UM, MSU have work to do in College Football Playoff rankings

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

The College Football Playoff committee stood pat on Tuesday, but that didn’t stop the continuing debate over the fact Michigan is ranked ahead of Michigan State.

For the second straight week, the Wolverines checked in at No. 6 while the Spartans were No. 7, despite identical records, similar resumes and, of course, the fact Michigan State beat Michigan on Oct. 30, seemingly discounting the head-to-head aspect.

“Pfft, whatever,” ESPN analyst David Pollack said when the ranking was revealed.

Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker.

Pollack was one of the many outspoken critics of the committee last week, and the debate continued on Tuesday night after the top seven spots remained the same with Georgia (10-0) retaining the top spot, followed by Alabama (9-1) second, Oregon (9-1) third, Ohio State (9-1) fourth and Cincinnati (10-0) fifth.

“I think it is important,” Michigan State coach Mel Tucker said on the ESPN broadcast when asked if head-to-head should matter. “That’s why you play the games, right? We got it done against the school down the road at our place and I think that means something.”

That win was one of the best of any team ranked in the top 10 this season, but after Michigan State followed that victory with a loss at Purdue and Michigan won at home against Indiana, the Wolverines were moved ahead of the Spartans.

Last weekend’s games did nothing to change that, committee chairman Gary Barta said, after Michigan State (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) beat Maryland at home and Michigan (9-1, 6-1) rallied and won at Penn State.

“With Michigan and Michigan State the committee, when we met a week ago, talked about Michigan being a more complete team,” Barta said. “Since then, another game has been played and Michigan State looked good against Maryland. Michigan came from behind and won on the road at Penn State and the committee … you know, every week 13 people recast their vote. And so when the votes were cast this week, that's the way it came out — Michigan ahead of Michigan State and Oregon ahead of Ohio State.”

Asked to explain what has given the Wolverines the edge, Barta, like last week, cited Michigan's superior statistical numbers.

“If you look at it statistically, set aside watching the games, that's certainly a part of it, but statistically in just about every category, offensively and defensively, Michigan comes out on top over Michigan State,” Barta said. “Again, it certainly is understood and considered that Michigan State beat Michigan, but at the end of the day, the committee added another game this week and the committee decided that Michigan is still needing to be ranked a game ahead of Michigan State.

“Next week, we'll come back and we'll look at it again.”

What’s next will play a huge role in rankings as Michigan State heads to Columbus to take on No 4 Ohio State. The winner will be in control in the Big Ten East heading into the final week. Michigan hits the road to take on Maryland (5-5, 2-5).

It all sets up the final week of the season when Michigan hosts Ohio State and Michigan State hosts Penn State.

“It’s just a matter of what we have to do next,” Tucker said. “The bottom line is we have to win. Our players know that, and right now, our focus is on our preparation and what we have to do Monday through Friday to get ready for the big matchup in Columbus.

“We don't talk about (the rankings). I tell our players just focus on what we can control, focus on what's next — the preparation for the next game. We all know what the bottom line is: we have to win. We control our own destiny.”

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mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau