The Florida Gators sit at No. 11 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings of 2016, released during an ESPN show on Tuesday.
The Gators check in between two Big Ten teams — No. 10 Nebraska and No. 12 Penn State — and outside of a top 10 that features three other top-10 Big Ten squads, including No. 8 Wisconsin, the highest-ranked two-loss team in the rankings.
The big surprise of the rankings is No. 4 Texas A&M, which sits one spot ahead of unbeaten No. 5 Washington. But the Aggies have a road win over No. 9 Auburn, and wins over Tennessee and UCLA, while Washington’s best win — by the selection committee’s rankings, anyway — is a road win over No. 16 Utah.
This points directly to the selection committee’s propensity for favoring résumé — and specifically quality of victories — over any other factors when ranking teams, something I pointed out on Sunday, while warning that Florida could be a top-10 team in the polls — as it is — and outside the Playoff’s top 10.
But Florida could conceivably be in the top 10 on Sunday and out of it on Tuesday, when the College Football Playoff’s selection committee issues its first rankings.
That committee has demonstrated, time and again, that it does not consistently use the polls as a framework, and so Florida can’t benefit from the same propensity for inertia it does with the coaches and AP voters. Instead, the committee is likely to weigh résumés and use “the eye test” to craft its hierarchy.
I think Wisconsin’s very likely to be ahead of Florida in the Playoff rankings, and I would be utterly unsurprised to see two of Baylor, Nebraska, and West Virginia in front of the Gators, too. Hell, Western Michigan’s best win — at Northwestern, just like Nebraska’s — is over a team S&P+ liked better than Kentucky as of last week, and the Broncos didn’t blow a 21-0 lead in their nonexistent loss. Auburn’s only losses are to Clemson and Texas A&M, and Auburn has wins over LSU, Arkansas, and Mississippi — whose five losses are to Florida State, Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, and Auburn, all top-25 teams in my view — to its name.
Put simply: Florida’s lack of a marquee win is going to be its bête noire in these initial College Football Playoff rankings, and may keep a team that should be no lower than No. 8 or No. 9 in this week’s polls outside the top 10 in the selection committee’s eyes.
In other words: Called it.
Florida’s No. 11 ranking leaves the Gators one spot shy of two consecutive years with at least one top-10 College Football Playoff ranking. Florida rose as high as No. 8 in the third week of 2015’s rankings.