CFB's Question of the Week: Who's No. 4?

Let's get this straight at the start. There is no controversy about the teams in College Football's Final Four because we still have a month of games remaining in which the regular college football season can play itself out.

And, after Saturday's 10-0 win over LSU, there should be no debate as to who deserves the No. 1 spot.

Roll Tide

Nor should there be much of a question about the No. 2 and 3 slots.

Almost no one will argue that either Clemson or Michigan will follow Alabama as the No. 2 and No. 3 teams when the latest rankings are released on Tuesday. Both are unbeaten, both are legitimate contenders to take on The Tide.

But that does not preclude us from looking at the bigger picture. and suggesting that the selection for the FOURTH slot by the committee will spark a debate.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

The argument is between unbeaten Washington and once beaten Ohio State. If the selections were being announced this week instead of next month, Washington would be listed as the Pac-12 champion and Ohio State would be chosen from the at-large pool as the Big Ten runner up.

For some observers, the argument would stop right there. Champions get the nod over runners up.

And if the committee uses that logic this week, Washington would be the pick over an Ohio State team, which has a loss at Penn State on its resume.

The problem with that theory is that the committee had a chance to do that last week, but had once-beaten Texas A&M listed as the No. 4 and Washington at No. 5.

The explanation given by Selection Committee chairman Kirby Hocutt is that A&M's overall body of work was perceived as stronger than Washington's. In other words, an A&M loss at Alabama had more value than a Washington win over Rutgers and Idaho.

Texas A&M promptly lost its status by losing at Mississippi State.

If Ohio State moves into the No. 4 slot over the Huskies this week, the message will be the same: Ohio State's loss to Penn State had more value than Washington's victories.

This, of course, is pure poppycock.

What should matter in this case--in every case--is the "eye test''. Washington looks like a better team than Ohio State. It has thus far breezed through the first part of the Pac-12 schedule without a misstep. Ohio State has not only lost, but struggled against Northwestern.

But more importantly, Washington currently is rated the best team in its conference. Ohio State is not.

When former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese was asked to be part of the first selection committee two years ago he asked a basic question: Is the criteria to pick the four best teams, regardless of conference affiliation, or the four best teams from four or in this case, five, different conferences?

No definitive answer was given, although it was explained that when two teams were similar in strengths, having won a conference championship should be a tie breaker. ""It was more a beauty is in the eye of the beholder type thing,'' said Tranghese.""There were a lot of variables being used.''

Which brings us back to this week's rankings. Washington looks better than Ohio State, it hasn't lost a game, it hasn't even struggled yet. The Huskies should be a Final Four team and it should stay that way until they lose a game.

Case closed.[/membership]