Who Should Be Fourth? College Football Playoff Rankings Reaction Includes Re-Ranking the Fourth Seed

    As usual, the latest College Football Playoff Rankings throw up a host of questions, the most significant of which centers around who should be fourth?

    The College Football Playoff Rankings always provoke strong reactions from fans, teams, and media alike. Following the late-night release of the third set of rankings for the 2023 college football postseason, several significant questions remain.

    With three weeks to go until the last set of rankings provide the final four teams that will play for the College Football National Championship, the biggest of them, perhaps, is whether the selection committee has got the right team in fourth place.

    College Football Playoff Rankings Reaction: Who Should be 4th?

    You can call the College Football Playoff Selection Committee many things. We couldn’t repeat what some people call them on social media, but the one thing that they are is consistent. Since the first edition of the 2023 College Football Playoff Rankings in Week 9 to the latest update following Week 11, the Florida State Seminoles have been the fourth-ranked team in the nation.

    But, should they be there? Sitting just behind them in the latest update, where they’ve been since Week 9, is the Washington Huskies, a team that some people consider to be the Pac-12’s best bet for the playoff since, well, Washington themselves made the final four following the 2016 college football season.

    We’re one of the people who believe the Huskies deserve to be ranked higher than they are right now. In the latest College Football Network College Football Top 25 Power Rankings, Kalen DeBoer’s team sit as the second-ranked team in the nation. Furthermore, they’ve spent time atop those rankings during their current unbeaten run at the forefront of the Pac-12 conference.

    Although they currently rank fifth in the nation for scoring offense, there’s no doubt that the Huskies have been one of the most electrifying offenses in college football this fall. When Michael Penix Jr. takes the snap, you genuinely believe that a touchdown pass could be about to fly effortlessly from a flick of his left wrist, regardless of where Washington is on the field.

    Between Penix, a plethora of diabolically talented pass catchers, a rock-solid yet somehow underrated offensive line, and the emerging force of running back Dillon Johnson, there’s little arguing that Washington possesses one of — if not the — best offenses in the nation. They pass both the eye test and the statistical standards set down by the selection committee.

    The fifth-ranked scoring offense is really just the tip of the iceberg of statistical excellence. The Huskies have the third most 10+ yard plays from the line of scrimmage, rank second for 20+ yard passing plays, boast an offensive line that has allowed the third-fewest sacks in the nation, and their quarterback leads the country in passing yards per game. Need we go on?

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    We could talk about how Washington has out-dueled every ranked opponent that has been put in their path. The Huskies have put up 30+ points on Oregon, USC, and Utah, two of which have been ruthlessly dominant on defense against every other opponent they’ve faced. DeBoer’s team has thrice put up fifty points in the space of 10 games.

    Résumé is probably the most overused word when it comes to discussions for the College Football Playoff Rankings, but we must address it in the conversation for who deserves to be the fourth-placed team.

    Ahead of their clash with 11th-ranked Oregon State, Washington has three wins on their schedule against teams that were AP Poll top-25 teams at the time of the clash. The Huskies overcame eighth-ranked Oregon, 24th-ranked USC, and most recently 13th-ranked Utah.

    The conversation arguably becomes more favorable for the Huskies if you prefer to use where those teams are ranked during the discussion.

    Oregon is now sixth, knocking on the door of the playoff conversation itself. Utah are 22nd — due to their defeat to Washington — and USC are no longer ranked. Arizona, however, is now ranked 17th.

    The result is that Washington now has the second-highest strength of schedule — as per sports-reference.com — of any team in the top six of the College Football Playoff Rankings. The only team with a tougher strength of schedule is FSU, which currently occupies the fourth place spot and will presumably hold on to it if they win out and secure the ACC Championship.

    FSU has a strong argument to be considered over Washington with three weeks to play; there is no doubt. While the Huskies’ defense has failed to live up to the prowess demonstrated during the opening three weeks of the season, the Seminoles are stronger by a considerable margin on that side of the ball.

    MORE: College Football Playoff Rankings 

    Ahead of Week 12, Mike Norvell’s team has the 15th-ranked scoring defense in the nation — allowing just 17.3 points per game and bolstered by wins over Syracuse and Pitt, where they held both opponents under 10 points. Players like Kalen DeLoach, Jared Verse, and Patrick Payton have enforced their will in the backfield, while Renardo Green flies around from the secondary.

    It isn’t a defensive unit that you’d want to face, and neither — theoretically — should their offense be. They rank 13th in the nation with 38.3 points per game, and there aren’t many teams that contain the level and depth of offensive playmakers that the ‘Noles possess. Jordan Travis, Keon Coleman, Johnny Wilson, Trey Benson, Jaheim Bell, the list goes on and on and on.

    Yet, for all the statistics and player evaluation, is there a game where you can pinpoint as saying the FSU offense has lived up to their full potential? Is there a game where you truly felt like they were overwhelmingly dominant from the get-go? Is there a game where you got the same feeling of scoring inevitability that you get when watching Washington?

    So, to the dreaded “résumé.”

    FSU has a marginally higher strength of schedule thanks to an out-of-conference season-opener against LSU and fewer Group of Five or non-FBS opponents at this moment in time. FSU faces North Alabama in Week 12 as one of their four out-of-conference games.

    However, when comparing them with Washington, the Seminoles only have two ranked wins on their résumé, knocking off the then-fifth-ranked LSU Tigers in Week 1 and 16th-ranked Duke. Clemson wasn’t ranked at the time they beat them, and still isn’t.

    Neither is Duke.

    LSU is currently ranked 15th in the updated College Football Playoff Rankings.

    When you weigh all these things together in one place, at one time, the advantage certainly appears to be in Washington’s favor. Yet, it’s FSU who currently occupies the fourth spot. It’s just one of a number of potentially contentious placings in the latest College Football Playoff Rankings — Iowa at 16, anybody?!!! — but it is undeniably the discussion that is the most significant.

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