Which Top 4 Team Shouldn’t Be There?
At the end of the season, it all comes down to the final four teams. However, to show some transparency as to how the College Football Playoff Selection Committee goes about voting for the Top 25, the selection committee releases their poll each week. This week, they have Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, and Notre Dame as the top four teams respectively, but one of them doesn't belong.
Firstly, at this point in time, it ultimately doesn't matter if a team is ranked in the top four or not. But since we do have a poll, and the selection committee does vote, and at the end of conference championship week, they produce their final poll and send four teams to the national semifinals, it matters. If for nothing else, it matters for talking points.
So since we've got a poll, and there are four teams in the top four, which team doesn't belong?
Throughout the season, national pundits have tried to rationalize why they think Alabama isn't one of the best teams in the country. From inconsistent quarterback play to the lack of strength of schedule (laughable, I know) to having a weakness on defense when playing against a mobile quarterback (and let's be honest, who doesn't have that problem?), it's one excuse after the other, with no regard to other teams' inconsistencies and shortcomings.
With that being said, it's obvious that Alabama should be in the top four. There isn't a single player on their roster that wasn't a part of a #1 recruiting class. Along with that slew of talent is arguably the best coaching staff in the country. Not including Alabama in the top four is unreasonable and, quite frankly, asinine. Sure, they have a semi-bad loss to Ole Miss, but if you've watched this team throughout the season, when they play bad, they still win (Tennessee and Middle Tennessee for reference). When they play good, they dominate (Wisconsin). And when they play to their full potential, they're unstoppable (LSU).
Clemson is the committee's #1 team, and rightfully so. They're undefeated in a Power 5 conference (joke all you want about it being the lowly ACC, but undefeated is still undefeated), possess one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Deshaun Watson, and have two wins over current top 25 teams (one of those teams being the fourth ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish).
So in short, they definitely deserve to be there.
Ohio State also falls into the category of being undefeated in a Power 5 conference, possess one of the best quarterbacks in the nation (J.T. Barrett, not Cardale Jones), but they don't have any quality wins so far. The reason for that is their weak schedule. They haven't played near the schedule that Alabama has played, or what Clemson has played for that matter. However, they have to play who they have to play, and they'll have their opportunities to change that rhetoric over the next three weeks (Michigan State, Michigan, and potentially the B1G Championship Game).
Urban Meyer is still coaching that team, and most of their national championship team from last season is back on the field this season. They don't want for talent.
They deserve their ranking.
So, by process of elimination, that leaves the Fighting Irish.
The first thing you may say is that if Notre Dame is overrated, then wouldn't that diminish Clemson's win over them earlier this season? Kinda. But they're still ranked at #4, and Clemson has beaten them. There's no bullying around those facts.
However, Notre Dame isn't a better team than Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and maybe not even Iowa.
Unfortunately, part of that reason is the fact that they lost their starting quarterback, Malik Zaire, earlier this season due to a broken ankle against the Virginia Cavaliers. Back-up QB DeShone Kizer has stepped in and has done a more-than-serviceable job filling in, throwing for 204 yards/game, 16 TD's and 6 interceptions in 10 games. But it's been against sub-par competition and they haven't exactly been "dominant."
I guess you can say that they have two wins over current top 25 teams, but those two teams are Navy and Temple. On paper, those are good wins. However, nothing against those two teams, who I have watched a few times this season, they aren't "quality" wins. The differentiation between the top 10ish teams and the rest of the country is pretty noticeable.
Now, the Irish do have an explosive offense, riding the legs of running back C.J. Prosise, putting up 36.2 points/game, and that's good enough to rank 28th in the nation. However, teams ranked below the Irish like Oklahoma (9-1) and Oklahoma State (10-0) score more points than they do (46.1 and 43.6 points/game respectively).
Complementing that offense is a good defense, allowing 21.5 points/game. Nothing to scoff at by any means, but definitely nothing worthy of being one of the top four teams in the country. Again, a 9-1 top 10 team that allows fewer points than Notre Dame? The Oklahoma Sooners (19.7).
Yes, Oklahoma has a loss to a struggling Texas, but one loss shouldn't be detrimental to a team's rankings, especially when comparing teams objectively. Alabama has a loss to Ole Miss, Florida's lone loss is to LSU, and Michigan State has a loss to Nebraska. At this point in the season, having one loss is not uncommon. Oklahoma's average margin of victory is 30.1. It's silly how lopsided their victories have come. Compare that to Notre Dame's 17.3 margin of victory, and you'll see how much more Oklahoma has accomplished than Notre Dame this season.
And let's not forget about the two undefeated Power 5 teams directly below Notre Dame in Iowa and Oklahoma State. If your argument is that one loss is detrimental to a team (e.g. Oklahoma), then how is it that you justify ranking teams with one loss higher than undefeated teams? And if you say that one loss isn't a negative when comparing teams, what has Notre Dame shown that puts them in the exclusive company of the top four teams?