I understand why you're mad. But I want you to know, it's going to be OK.
The selection committee unveiled the first College Football Playoff ranking of the 2017 campaign, and plenty of fans are unhappy.
But I promise it's going to be OK.
As the season is set to enter Separation Saturday, it's best to embrace the reality there are four regular-season weekends plus conference championships still on the schedule. While the initial ranking is noteworthy and interesting, it means very little overall.
Sure, some developments don't seem objectively fair, such as one-loss programs being ranked above unbeaten teams. Shouldn't a win be more important than a close loss? The point of football is winning—not being as close as possible a bunch of times.
But it's going to be OK.
Everything will work itself out. Over the last three years, just five of the 12 top-four teams in the CFP ranking's initial poll ultimately reached the championship tournament. Some of these schools are going to lose, and a few others will replace them.
On this Halloween night, however, college football fans want metaphorical blood. We understand your perspective.
Yes, No. 9 Wisconsin and No. 10 Miami. You're undefeated and probably deserve more respect. But keep winning, and it will happen eventually. Remember, one-loss Texas A&M had a higher ranking than Washington last year, yet the Huskies still made the playoff.
And two years ago, one-loss Alabama finagled the No. 4 spot despite five undefeated Power Five conference teams missing the top four. At the time, it seemed like an unnecessary ode to a brand-name school. However, the Crimson Tide eventually solidified its position because, you guessed it, they kept winning.
Don't start worrying, Badgers and 'Canes. Just keep winning.
Eventually is a distant thought, but eventually is what's most important. We'll discuss the "now" for Week 10—and soon 11, 12 and so on, since that's what we're supposed to do.
Yet conference games and rivalries still need to be played. Upsets are on the horizon. There will be natural separation.
It's going to be OK. And in the meantime, it's going to be fun.
Week 10 is loaded with impactful matchups, especially in the ACC. Both the Atlantic and Coastal Divisions will have a clear front-runner following No. 4 Clemson's date with No. 20 NC State and Miami's clash against No. 13 Virginia Tech.
The ACC itself offers another reminder of why these rankings aren't indicative of the future. This is a made-for-TV production because it dominates the news cycle. Regardless of how loud analysts, fans or coaches scream about unfairness over the coming days, there will be plenty of movement next Tuesday thanks to what happens this weekend.
And what a weekend it is.
Alabama hosts LSU. Georgia can effectively wrap up the SEC East with a victory over South Carolina. Ohio State heads to Kinnick Stadium, where Iowa jolted Michigan's CFP dreams last year. Penn State needs a victory at Michigan State to stay alive. Bedlam happens in the Big 12, and the Pac-12 has a few enormous clashes.
Let's repeat: The current rankings are not going to last. Far too much will happen Saturday alone for them to remain static.
We're going to explore some feelings and provide explanations while looking ahead to Week 10, but if there's only one thing you remember from this discussion, make it this: Keep winning, and everything will be OK. Otherwise, it didn't matter anyway.
A Two-Conference Playoff?
No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Alabama have established themselves as the class of the country, and there's a reasonable route to both programs earning a place in the top four.
Should the schools enter the SEC Championship Game undefeated while enough losses happen elsewhere until then, it'd be tough to eliminate a 12-1 squad simply because it fell to a team that undoubtedly would emerge as the country's top-ranked program.
As if that's not unique enough, No. 3 Notre Dame—an Independent—is trying to steal a berth this season. The 7-1 Fighting Irish have looked dominant over the last couple of weeks, smashing USC 49-14 and controlling NC State 35-14.
Suddenly, only one College Football Playoff berth would remain for the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12. Remember how, during the last three years, we've consistently argued about the one unlucky conference left out? Good times.
We're not saying this is destined to happen. Again, five weeks are left before the only ranking that actually matters is released. Georgia must survive Auburn, Alabama still takes on LSU and Auburn, and Notre Dame needs to navigate Miami and Stanford, among their other games.
But with margins for error running thin in other conferences—especially the Big 12 and Pac-12—2017 logically could be remembered as the year three leagues were not represented in the playoff.
The Big 12 Might Destroy Itself
Iowa State, thank you for creating chaos. The sport is better that way. Your conference may not feel the same, though.
After three years of the College Football Playoff, a grand total of zero teams have reached the championship tournament when dropping at least two games. As a result of Iowa State's recent upset win over TCU, just three Big 12 schools still have fewer than two defeats.
And two teams are guaranteed one more loss. No. 5 Oklahoma (7-1) travels to No. 11 Oklahoma State (7-1) this Saturday, and the Sooners host No. 8 TCU (7-1) next weekend.
The conference's greatest hope for a CFP representative is one of those three schools winning out and becoming the league's One True Champion.
Three years ago, Baylor and TCU both finished the regular season 11-1 and landed at fifth and sixth, respectively, in the final CFP poll. The league wasn't happy about missing out.
"It's clear that we were penalized for not having a postseason championship game," Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby told ESPN's Rece Davis at the time. So, the league attempted to remedy the situation by bringing back the title game, and 2017 marks the contest's return.
But this season, it's foreseeable that the conference will basically penalize itself for having a postseason championship game.
Let's gather around the crystal ball and envision one-loss Oklahoma/Oklahoma State/TCU taking the field in Arlington on Dec. 2. On the opposite sideline is two-loss Iowa State/Oklahoma/Oklahoma State/TCU. What if that two-loss team wins? Would that victory be enough to steal the No. 4 position? Maybe, but that's a risky proposition.
Granted, the Big 12 title game could reinforce a one-loss team's resume and demand a playoff berth. In that case, congratulations, Big 12! Great decision on bringing it back.
But it would be a painful twist of irony if the league actually created a self-inflicted problem.
The Iowa State Quandary
No two-loss team has reached the College Football Playoff. We said that earlier, we're not forgetting it. Let's also acknowledge that Iowa State would have an absolutely stellar list of victories if it continues the breakout season and wins out.
Heading into November, head coach Matt Campbell's crew has already defeated then-No. 3 Oklahoma (on the road) and then-No. 4 TCU. The CFP committee has rewarded marquee wins in the past, and a pair of top-five triumphs ought to qualify.
What makes the Cyclones different than, say, 2016 Penn State?
Losses to 5-3 Iowa and 4-4 Texas are an issue, but neither shortcoming was a 39-point dismantling like Michigan put on Penn State last year. The Nittany Lions also only had two ranked wins all season, whereas Iowa State could record four—plus another solid one.
West Virginia (5-3; Week 10) is unranked, yet all three losses came against ranked teams. Oklahoma State (7-1; Week 11) will be a top-20 opponent at worst. Throw in a potential Big 12 title game, and that's a tremendous group of potential wins.
Since the committee already considers Iowa State the second-best two-loss team, stringing together a couple more impressive wins make this an interesting discussion. Yes, that's a lengthy hypothetical, but it's within the realm of possibility.
Five weeks from the final CFP poll, possible is worth monitoring until reality changes the narrative.
For now, just keep winning.