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College Football Playoff rankings hint at SEC disappointment

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There were early rumblings that the Southeastern Conference may dominate the first committee-elected College Football Playoff rankings.

After all, both the Associated Press Poll and Coaches Poll had three SEC teams — Mississippi State, Alabama and Auburn — in the top four of their lists. It would have taken a substantial departure from the other polls to get a vastly different group in the sport's inaugural playoff selection process.

And so Wednesday's poll rolled out, with Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn and Ole Miss leading the way. Alabama was left out, but at No. 6 will have an opportunity to move up with games left against Auburn and Mississippi State.

There were relatively few surprises, perhaps the only major one being that Notre Dame (ranked No. 6 in most polls) was all the way back at 10 in the college playoff committee's eyes.

Perhaps they don't share the rest of the country's collective fascination — perhaps Catholic guilt? — with the Fighting Irish. Be that as it may, here are two thoughts on the initial rankings.

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No. 1: Wait and See

Some fans were bound to groan about their placement within the selection process.

Particularly, one-loss Big Ten teams Nebraska and Ohio State have to be wondering how they are stuck all the way back at Nos. 15 and 16 respectively, when there are five Southeastern Conference in the rankings' top 11.

Also, the voters were clearly not impressed with the difficulty of the Atlantic Coast Conference. After all, ACC Coastal division-leading Duke, with a 6-1 record — albeit with only one win against a ranked team, then-No. 22 Georgia Tech — is all the way down at No. 24.

But remember that these rankings matter so little that they aren't worth griping about.

For many potential contenders, there are still plenty of big games that can be won to bolster their playoff resumes. Also, those three aforementioned SEC West teams that lead the pack now won't be there at the end of the season, with each facing at least two more teams currently ranked in the top-10, plus a match-up in the SEC championship game if they should get that far.

Fifth-ranked Oregon, for example, will surely make the playoff if it runs the table and wins the Pac-12. The same likely goes for Michigan State in the Big Ten, though the Spartans may be penalized for the weakness of their conference.

TCU will probably be left out. It plays No. 20 West Virginia and No. 9 Kansas State and barring huge blowouts, probably won't have an impressive enough resume to continue on.

But the point remains: If these one-loss teams win out, many of them will be playoff contenders by season's end. So most of these rankings are moot for now.

No. 2: Playoff Committee will not be swayed

Perhaps the biggest revelation from the rankings is that the playoff committee isn't going to be reverse-biased against the Southeastern Conference.

Some were afraid that with fewer voters and four playoff spots, there would be a push to, at most, accept two teams from any conference — even if three teams are deserving.

That was shown not to be the case here, with the voters boldly picking the three clear best teams, based on resume alone, to put in the top four.

Now will the SEC finish with three in the playoffs? Probably not.

After all, the conference's squads will pick each other apart the next few weeks, making the playoff selection crew's job easier.

Still, it's nice to know that public backlash from scorned squads won't be a factor in their decision making, at least, not from the early results shown here.

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