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The Spread Offensive: Lesson Learned, Hopefully

Jesse Siegel

Siegel covers college football, college basketball and minor league baseball for RotoWire. He was named College Sports Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

It's easy to be a second-guesser. An armchair quarterback. Hindsight is 20/20, as the saying goes. So firstly, I will say that I understand what the committee was trying to accomplish in the first playoff rankings of the season. I really do. It doesn't mean I agreed with it, though. Not then, and not now. I understood the idea, but the execution was poor.

Texas A&M was the surprise inclusion in the initial CFP standings at No. 4, largely due to its SEC wins and one non-conference win over then-ranked UCLA. The committee was trying to set some sort of precedent, perhaps to the detriment of a team like the Washington Huskies.

That's because the Washington Huskies played an incredibly easy non-conference slate, defeating Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State by a combined score of 148-30. In the eyes of the committee, the Huskies did not challenge themselves in the non-conference slate, and they were punished for that. In addition, since the Pac-12 is viewed as an inferior conference, a 1-loss SEC team got the initial nod over an undefeated Pac-12 team.

The only problem was that Texas A&M was overrated. The win over UCLA to start the year turned out to be a dud, as the Bruins are currently 3-6 and now without their starting QB Josh Rosen, likely for the remainder of the season. The Aggies beat undefeated and then No. 9 Tennessee, but the Vols have lost two more games since that time. The Aggies also beat a ranked squad in Arkansas earlier this season; the Hogs are no longer in the top 25 either.

What's the point, you may ask? The point of my rambling is that I understand the intent. Texas A&M played an allegedly harder conference slate, as well as a harder non-conference slate, than Washington. They only had one loss, and it was to No. 1 Alabama. So the committee felt as though A&M deserved the nod. Rewarding a more difficult strength of schedule on its face. However, if the committee had done its homework, it would have realized that A&M was really fool's gold. The Aggies had beaten teams that had since tumbled out of the rankings, and had no business being ranked ahead of the likes of Washington, Ohio State or Louisville. That was proven by the stunning loss to a mediocre Mississippi State squad.

Pundits have been saying all week long that the first committee rankings showed that they don't reward style points. However, when a team like Louisville has one loss, to undefeated Clemson, and has been blowing away the competition in just about every other game, that speaks volumes to me. They would have gotten my vote for inclusion in the CFP over Texas A&M, even with a weak ACC schedule. They pass the "eye test," so to speak.

Let's also get something straight. Louisville and Washington aren't Sun Belt teams. They are Power 5 schools. As a Power 5 school, it is extremely difficult to go undefeated no matter how strong or weak your perceived conference is. The longer the season goes on without a blemish, the bigger the target gets on your back. You can only win the games on your schedule. That's what Washington has done. Louisville lost to undefeated Clemson by a touchdown. Those two schools had done so much more than A&M in my opinion.

This is an inexact science, but the final result is fairly simple. The best four teams should make the playoff. How teams win does matter, just as much as whom they beat. A&M was never going to be one of those final teams. Strength of schedule should certainly be taken into consideration, but it is not the trump card. Let's hope the committee has learned its lesson.

And Then There Were Three

In my view, the Heisman Trophy race is down to three players.

1. Lamar Jackson remains the frontrunner, coming off yet another dazzling performance. Jackson has three games with at least seven touchdowns this season. Yes, you read that correctly. That includes Saturday's 52-7 lambasting of Boston College in which he rushed for 185 yards and three scores. It was his sixth 100-yard rushing output of the season. He's a movie star. He can do no wrong. He's Tom Cruise in the 80s.

2. Jabrill Peppers played almost every position on the field this past weekend against Maryland. If the vote was for Most Valuable Player, the award would undoubtedly go to Peppers, who can play quarterback, running back, wide receiver, safety, cornerback and linebacker. Oh, he can also return punts and kicks. A true renaissance man on the gridiron. He's the Leonardo Da Vinci of college football.

3. Jake Browning is getting overlooked, much like his team. Browning has 34 passing touchdowns as compared to just three interceptions for the undefeated Huskies. Browning has thrown at least two touchdown passes in every game this season. He gets no respect. He's the Rodney Dangerfield of college football.

On the Outside Looking In

Spoiler alert! Right now, it looks like there appear to be six teams playing for the four playoff spots. Alabama, Michigan, Clemson, Washington, Louisville and Ohio State. Can anyone play spoiler and break into contention or possibly even sneak into the playoff with a late surge? If anyone could make a claim, it would be the Auburn Tigers.

Let's say that Auburn wins out, which includes beating Alabama in the Iron Bowl. The Tigers would then have the tiebreaker over the Tide and win the SEC West. If Auburn then goes on to win the SEC Championship game, could the committee keep out a two-loss SEC Champion? Perhaps more interestingly, could a one-loss Alabama squad possibly be left out? If two SEC teams make the playoff, how will the other two spots shape up? Could an undefeated team like Washington get left out entirely at the expense of a two-loss SEC team? These are the things that keep me up at night.