For all the talk about an 8 team playoff and how it's inevitable, we've suddenly found ourselves smack dab in the middle of an 8 team playoff right now at the midway point of the season. The problem is, one of the Top 8 teams basically has a bye all the way to the actual playoff, at least on paper, and the other 7 pretty much all play each other before the post season.
We can first thank Georgia, Notre Dame and South Carolina for cleaning up (sort of) what could've been a massive mess at the top by years end. Notre Dame's loss by 6 to Georgia suddenly isn't as impressive because the Dawgs let a .500 Carolina smack them around in their own yard for an OT loss. This was Georgia's dagger because there's no way (barring some surprises) they run the table here on out. Again, this is the "on paper" test so anything can happen, but then again the whole ranking system is based (and biased) on things we just can't know. Georgia still has to travel to Florida and Auburn and if they somehow escape would likely face Bama or LSU in the SEC title game. They could very well have 3 losses in the regular season.
Meanwhile, Georgia's reality must be sinking in for Notre Dame. If they're sitting with 1 loss at the end of the year, and it's to a 3 loss team....well you bet the committee will defer to a 1 loss Ohio State, LSU, Bama, Penn St or Wisconsin. Consider this a "bullet dodged", we've seen this play out before when a conference-less Irish make the big dance, it hasn't ended well in a very long time.
Now to the "playoff" and the dilemma it causes. Ohio State, even by SEC pundit standards, seems like the best team in the nation yet they're only ranked 4th. And why are they ranked 4th? Well, because Alabama and Clemson both have "Alabama" and "Clemson" on their jerseys. I am in no way claiming these teams aren't elite, however, when Paul Finebaum comes out and says "there's no doubt Ohio State is the best team in the nation" well it leaves me scratching my head. Obviously the rankings have bias and past accomplishments tied to it. If we base our rankings on proven and earned factors, LSU would be #1, Ohio State #2, Bama #3 and Oklahoma #4. So one of these teams is getting screwed even if they were all undefeated at the end of the year.
Clemson's "biggest" win is over Texas A&M, the 3-3, never should've been ranked, mediocre Texas A&M. That's where these preseason rankings are criminal, this will likely be Clemson's only ranked win and it was by 14 and they should've lost to North Carolina, meanwhile escaping by 1. Their remaining schedule is laughable: Louisville, Boston College, Wofford, NC State, Wake Forest and South Carolina.
Meanwhile Bama has to play LSU, Auburn and possibly the SEC Title game. LSU has the 2 best wins of the year so far and is nowhere safe, they still play Auburn and Alabama before a possible SEC Title game. Ohio State still has Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan before the Big Ten Title game. Wisconsin looks like the potential best team in the nation too. Oklahoma can cruise unless Baylor is for real which is unfortunate because the Sooners look loaded but the Big 12, like every other conference, is top heavy and OU's schedule isn't that scary so they won't show many good wins.
Now it's time for assumptions and predictions. Clemson and Oklahoma will cruise and be undefeated. Ohio State and Bama have very tough schedules remaining, let's assume they run the table. There's your 4 best and the committee escapes controversy. Despite the fact a 1 loss LSU, Wisconsin or Penn State could claim they're better than Clemson or Oklahoma, based off strength of schedule. What about chaos theory? What if Bama loses to LSU and LSU loses to Auburn? Then Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State all trade punches, leaving 5 elite teams (not counting Notre Dame or Oregon) all with 1 loss and arguably tougher schedules than Clemson and Oklahoma?
At some point, if the NCAA is concerned about fairness at all (they're not) then preseason rankings need to be abolished and a better system of assessing who's worthy of rankings is implemented. Until then, the committee will have to continue to root for undefeated teams to go down so they don't have tough decisions.