CFP rankings, ESPN show is hurting sport overall

The lead story in college football this week didn’t involve any star players, epic comebacks or even a look ahead to this weekend’s big matchups.

It centered on how the College Football Playoff committee decided to rank Michigan No. 6 and Michigan State No. 7 in this week’s standings even though they have identical 8-1 records and just nine days prior the Spartans had defeated the Wolverines.

“The committee gave great credence to the Michigan State win head-to-head against Michigan,” chair Gary Barta said.

Sure, except when it didn’t.

The order of the ranking between two teams outside the actual top four that would make the playoffs – if the season ended today, which it isn’t – is of no importance, of course. It’s a made-up exercise.

It caused a fan and media uproar anyway with days of negative stories, bad headlines, television rants, conspiracy theories, talk-radio rip jobs and social media uproar. Much of it centered on the perception that the playoff favors bigger brand programs in an effort to gin up television ratings.

It was another body blow to the credibility of the committee, the playoff and the entire sport.

Michigan (8-1) is ahead of Michigan State (8-1) in the CFP rankings, despite losing to the Spartans on Oct. 30. (Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

And it was, as always, completely self-inflicted.

The issue isn’t that the selection committee might come up with some peculiar rankings backed by weak explanations – trying to rank 25 football teams with so few comparative data points is inherently problematic. Plus, there is an intellectual argument for UM over MSU. The issue is that the committee was attempting to do it in the middle of the season as part of a bizarro marketing plan that does little in creating excitement for the postseason but plenty in making fans believe the…


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