Gil LeBreton

Ranked No. 4, A&M would be wise not to trust CFP committee

Texas A&M was ranked No. 4 behind Michigan, Clemson and Alabama in the College Football Playoff committee’s first poll of the season. The Aggies are the highest ranked team from Texas since TCU was listed No. 3 in 2014 before dropping to sixth after a 52-point win over Iowa State.
Texas A&M was ranked No. 4 behind Michigan, Clemson and Alabama in the College Football Playoff committee’s first poll of the season. The Aggies are the highest ranked team from Texas since TCU was listed No. 3 in 2014 before dropping to sixth after a 52-point win over Iowa State. AP

Be careful about this, Aggies.

Don’t eat the playoff poll cheese.

A No. 4 ranking in the first College Football Playoff poll of the season is a nice pat on the back. But if history has taught us anything about the 12-member CFP committee, it’s not to trust them.

See TCU, 2014. The Frogs pummeled Iowa State by 52 points, but fell from third to sixth in the final poll.

Yet, here we were again Tuesday night with the TV tuned to ESPN, driving past the same accident scene. Oh, the humanity.

It’s a TV show, we have to keep reminding ourselves. The committee has to give the network something to fill the hour and stoke the viewer fires in its weekly poll show, so it dissed undefeated Washington and snapped off a quick “howdy” to one-loss Texas A&M.

For now, the hour was about as meaningful as CSI:Grapevine. Which is why loyal Huskies and Aggies shouldn’t let themselves get lured into a dog-barking contest.

Nor should the Big 12 Conference feel its playoff chances already are dashed.

The committee savagely punished Baylor and West Virginia for suffering their first defeats, placing them at 17th and 20th, respectively. Oklahoma, meanwhile, at 6-2, was safely dismissed at No. 14.

The Sooners are behind No. 13 LSU (fired its coach), No. 12 Penn State (20th in AP poll) and No. 11 Florida (beat Vandy by only13-6).

There was one Big 12 winner Tuesday night, however. Kirby Hocutt, Texas Tech athletic director and the new chairman of the CFP committee, came across as forthright and unbeholden to any agendas.

We don’t talk about particular conferences. We evaluate teams.

CFP chairman Kirby Hocutt of Texas Tech

When asked about the Aggies being No. 4, Hocutt told ESPN’s Rece Davis, “Simply stated the committee, in our mind, felt Texas A&M has played a stronger schedule at this point than Washington.

“They have four wins against teams that have a .500 or better record, compared to Washington which only has two wins against .500 or better teams.”

What’s this — a straight answer? No mention of “data points” or “game control,” like Hocutt’s predecessor, Arkansas AD Jeff Long, used to babble?

When Davis tried to get the new chairman to commit to a comparison of relative conference strengths, Hocutt shot back, “We don’t talk about particular conferences. We evaluate teams.

“We do not look at conference affiliations.”

The Sooners may argue that, of course. But what once looked like a credible loss to Houston has turned into a major blemish as the Cougars’ season has dimmed.

A year ago, though, Oklahoma was 15th in the first CFP poll and ended up cracking the final four. In 2014 eventual champ Ohio State started the first poll at 16th.

At least if Oklahoma wins its remaining games — it likely will be favored in all four — the Sooners will have a conference championship on their résumé. The Aggies will need help to equal that.

History, especially with Long doing the explaining, has proven that the committee will try to justify anything.

In the meantime, Washington was flogged for playing a nonconference schedule that included Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State. But the Huskies, too, could end up with credentials that include a Pac-12 title and a 13th victory.

Maybe that will mean something. Or maybe not. History, especially with Long doing the explaining, has proven that the committee will try to justify anything.

Another reason for A&M to sheath their swords: Only one team ranked in the top four of the first CFP poll in the two previous years has gone on to make the playoffs. (Florida State, 2014, and Alabama in 2015).

But there’s the early polls’ central conceit. The committee members seem to change their minds weekly, like teenagers updating their Facebook status.

Yet, we drive by and we can’t help but slow and watch.

Careful, Aggies. Heartbreak is inherent.

Trevor Knight, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma who has been named the Aggies' starting QB in 2016, breaks down the approach he used to convince his new teammates that he could be their leader. Video by Jimmy Burch.

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