As much as fans hang on every installment of the College Footall Playoff rankings, the first set of rankings – and really, every set except the final one – is more or less irrelevant.
“It’s kind of like the Indy 500 and where you’re going to line up to start the race,” CBS Sports college football analyst Rick Neuheisel said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Everybody thinks that makes a big difference, and I’m sure, if everything is equal, that it does. But no, it’s much ado about nothing, given the fact that most of these teams still have huge games on their schedule that would determine it all. But when you’re in that 4 or 5 spot, you can understand why people get a little bit antsy, especially for those folks out on the West Coast.”
Especially Washington, which debuted at No. 5 last week despite being unbeaten. The Huskies responded with a 66-27 win at Cal, while No. 4 Texas A&M lost 35-28 at Mississippi State.
Chris Petersen probably wasn’t too upset about that.
“(After the rankings came out last week), I said, ‘Listen, they just gave the keys to the Motivation Mercedes to Chris Petersen,’” Neuheisel said. “Because now he can tell his team, ‘I don’t care what you guys think. We have to play like it’s the Green Bay Packers on the other side of the line of scrimmage every week to get ourselves respect by this group.’ Whether that’s the truth or not, it certainly is the message being sung loud and clear in that Washington locker room. They go out and put 60+ on Cal and do what they’re supposed to do. The sad thing for them though, is it was at 10:30. How many people actually watched and got to see Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin and John Ross and the other great players on that team perform? I think they’re reading box scores, but I don’t think they see it. So I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that Washington gets to the 4-spot tonight. The performance that Ohio State had against the No. 10 team, Nebraska, was a shellacking, an absolute tail-whipping. Given that, it wouldn’t shock me if Ohio State finds themselves in the 4-spot tonight.”
While Brandon Tierney acknowledged some degree of East Coast bias, he thinks the lack of respect for Washington, such as it is, has nothing to do with Petersen or the Pac-12. Rather, he believes it is rooted in Washington’s program being more or less dormant for much of the last, oh, quarter century.
Neuheisel didn’t necessarily agree.
“Christian McCaffrey was second in the Heisman Trophy balloting last year,” he said. “Even though Derrick Henry was outstanding at Alabama, I don’t think that anybody who would have watched the two play over the course of a 12-game season would have said that McCaffrey wasn’t sensational. He broke Barry Sanders’ all-purpose yardage record. He was a sensational player, but eight of his games were played after 10 o’clock. So if you’re not watching it and you’re just reading he numbers, you’re not getting the sense of what kind of a phenomenal performance it was. So I do think West and East does have some (influence).”
Elsewhere in the rankings, it’s possible that Clemson, which debuted at No. 2, was slightly overrated, especially with Louisville coming in at No. 7. The Cardinals certainly haven’t been dominant every week, but Clemson could easily have two or three or four losses right now.
“(Louisville) didn’t play great against Virginia. They didn’t play great against Duke,” Neuheisel said. “They found ways to win those games, but in the opening rankings, they come in at 7. I thought if you use the same standard as you used on Louisville on Clemson, Clemson wouldn’t have been higher than fourth. Clemson had a narrow win against Louisville, but they probably should have lost against North Carolina State at home. They were on the ropes against Troy. I know Troy is having a nice year, but they’re a Sun Belt team. (Clemson has) been anything but dominant this year. Now this last weekend, they kind of woke up and put a spanking on Syracuse, but if you’re using one set of analytics for one team, you ought to use the same analysts for the other, and I don’t think that was the case when they were judging the two ACC teams in the top 10 right now.”