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UCLA Football: Free Falling in the CFB Playoff Rankings

The most recent college football playoff rankings are out. These are the last rankings before the grand finale next Sunday. So don't expect a lot of movement for teams which are not playing. And that means that UCLA, currently number 15, will be on the outside looking in for a prestige bowl game (again).

Dan Guerrero told me you can't take pictures with a phone. I'll be darned.
Dan Guerrero told me you can't take pictures with a phone. I'll be darned.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Here are the most recent rankings from the College Football Playoff Committee. This is the last release before next Sunday's grand finale, when the four national semifinalists and the participants in the other four premier bowls will be announced.

1 Alabama 11-1
2 Oregon 11-1
3 TCU 10-1
4 Florida State 12-0
5 Ohio State 11-1
6 Baylor 10-1
7 Arizona 10-2
8 Michigan State 10-2
9 Kansas State 9-2
10 Mississippi State 10-2
11 Georgia Tech 10-2
12 Mississippi 9-3
13 Wisconsin 10-2
14 Georgia 9-3
15 UCLA 9-3
16 Missouri 10-2
17 Arizona State 9-3
18 Clemson 9-3
19 Auburn 8-4
20 Oklahoma 8-3
21 Louisville 9-3
22 Boise State 10-2
23 Utah 8-4

24 LSU8-4               25 Southern California8-4

As expected, Alabama (SEC) retained the number 1 spot, and Oregon (Pac 12) retained the number 2 spot. Mississippi State was shown the door after losing to Ole Miss, which opened up a spot in the national semifinals for TCU (Big 12). And TCU also leapfrogged Florida State (ACC) into the number 3 spot. Although there is no written rule to spread the wealth, the Committee would presumably be satisified to see a mix which includes one team each from four of the five power conferences.

Spots 5-10 are in the following order- Ohio State (Big 10), Baylor (Big 12), Arizona (Pac 12), Michigan State (Big 10), Kansas State (Big 12), Mississippi State (SEC). These teams would be placed in prestige bowls if the season was already over.

There is one spot in the prestige bowls reserved for the top ranked conference champion from the Mountain West, Conference USA, American, MAC or Sun Belt conferences. This would be Boise State, #22 in the current rankings.

That leaves one spot. And this year, because the Orange Bowl would lose the ACC conference champion (Florida State) to the national semifinal game at the Rose Bowl (based on the above standings), a 2nd ACC team would fill that spot. And based on the above standings, that would be Georgia Tech (currently ranked #11). Georgia Tech would have received this spot as the next highest ACC team, even if they weren't next in line at #11.

The determination of particular bowl slots would be based on geography, avoidance of regular season matchup repeats, and other such factors. Using the above standings, the shakeout would be as follows-

Alabama- Sugar Bowl (#1 seed)

Oregon- Rose Bowl (#2 seed)

TCU- Rose Bowl (#3 seed)

Florida State- Sugar Bowl (#4 seed)

Ohio State- Orange (as the highest ranked SEC or Big 10 team available)

Baylor- Cotton (most likely) or Fiesta or Peach

Arizona- Fiesta (most likely) or Cotton or Peach

Michigan State- Cotton or Fiesta or Peach

Kansas State- Fiesta or Peach (would not play in Cotton to avoid rematch with Baylor)

Mississippi State- Peach (most likely) or Cotton or Fiesta

Georgia Tech- Orange (replacing Florida State as ACC representative)

Boise State- Fiesta or Cotton or Peach

This would fit in nicely with my speculation that the Committee will try to spread the wealth amongst the five conferences who are behind the playoff system. The above mix would yield the following breakdown of bowl slots by conference-

ACC two, Big 10 two, Big 12 three, Pac 12 two, SEC two, Mountain West one

Why isn't UCLA in this mix? Look at the standings again. After our pratfall against Stanford, we took a dive to #15. And with no more games on the schedule pre-bowl, it will be impossible to move back into the top 10 in next week's grand finale.

So 2nd or 3rd tier bowl, here we come.

Patroclus has an excellent article on how the Pac-12 bowl picture works. As the article points out, the bowls with Pac-12 tie-ins pick in a certain order, but they are not obligated to take the team with the highest position in the conference rankings.

For sake of argument, let's say the Bowls picked teams which matched the above rankings. The result would be that the Bruins would be in the Alamo Bowl as the "#2 Pac 12" selection (Oregon and Arizona would be off the board). And the UCLA opponent would be the "#2 Big 12" selection, which would be Oklahoma (TCU and Baylor would be off the board).

And with the #16 AP team (UCLA) playing the #18 AP team from the Big 12 (Oklahoma), there is no way that the Bruins could leapfrog six teams and make it into the final Top 10. So, add another year to the wait, which extends from 1998 to the present.

Two other items of note- Arizona jumping all the way to #7, leapfrogging Michigan State in the process, shows that we would have been in great position to make the national semifinals if we had won out. Crap.

And Southern Cal somehow made it back into the top 25. Pat Haden, $C Athletic Director and committee member, had to recuse himself when Southern Cal came up for discussion.

We were able to obtain a transcript, and here is how the discussion went-

Jeff Long (committee chair)- "Pat. We have a real problem here. There are only 24 decent teams in the country. But we need to pick 25. So your team is back in the discussion, and you will have to leave the room."

Pat Haden- "Are you suggesting we aren't decent?"

JL- "Damn straight. You were so sorry ass in that UCLA game that I thought we were done with you for sure. The one good thing, though, is that every time you leave the room, you do a coffee run for us, and you come back with the best cookies and pastries."

PH- "Any thing I can do for my school. Short of getting caught cheating."

JL- "Pat, leave now, before we regret talking about your school. And remember, I like my coffee with two lumps of sugar and I want an oatmeal raisin cookie."

Meanwhile, we are #15. We are turning a corner. Go Bruins !!