College Football Playoff Rankings: MSU SHOULD Be #3


Nov 22, 2014; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles defensive back Jalen Ramsey (8) during the game against the Boston College Eagles at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

After Mississippi State spanked Vanderbilt 51-0 last week and TCU didn’t play…and Ohio State struggled with Indiana, I have to assume State will at worst be #4 again in the College Football Playoff Rankings. So the debate, to me, is should they leap-frog Florida State who was #3 last week? After another unimpressive 20-17 win over a middle-of-the-road ACC team, it’s plausible. Let’s dig deeper.

Exhibit A

Here are FSU’s wins, ranked from best to worst (the FPI is from ESPN) based on my opinion.

1. Notre Dame (7-4) – FPI: 26

2. at Lousiville (8-3) – FPI: 32

3. Clemson (8-3) – FPI: 31

4. at Miami (6-5) – FPI: 28

5. Oklahoma State (5-6) – FPI: 58

6. at N.C. State (6-5) – FPI: 66

7. Boston College (6-5) – FPI: 56

8. Virginia (5-6) – FPI: 42

9. Syracuse (3-8) – FPI: 72

10. Wake Forest (3-8) – FPI: 104

11. Citadel (FCS)

Here are MSU’s wins:

1. Auburn (8-3) – FPI: 8

2. at LSU (7-4) – FPI: 15

3. Arkansas (6-5) – FPI: 16

4. Texas A&M (7-4) – FPI: 21

5. Kentucky (5-6) – FPI: 59

6. at South Alabama (6-5) – FPI: 97

7. UAB (5-6) – FPI: 89

8. Vanderbilt (3-8) – FPI: 98

9. Southern Miss (3-8) – FPI: 118

10. UT-Martin (FCS)

Right off the bat you can see Mississippi State’s top four wins are all better than Florida State’s top four wins, by a substantial margin. It may not look that way record-wise, but these metrics help us understand the value of a team’s record due to the strength of the schedule they’ve played. Auburn’s 8-3 record is much greater than Clemson’s identical 8-3 record because they’ve had several big victories while Clemson has just one against a borderline top 25 team (Louisville).

Once you get past the top four wins by each team it drops off pretty substantially. You could certainly argue the bottom half of FSU’s wins are against better teams, but does it really matter if you can beat teams who aren’t in the top 50 when you’re in consideration for the best four teams in America? What’s more, Florida State only beat teams 5-11 by an average margin of 17 points while MSU beat teams 5-10 by an average margin of 31 points.

Exhibit B

Florida State is undefeated, but so what? While there’s a mental block about removing the defending national champions from the top four, aren’t we trying to uncover the best four teams this year? The 2014 Florida State Seminoles have not faced the type of schedule Mississippi State has, and that has been the main reason they are undefeated.

MSU has one loss – to #1 Alabama. The Tide are #1 in FPI and according to Las Vegas and the Coaches Poll, not to mention the College Football Playoff committee themselves. What’s more, that loss was on the road.

So all of MSU’s top four wins are better than FSU’s top four wins, and they played a game against Alabama on the road – a game which FSU has not even come close to playing. Using that loss as the sole reason for putting the Noles ahead of the Bulldogs is asinine.

Exhibit C

It would be one thing if Florida State was dominating their opponents. It would make up for their lack of schedule strength, somewhat in the same vain as Boise State a few years back who demolished everyone on their schedule, allowing people to believe they may be a legit national contender.

FSU has not done that – not even close. They are currently ranked 32nd in game control with the 46th toughest strength of schedule. MSU’s strength of schedule is similar at 50th, but they are 2nd in the country in game control.

Which one of these is not like the other? (Game control ranking)

  • Alabama: 1
  • Oregon: 3
  • Florida State: 32
  • Mississippi State: 2
  • Baylor: 5
  • TCU: 7
  • Ohio State: 8

Exhibit D

“Finding a way to win games” is a common theme repeated among those who promote FSU’s place in the top four. I’d argue they have simply played teams who “found a way to lose games”.

Against Clemson the score was 17-17 with just over a minute to play. At the FSU 18 yard line, all the Tigers had to do was run some clock and kick a field goal. But they are Clemson.

That fumble led to overtime where FSU won 23-17. While the Noles were without Jameis Winston in that game, it was his own fault for being suspended. We aren’t talking about injury – we are talking about standing on a table in the student Union and yelling obscenities. They dug their own grave in that game.

Then, once again on their home turf, a team finds a way to lose. Notre Dame commits a controversial offensive pass interference  on what would have been the game-winning touchdown with 15 seconds to play. The WR who caught the ball would have been wide open regardless of the penalty – that’s just the Irish shooting themselves in the foot.

  • Louisville had a 24-7 second half lead.
  • Boston College missed a go-ahead field goal late in the 4th quarter.
  • Miami blew a 23-7 lead.
  • N.C. State had a 24-7 lead after the 1st quarter.

Close calls for Mississippi State?

  • 25-20 loss to Alabama.
  • Trailed 10-0 to Arkansas, came back to win 17-10.

You can make the “eye test” whatever you want, but Mississippi State has been dominating their opponents while Florida State has been catching breaks to luckily squeak by games.