In the initial College Football Playoff rankings for the 2021 season released last week, there wasn’t much affection for the Group of Five. An undefeated Cincinnati Bearcats team ranked as high as #2 in other national rankings were bumped down to #6 by the College Football Playoff Committee. Fresno State and San Jose State from the Mountain West were the only other teams to be included in the rankings at #23 and #24 respectively.
Heading into week 11 of the season, the Bearcats benefitted ever so slightly from remaining undefeated when the committee ranked them #5.
San Diego State moved up to #22 while Fresno State exited the rankings.
With Jeff Traylor’s UTSA Roadrunners being just one of four FBS teams remaining unbeaten, many were looking forward to seeing the 9-0 Roadrunners crack the CFP’s top 25 this week. They were rewarded when the committee put them at #23 in this set of rankings. This marks the first time that UTSA was ranked in the College Football Playoff rankings and just the second time ever that a Conference USA team cracked the committee’s rankings.
Here are the full rankings released by the committee:
In regards to how the committee ranked #2 through #7, CFP Selection Committee chair Gary Barta offered the following explanation:
“When you look at 2 through 7, really 2 through 6, the committee goes through each team and talks about if anything changed from last week, their strengths, their weaknesses. As you mentioned, they all won, but nobody separated themselves in that group. Nobody reached out and tried to push themselves ahead.”
Cincinnati remains the best chance for a G5 team to make the playoff. The Bearcats are 9-0 with three contests remaining: a road game against South Florida (2-7), a game against SMU (7-2) at Nippert Stadium, and a road game at East Carolina (5-4). Unfortunately for them, it isn’t quite as simple as finishing the year undefeated to secure a spot in the four-team playoff.
When Barta said “nobody separated themselves” in the teams ranked #2 through #7, he was partially referring to Cincinnati’s close call with Tulsa this past weekend. While the Bearcats won 28-20, they turned the ball over three times against the 3-6 Golden Hurricane. That game could have gone to overtime if not for a goal line stand by the Bearcats defense. Because of this, Cincinnati will need to score early and often and hang on to the football in order to not only win their final three games, but win emphatically in order to have the best chance of moving up the ladder past Ohio State or Oregon, based on the criteria that the committee have put forth that is, by their own admission, subjective.
“What the committee does is we take every piece of information we have available, and so we look at the record...We look at common opponents, we look at head-to-head, we look at strength of defense versus offense,” Barta said. “13 people watch the games. We’re watching the games all week long, and so that’s the subjectivity part of it, but by design there’s subjectivity by people who are watching all the games.”