CFP rankings: The case for No. 5

— -- The College Football Playoff selection committee should engineer a commercial deal with the upcoming "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" movie so it can create this scene: A cacophonous room overflowing with complaining fans of every hue and region -- "Three from the SEC!" "Notre Dame is too low!" "Overrated!" "Bias!" -- but then Hulk, Thor and Iron Man zoom down from the sky, smashing through the whiners and leaving a gaping, silent void.

After pregnant silence: "Shut up," grunts Hulk. "And win."

For that is the only meaningful takeaway from the inaugural College Football Playoff rankings from the selection committee. Folks, it's not even November.

Fourteen of the 16 one-loss teams from Power 5 conferences have another one-loss team left on their schedules, so lots of second losses will be handed out no matter what. Worried about SEC world domination? There are four remaining regular-season matchups between top-six teams -- all involving SEC West teams -- including No. 3 Auburn at No. 4 Ole Miss on Saturday (7 p.m. ET on ESPN). In the vaunted SEC West, there's a good chance -- 43 percent, according to ESPN Stats & Info -- that the division champion will have at least two losses.

Ergo, lots of football left. Said committee chair Jeff Long: "The bottom line is it's early, it's close, and it's going to change as we move forward."

In fact, with Auburn and Ole Miss playing Saturday, it's going to change in a notable way next week, which makes our task today somewhat important: The case for No. 5. As in: Who moves into the joyous, warming glow of the top four next week?

You could go with a number of teams as candidates, particularly if you projected forward, but we're going to focus on the next three in the rankings as the most likely to move up next Tuesday: No. 5 Oregon, No. 6 Alabama and No. 7 TCU, a troika of strong one-loss teams.

Here's the setup:


Preseason ranking: No. 3

Best win: 46-27 over No. 8 Michigan State.

The Ducks scored the final 28 points and gained nearly 500 yards against one of the nation's best defenses. The Spartans have looked good since then, though a showdown with Ohio State on Nov. 8 might get a surprisingly strong audience from the state of Oregon.

Second-best win: 42-30 over No. 22 UCLA

Oregon led 42-10 early in the fourth quarter before the Bruins scored three unanswered touchdowns to make the final more respectable.

Loss: 31-24 to No. 12 Arizona

The Wildcats dominated the third quarter and third down to grab a victory in fearsome Autzen Stadium.

Loss rationalization: Oregon was playing without its top three offensive tackles. Since Jake Fisher returned to the lineup, the Ducks have won their past three games by an average of 18.3 points. Further, there were 19 penalties, more than a few nonsensical, in a game that was poorly officiated -- both ways, it must be said. Pac-12 officials, as they unfortunately are wont to do, opted to make themselves a third team in that game.

The skinny: Of these three teams, Oregon seemingly has the easiest route home, at least in the regular season. While the visit from nemesis Stanford on Saturday can't be overlooked -- the Cardinal has won the past two against the Ducks -- the lone remaining game against a currently ranked team is vs. No. 17 Utah on Nov. 8. Of course, the Ducks also would have the Pac-12 title game to clear, which should feature a highly ranked team from the South Division. It's difficult to imagine, given the top-to-bottom quality of the Pac-12, that Oregon won't be in the top four if it finishes 12-1.


Preseason ranking: No. 2

Best win: 33-23 over No. 20 West Virginia

While the season opener was surprisingly in doubt into the fourth quarter, at the time most didn't realize the quality of West Virginia. Further, the Crimson Tide, which was still uncertain at quarterback at the time, dominated statistically, with a 538-393 advantage in total yards, including 288-28 in rushing yards.

Second-best win: 59-0 over Texas A&M

While the Aggies' early high ranking based on a win over South Carolina proved to be a mirage, this whipping was so complete and dominant it's impossible to write off. Thirty-five points in the second quarter! If you watched what transpired, there was no way not to be impressed.

Loss: 23-17 at No. 4 Ole Miss

The Rebels bounced back from a 14-3 halftime deficit, taking control in the fourth quarter to earn the program's biggest win in decades.

Loss rationalization: Alabama outgained the Rebels 396 yards to 327, but it was 1-of-3 on field goals and lost the turnover battle 2-1, including an interception on the Tide's final drive. Here's a guess that some Tide fans grumbled that they got a masterful Bo Wallace (251 yards passing, three TDs, no INTs) while LSU last weekend got the old "Bad Bo."

The skinny: While its present résumé  is fairly weak, if Alabama wins out, it might have the strongest case for No. 1. The Tide are off this weekend, but then they play at No. 19 LSU, No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 3 Auburn. If they win the West, they likely get No. 11 Georgia in the SEC championship game. Alabama also gets credit for pedigree and sight test, and don't think that won't count with the committee. According to Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook and Bovada, the Crimson Tide are the favorites, at 5-1, to win it all.


Preseason ranking: Unranked

Best win: 37-33 over No. 18 Oklahoma

This was a "Hello World" performance for the Horned Frogs and dual-threat quarterback Trevone Boykin against the then-unbeaten and fourth-ranked Sooners. TCU, which had been 6-12 in the Big 12 over the previous two seasons, got 318 passing yards and 77 rushing yards from Boykin, who decisively outplayed Oklahoma's Trevor Knight.

Second-best win: 42-9 over Oklahoma State

The Cowboys were ranked 15th when they received this whipping, courtesy of a career-high 410 passing yards from Boykin. Oklahoma State's total passing yards in the second half? Zero. This victory was not unlike Alabama's over Texas A&M: total domination of a respectable team.

Loss: 61-58 at No. 13 Baylor

When TCU went up 58-37 with just over 11 minutes left, the talk was whether the Frogs deserved consideration for No. 1. Then all hell, er, heck -- sorry Baylor -- broke loose. The 119 combined points are the second most in a matchup of ranked AP teams.

Loss rationalization: Did you see the game? It was just nuts. TCU learned a hard lesson about letting up against a good team, particularly one with as good of an offense as Baylor's.

The skinny: TCU has a solid remaining slate: at No. 20 West Virginia on Saturday and No. 9 Kansas State on Nov. 8. Its 30-7 win over Minnesota on Sept. 13 was starting to look good until the Gophers lost to Illinois. But the lack of a marquee nonconference win and the lack of a conference title game likely will hurt TCU's chances. Further, TCU, which went 4-8 last season, will suffer in pedigree and sight-test measures with teams such as Alabama and Oregon. Defense-minded SEC folks surely will toot about 782 yards yielded to Baylor. TCU will need help to move up, but the schedule ahead might yet provide it. An 11-1 Big 12 champion will be difficult to ignore against a two-loss team from the SEC West.

So what's the verdict?

The committee got it right -- for now. Oregon deserves the No. 5 perch.

If Oregon beats Stanford on Saturday, particularly with Alabama idle, the Ducks should move up to No. 4 on Tuesday. In fact, if TCU wins decisively at West Virginia, a team that challenged the Tide on a "neutral" field -- Atlanta is sort of a second home for the SEC -- you could make the case the Horned Frogs should eclipse Alabama.

Or maybe TCU should do a double-jump into No. 4?