point win over 11th-ranked Georgia Tech in the ACC title game to move their record to 13–0. (They would go on to lose 59–20 to Oregon in the opening round of the playoffs.)
The Big 12, which was hurt by a lack of a championship game last year, still doesn’t have a title match, so the conference seemingly back-loaded its best teams’ schedules to impress the committee when the time counted most. Thus 8–0 Baylor has yet to play a ranked team (inside or outside of conference play) while 9–0 Oklahoma State—fresh off a 20-point win over 8–1 TCU—has only played one.
The Cowboys and Bears will meet on Nov. 21, yet keep in mind that both teams have yet to play 8–1 Oklahoma, while Baylor still has a Nov. 27 meeting against TCU. As long as someone comes out of that mess undefeated, history (however brief it is) says that they should magically find themselves in the top four come Dec. 6—most likely at the expense of one-loss Notre Dame and a one- or two-loss Pac-12 champion.
The CFP is an imperfect four-team at-large system, but it’s still better than the two-team system (BCS) that preceded it.