Silly me. I thought the re-run season for television shows did not begin until spring, at the earliest.
But there was Jeff Long, chairman of the College Football Playoff selection committee, delivering the same message Tuesday night on ESPN that he delivered after the last round of CFP deliberations 11 months ago.
The message now, as it was then: The top two college football teams in Texas — TCU and Baylor — are not worthy of being in our four-team playoff bracket because ... well, because we say so.
And because we question the strength of their schedules.
Long angered lots of folks within a 50-mile radius of Hillsboro when he weighed in with that group opinion last December. No doubt, he ruffled a few more local feathers Tuesday, when CFP officials placed Baylor at No. 6 and TCU at No. 8 in the initial round of CFP rankings.
But unlike last December, when both Big 12 co-champs had playoff-worthy résumés and were omitted from the four-team bracket for no viable football reasons, Tuesday’s rankings had merit.
Neither Baylor (7-0) nor TCU (8-0) has played, much less beaten, any team in the top 25 of the CFP rankings. With the exception of No. 3 Ohio State (8-0), the defending national champion, every team ranked ahead of Baylor or TCU has at least one victory over another CFP-ranked opponent this season.
CFP committee members only address games played when ranking schools. They do not project future results. That is why their weekly rankings tend to be so volatile after high-profile matchups.
Between now and Dec. 6, the date of the final CFP rankings, Baylor and TCU will each face three of the top 15 teams in Tuesday’s rankings, including one another. That offers plenty of time to make lasting impressions and reel in other teams during the November stretch of a backloaded Big 12 schedule. The same premise applies to No. 14 Oklahoma State (8-0) and No. 15 Oklahoma (7-1), the other Big 12 title contenders.
But Long singled out TCU and Baylor as the two schools that were most difficult to rank in initial deliberations because the less-than-demanding nonconference schedules played by both schools “has left us uncertain of their true strength.”
“These teams, TCU and Baylor in particular, they have their strength of schedule in front of them,” Long said. “We rank to this point in time. And those teams just haven’t played their strong [opposing] teams yet. So we will see how they stack up as we get closer to the end of the season.”
Long is right. Time is on the side of all four Big 12 playoff contenders. So is precedent: Ohio State, the 2014 playoff winner, was No. 16 in last year’s inaugural set of weekly rankings. A shuffling of Tuesday’s top four (Clemson, LSU, Ohio State, Alabama) is inevitable next week because of Saturday’s game between No. 2 LSU (7-0) and No. 4 Alabama (7-1).
That is why neither of the coaches directly involved in Tuesday’s proceedings were concerned about their initial CFP placements.
“We’ll worry about that in about four weeks and see what happens, because that’s what we can control,” said TCU coach Gary Patterson, whose team plays Saturday at Oklahoma State in a statement game for both schools.
Baylor coach Art Briles said he was “curious” to get some CFP feedback but stressed that “all of our focus and energy” is centered around Thursday’s game at Kansas State (6:30 p.m., FS1).
“I think it’s an added incentive, either positively or negatively, wherever you’re viewed by other people,” Briles said of the CFP rankings. “But the only one that matters is the last set because it’s permanent and final.”
Until then, there will be lots of volatility in the weekly rankings — just like last year. At this juncture, Long said Baylor’s rout of Texas Tech (63-35) as opposed to TCU’s 55-52 escape against the Red Raiders is the separating element between the two schools in the eyes of committee members.
He also said the season-ending injury to Baylor quarterback Seth Russell has “not been taken into account” in deliberations.
“We’ve evaluated Baylor with their starting quarterback only,” Long said.
That will change next week, after freshman Jarrett Stidham makes his first career start against K-State.
Important reminder: Ohio State surged ahead of TCU and Baylor last season after third-string quarterback Cardale Jones’ strong starting debut for the Buckeyes in the Big Ten championship game. The Buckeyes’ ability to persevere with a backup quarterback seemed to be treated as a value-added for Ohio State by committee members.
If the Bears maintain their prolific offensive numbers under Stidham, a similar perseverance bonus should apply to Baylor this season. Long indicated the opportunity exists.
“We’ll ... evaluate Baylor with a replacement quarterback as we did with Ohio State last year,” Long said.
Just know the weekly evaluations, like the ones released Tuesday, are not binding until Dec. 6. And if you’re a TCU or Baylor fan, you certainly don’t want to see another rerun on television during that announcement.
CFP Top 25
3. Ohio State
5. Notre Dame
7. Michigan State
14. Oklahoma State
16. Florida State
18. Ole Miss
19. Texas A&M
20. Mississippi State