The 2nd edition of the College Football Playoff poll was released last night with disappointing results for the UNC Tar Heels. Coming off of their most impressive win of the season, the committee slotted the Heels at #23, ahead of undefeated Houston and two-loss Wisconsin. The biggest concern for UNC is the committee’s rating of the teams ahead of them … one-loss Temple, one-loss Memphis, and one-loss Navy. There are five two-loss teams ahead of North Carolina, including Northwestern, Mississippi State, and most concerning, two-loss Florida State.
The SEC Factor:
Not only is North Carolina’s loss to South Carolina in the first football game of the entire 2015 season bad, it’s impossible to overcome. Why? Because a team’s performance against the SEC in non-conference play is a significant litmus test for playoff ranking.
Oklahoma – win against Tennessee
Memphis – win against Ole Miss
UNC – loss to South Carolina
The Name Brand Factor:
There’s no other explanation for Florida State to be ranked ahead of North Carolina than the name-brand factor. With wins versus Texas State, Southern Florida, Boston College, Wake Forest, Miami, Louisville and Syracuse, there’s not a single impressive win on the resume. The committee does show a tendency to reward good losses, like the Noles’ loss to Clemson, but does anyone believe North Carolina would jump Florida State after a potential loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship Game? Certainly not if Florida State beats Florida, which would give them the edge in the SEC factor as well.
College Football Committee chair Jeff Long on 7th ranked Stanford’s loss to Northwestern: “Yeah, I think it is a significant thing. Now, every committee member would weigh that differently, but I think it is worth noting that they play at 9AM Pacific Time. Weather certainly plays a factor. When games start, certainly. I think we would not be doing our due diligence if we didn’t recognize that a team was playing at 9 a.m. Pacific Time, and I recall last year we had a game, I believe UCLA traveled to Virginia. So we look at those things. They’re a factor. How big of a factor? I can’t quantify that for you, but I know it was discussed by the committee members and probably should have been.”
I can assure you that the committee also discussed how Florida State probably wins in overtime if Georgia Tech doesn’t block the kick and return it for a touchdown. I’m guessing it was not discussed that UNC probably beats South Carolina if Larry Fedora doesn’t take the ball out of his best running back’s hands in Week 1. Or that UNC also plays most of their games at 9AM Pacific.
The dream of finishing in the top 12 is probably dead, barring an upset of Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. There’s certainly an opportunity to move into the top 20 as Temple and Memphis play each other, and Temple still has to play Houston. The bottom of the poll will work itself out, but the bottom of the poll is irrelevant beyond the “Group of 5” teams who are all competing for the top spot in the rankings among that pool of teams. The committee simply doesn’t rate North Carolina, and as we saw last week, that could also play itself out in the AP Poll who may drop North Carolina just to align with the committee’s evaluation. Two games against FCS teams and a loss in the most high-profile game in the season is just too much to overcome at this point in the year.
Adjusted Big Four Bowl Projections
NC State: Military Bowl