Before you are overtaken with College Football Playoff outrage, before you flood selection committee chairman Jeff Long's Twitter mentions with deafening atrocities, before you demand an eight-team playoff at this very instant—take a deep November breath. Exhale.
Feels good, doesn't it? Don't be irate. Not yet, at least.
The release of the first College Football Playoff rankings is the very beginning of a long process. The selection committee has had its say, although it is operating without the full script.
Many, regardless of circumstances or timing, won't be happy.
But undefeated teams will inevitably fall, starting Saturday. Upsets will happen before our eyes. November will have its say.
This feels like the opportune time to remind you that Mississippi State was the selection committee's No. 1 overall seed out of the gate last year. Ohio State, for those who might be curious, debuted at No. 16.
That doesn't mean Clemson, this year's debut No. 1, won't go the distance. It also doesn't guarantee that a team outside the Top 15 will win the national championship.
It's simply a reminder that things will look drastically different than they do right now once December hits. The November schedule is one enormous land mine each week after the next.
"I know there is a lot of football left to be played," Long told Bleacher Report last week. "There are a lot of matchups still to happen. There are a few wrinkles, and every year will have its own controversy."
We won't have to wait long. LSU and Alabama, the committee's No. 2 and No. 4 teams, will clash Saturday. No. 8 TCU and No. 14 Oklahoma State, both undefeated, will also touch gloves.
A dramatic shakeup isn't just likely; it's inevitable. It starts now.
So as you scream at your television or computer screen, demanding different results; as you tell your golden retriever all about the committee's blatant SEC bias; as you cry for a system that is far less human and far more to your liking—do so with both eyes on the calendar.
The real outage is a month away. Don't waste those emotions, friend.
As for other observations regarding the first College Football Playoff rankings of the year, here are some thoughts.
The Committee Takes an Early Stand on Strength of Schedule
Now is the perfect time for the selection committee to flex its muscle. And flex it did. What became abundantly clear, for the second consecutive year, is that strength of schedule will play an enormous role in shaping the playoff.
It's not just the matter of putting Clemson at No. 1 or placing LSU at No. 2. Both teams have navigated quality competition to stay undefeated thus far.
The intrigue exists at the No. 4 spot, where Alabama was selected over a slew of Power Five undefeateds, thanks in large part to a schedule the committee liked. With wins over Wisconsin and Texas A&M, the Crimson Tide were rewarded. A loss to Ole Miss, the No. 18 team, didn't diminish the resume.
The same can be said about Notre Dame. The Irish stand at No. 5 in the initial rankings, which was slightly higher than most anticipated. With wins over Temple, USC, Navy and Georgia Tech, head coach Brian Kelly's team was rewarded. And at this point, a two-point loss in a downpour at Clemson doesn't look so bad either.
Consider it an early pat on the back for taking a tougher road than most. It's an advantage, although others will soon be able to close the gap.
On that note...
Baylor and TCU Need Not Worry…Yet
Despite having two of the nation's most diabolical offenses and three notable unbeatens, the Big 12 was left out of the Top Five of the committee's rankings. Baylor and TCU both cracked the Top 10, although they were slightly lower than most supporters of these Texas schools would have liked.
At this moment in time, the No. 6 Bears' best win is over three-win West Virginia. One could argue the Mountaineers are the No. 8 Horned Frogs' top victory as well—them or Minnesota. TCU also narrowly escaped losses to Texas Tech and Kansas State. It was penalized for that.
And quite frankly, as we stand here right now, it means absolutely nothing.
The Big 12's November schedule is a gauntlet. It's relentless. It will reshape everything we think we know about the conference.
With four teams ranked in the Top 15—the No. 14 Cowboys and No. 15 Oklahoma are the other two—the league's strength of schedule will amp up mightily.
If Baylor, TCU or Oklahoma State finishes the season without a loss, it will be in the playoff. The lack of a conference championship game will not matter. It's that simple. Even the Sooners, still cruising along with only one loss, should be considered a threat.
The biggest concern for the Big 12 isn't the committee. The respect is around the corner. No, the biggest concern should be the possibility that these programs find a way to cannibalize themselves out of the playoff entirely. It happened last year. It could happen this year as well. What a month it will be.
The Pac-12's Room for Error Is Minimal
We learned our lesson last year. When Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech, the national media gladly tossed dirt on the grave of the Big Ten and declared it out of the College Football Playoff before the month of October.
Such proclamations are now off-limits, at least for another year. With that acknowledged and history appreciated, the Pac-12 is not exactly in an ideal spot heading into the homestretch. It's not dead by any means, but this is not optimal.
Oh, it has horses. Make no mistake about it. Stanford and Utah—at No. 11 and No. 12 in the current rankings—are very much in the conversation with only a loss apiece. Each can continue to climb.
If all goes well, those two squads could meet in the Pac-12 Championship Game with a spot in the playoff on the line. The Cardinal also have a game left against Notre Dame. A win against the Irish, a team the committee loves, would serve as an enormous resume booster.
But No. 23 UCLA is the only other Pac-12 team in the rankings. And while anything is possible, it seems unlikely the Bruins will climb to the upper echelon, even with a Pac-12 championship still possible.
So, until further notice, Stanford and Utah are the conference's best and only shots. It can be done, certainly, but a loss for either will be an enormous hit for both. And a loss for both will, well, we can probably get back to dumping that dirt with a bit more confidence.
Memphis Is College Football's First Potential Cinderella
It will take chaos of the highest order for their potential to be realized, but the Memphis Tigers—currently No. 13 in the selection committee's first rankings—at least have a chance to crash the playoff party.
Mind you, they are still a tremendous long shot. It's also a drastic departure from where we were a season ago.
Oh, the selection committee did not care for "Group of Five" teams early on in 2014. We saw that firsthand when it skipped over Marshall time and time again. But with their win over Ole Miss, the Tigers feel a bit different.
They already have a quality win. They have Justin Fuente, the hottest young coach in the nation. They have Paxton Lynch, one of the hottest young quarterbacks in the nation. The recipe is there. There is also some national sex appeal brewing, which, like it or not, plays an enormous role.
And the schedule doesn't ease up either, which is a good thing for Memphis. Over the next three weeks, the Tigers will play Navy, No. 25 Houston and No. 22 Temple. Through nine weeks, those teams have a combined record of 21-2. Finishing that stretch unbeaten is not a given, but it will be celebrated if it happens.
Just how much the committee awards Memphis if that scenario plays out is another debate entirely.
Can the Tigers really climb all the way near the top? It still feels like a bit of a stretch right now. But then again, a little madness can go a long way.