Hear me out on this one. The Houston Cougars are a top ten team by any metric, even the College Football Playoff rankings that will come out on Tuesday.
I'm not saying they are clearly deserving of a spot well within the confines of the top ten spaces in the rankings. We're quibbling over the periphery of this group of teams, for sure. After what transpired throughout the day yesterday, I don't expect most of the top of those rankings to change appreciably.
We can argue til we are blue in the face about exactly how much Michigan State and Iowa, respectively, should move but I would be very surprised to see the top eight teams be anyone other than the current suspects: Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma, Michigan State, Iowa, Ohio State, Stanford and Notre Dame, in perhaps a slightly different configuration than they are at this moment.
So let's take a look at who is in their way, and why they are likely to dip below the Cougars in the rankings:
#18 Florida Gators
Lost to Alabama in the SEC Championship game, looked awful for the fourth straight week while doing so, and now has three losses. Next.
#12 Baylor Bears
Just lost for the third time in their last four games and looked absolutely horrible in finishing the season with a loss at home against a 4-7 Texas team with nothing to play for. Next.
#14 Northwestern Wildcats
Sure, Northwestern beat Stanford WAY back in Week 1, but they only went 1-2 against teams currently ranked in the CFP. Oh and their five-game season-ending win streak came by a total of 28 points against five teams with a combined record of 28-32. They beat Purdue and Ball State by a total of 12 points, people. Next!
#15 Michigan Wolverines
Essentially an identical case to Northwestern here, except they have the feather in their cap of having beaten Northwestern. Sure, Michigan closed their season 4-2, but the two losses were to their only ranked opponents in that span, and the four wins were against teams with a combined 22-26 record. Their three best wins are Northwestern (at home), BYU (also at home), and I guess Penn State on the road. But that one means more to U-M fans than the committee. Next.
#10 North Carolina Tar Heels
This is an interesting one. Sure they made it to their conference championship and boast an 11-2 record, but what did they really accomplish? They lost to a bad South Carolina team at home, and while they didn't lose again until a neutral site tilt against #1 Clemson last night, what did they really do in between? Two of their wins came against FCS opponents and NC State is the only above average win from outside their division (the weaker half of the ACC). I think they drop just barely below the Cougars, but it's there. Next!
#17 Oklahoma State Cowboys
I don't think there's really much to discuss here. The Pokes have a strong resume, but they finished the season with back-to-back losses and, therefore, haven't won a game in almost a month. I'm also hard-pressed to see the committee move a team up more than a couple of spots in the rankings when their body of work has not changed at all.
So there are six teams right there, helping Houston advance up to 13th place in this list of teams. We're close, so let's see what other headway we can make.
#16 Oregon Ducks
The Fightin' Phil Knights are in a slightly better place than Oklahoma State in that they finished stronger by posting a six-game winning streak, which included wins over both of the teams that just played in the Pac 12 Championship. That said, can you see a three-loss team that didn't even play for the conference championship, let alone win it, getting a 4-6 slot bump in these rankings? And just like OK State, their body of work didn't really change this weekend. Who's next?
#9 Florida State Seminoles
Now we get into murkier waters. Now we start leaning on things like the fact that Florida State's got two losses to Houston's one. Or that Houston's ugly loss was to a UConn Huskies team that's going bowling at 6-6 while Florida State lost to a 3-9 Georgia Tech team that didn't beat anybody else in the 11 weeks after September 12th. That's a really ugly loss. I have no clue how FSU is so high to begin with.
#11 TCU Horned Frogs
This is a tricky one to argue. They'll finish third in a top-heavy Big 12 and Baylor pooping their pants yesterday just devalued their most quality win. This is another close one, I would argue for TCU being either right in front of or right behind the Cougars.
#13 Ole Miss Rebels
Here's the one nut that Houston is unlikely to crack (get it? Houston? nut?). The Rebels may have three losses, but they beat both Alabama and Mississippi State on the road, and while they did fall at home against Arkansas, that crazy ending was probably just karmic revenge for their dumb luck against the Tide. They lost three but still finished second in the toughest division in the country and are close enough to the top ten that they likely sneak in, perhaps.
So there you have it, a pretty fair argument against just about all of the 10 teams that stand between the Cougars and a top ten College Football Playoff ranking. Here is how our personal ranking would look, we'll see how we did come Tuesday night: