Gil LeBreton

Relax, TCU and Baylor fans, CFP rankings just a TV show

It’s a TV show, people.

Relax. Enjoy the trips to Stillwater and Norman.

Don’t waste another minute playing your Zapruder film of Jeff Long’s latest interview, searching for disingenuous statements and contradictions. Committee chairman Long specializes in them.

It’s a TV show. A six-week soap opera, of sorts.

Last year, you may remember, TCU and Baylor both died in the end, after a salty run.

Why do they even have a weekly show to announce the College Football Playoff committee rankings?

Follow the money. ESPN has a 12-year contract. The network clearly intends to milk every last drop from sports’ most meaningful regular season.

Which is part of the reason why TCU coach Gary Patterson, speaking at noon Tuesday at his weekly press conference, tried to shrug away all queries about the release of the first CFP poll.

“Nahh,” Patterson said. “By the time it comes out we’ll just be coming off the practice field.

“We’ll worry about that in four weeks.”

The Horned Frogs are ranked No. 8 in the first poll. The equally unbeaten Baylor Bears are sixth.

Yet, once-beaten Alabama was anointed No. 4 by the 12-member voting committee.

How does that happen? Alabama lost at home to an Ole Miss team that was beaten soundly by Memphis.

When asked about that Crimson Tide loss in a teleconference after the TV show, Arkansas athletic director Long cited the alleged fluke nature of the Alabama defeat. The Tide had five turnovers.

But turnovers apparently had no impact, according to Long, on the committee’s comparison of Baylor and TCU. Long pointed out how the Bears swamped Texas Tech 63-35, while TCU needed a touchdown with 23 seconds left to outlast the Red Raiders.

Tech gave the ball away four times in its game with Baylor and had no turnovers at home against the Frogs.

Turnovers are to be considered, it seems, only when they suit Long’s explanation.

In reality, no Baylor or TCU fan should have been surprised by Tuesday’s rankings. The Big 12 schedule is conspicuously backloaded, allowing the committee and its toadies to make the convenient argument that none of the conference’s four elite teams have played a significant opponent.

Incorrect, but fair enough. The Big 12 race should sort itself out.

Putting Alabama at No. 4, however, isn’t nearly the clever ploy that the committee may think it was. In so doing, they have erased the home loss to Ole Miss from their books, and that’s ludicrous in a sport that claims “every game counts.”

Yes, the Alabama situation will sort itself out. The Tide hosts LSU, No. 2 in the rankings, on Saturday night.

But showdown games don’t always decide true champions. Baylor’s loss to West Virginia last season negated the impact of its victory over TCU. The Big 12 and SEC leaders may end up cannibalizing each other in the final weeks, producing an overload of one-loss teams.

As Patterson said Tuesday, “I look at it right now and I watch and I think this year we’re going to come down wishing that we had an eight-team playoff, not a four.”

In the meantime, Patterson, Baylor’s Art Briles, and all their constituents and hired PR talking-point firms would be wise to chill out and enjoy November.

Both teams are well positioned to move up in the only poll that counts, the final one.

Until then, it’s just a TV show. And a rather meaningless one at that.

Gil LeBreton: 817-390-7697, @gilebreton

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