West Virginia is coming off its biggest late-season road win in seven years. WVU won at No. 17 Texas in dramatic fashion; in doing so, Will Grier and the Mountaineers proved they can win on the road in a tough environment late in the season.
The Mountaineers moved up to No. 8 and No. 7, respectively, in the Coaches and AP poll. These rankings are somewhat meaningless, but it’s human nature for members of the committee to pay at least some heed to poll hierarchies.
Even casual fans can see the similarities in the CFP Rankings and the AP poll, and there’s a massive problem with this. The AP preseason inklings and in-season movement plays a major factor in how teams are talked about throughout the season.
Let’s take a look at LSU, one of the biggest benefactors to this natural poll bias. The Tigers started the season at No. 25, but after an opening game against Miami, they vaulted up in the rankings to No.11. The Hurricanes were ranked eighth to begin the season, yet they haven’t beaten a ranked team all season. They’re also in the midst of a three-game losing streak right now.
Two weeks later, LSU beat then-No. 7 Auburn. Those Tigers aren’t currently ranked at all, thanks in part to a home loss to Tennessee.
LSU ranked as high as fifth before they were upset by No. 22 Florida. That dropped LSU to No. 13 and the Gators — who have since lost back-to-back games to Georgia and Missouri by a combined 40 points — moved up to No. 14.
LSU soared back up the rankings the following week after beating No. 2 Georgia. It beat Mississippi State before losing to Alabama this past Saturday, 29-0. Currently, LSU sits at No. 7 in the rankings. It’s the only two-loss team in the top 10.
What’s my point? LSU is a good team, but the Tigers are a benefactor of poll bias. There is a huge disconnect between LSU’s perceived resume and their actual strength of record.
Let’s get back to WVU, which must make its ascension toward the top four spots without the benefit of any poll fallacies. There are several games left, but an initial anchor point was set last week when the committee pegged West Virginia at No. 13. This narrative this week will be extremely important. — where West Virginia is placed this week will demonstrate if the playoff committee believes the Mountaineers are a legitimate contender or not.
Where West Virginia falls is not the only concern, as the CFB Committee hasn’t shown a lot of respect toward the Big 12 in its four years of existence. Wherever Oklahoma is ranked will be vital to West Virginia’s chances of advancement. The Sooners were sitting seventh last week and are expected to move up after LSU lost to Alabama over the weekend. Also, seeing where Texas is ranked after the close loss to WVU will make a big difference. If the committee decides to drop Texas out after its third loss of the season, then West Virginia will not have a win over a currently ranked opponent. For what it’s worth, Texas did not fall in the AP poll, staying at No. 15
There’s one glaring problem. There are two members of the committee that recuse themselves when it come to the Sooners. Oklahoma Athletic Director Joe Castiglione and former Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, whose son is the Tight Ends coach in Norman. That means two members can’t make a case for the Sooners.
Frank Beamer was the former legendary coach at rival Virginia Tech, but he did respect the WVU Football Program. If he does have sway in the room, as Joel Klatt believes, this might bode well for the Mountaineers.
|Member||Position||Conference affiliation||Recusals||Term expires|
|Joe Castiglione||Oklahoma athletic director||Big 12||Oklahoma, Missouri||February 2021|
|Christopher B. Howard||Robert Morris University President; former Air Force running back||N/A||None||February 2020|
|Jeff Bower||Former Southern Miss head coach||N/A||Southern Miss||February 2019|
|Herb Deromedi||Former Central Michigan head coach||N/A||Central Michigan||February 2019|
|Ronnie Lott||Former Southern California defensive back||N/A||USC||February 2021|
|Bobby Johnson||Former Vanderbilt head coach; former Clemson player||N/A||None||February 2019|
|Scott Stricklin||Florida athletic director||SEC||Florida||February 2021|
|Rob Mullens (chairman)||Oregon athletic director||Pac-12||Oregon||February 2019|
|Todd Stansbury||Georgia Tech athletic director||ACC||Georgia Tech||February 2021|
|Frank Beamer||Former Virginia Tech head coach||N/A||Oklahoma, Virginia Tech||February 2020|
|Paola Boivin||Former The Arizona Republic reporter||N/A||None||February 2021|
|Ken Hatfield||Former Rice, Air Force, Arkansas and Clemson head coach||N/A||Rice, Air Force, Arkansas, Clemson||February 2021|
|Gene Smith||Ohio State athletic director||Big Ten||Ohio State||February 2020|
There’s another key question that West Virginia fans still don’t have the answer to — will the committee hold the cancelled North Carolina State game against West Virginia? As Big 12 teams have learned in the past, there’s a very real possibility that not having that 13th data point can be a prohibitive factor for an otherwise worthy team, even though it wasn’t a factor for Alabama (twice) and Ohio State in the following years.
The Mountaineers need some help along the way here, and they’re likely to get it. It doesn’t look like Alabama is going to lose anytime soon and Bama winning helps WVU. An SEC title loss for Georgia likely eliminates the Bulldogs from the playoff picture. A home win for Ohio State over Michigan could potentially knock the Big 10 out of contention, too.
Notre Dame is the program that is throwing a wrench in the whole thing. If Notre Dame wins out, the Mountaineers could need chaos in the Big 10. The Fighting Irish have three games left on the schedule: Florida State, No. 19 Syracuse and at USC.
One thing is for sure — the Mountaineers must win their remaining games to be considered for the playoffs. They can only control what’s in from of them. West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen has stressed that they are only focusing on going 1-0 every week. If West Virginia takes care of business, and gets just a little bit lucky, everything could fall into place.
We’ll find out Tuesday night if the CFP Committee gives the Mountaineers a fighting chance.