NCAA Football

College Football Playoff Rankings: Should USC be four places ahead of UCLA?

Dissecting the brief eight-year history of the College Football Playoff can be quite a fun exercise.

There are many illuminating conclusions, such as Alabama’s record seven appearances, or the fact that Oklahoma made the playoffs four times but never made it past the semifinal round.

But perhaps the most alarming conclusion of all is at Pac-12, a conference that has not been part of the CFP since the Washington Huskies in 2016.

That streak may well come to an end this season, as the Pac-12 has three teams ranked in the top 12 of the most recent College Football Playoff rankings. Oregon leads in 6th place, while USC is ranked 8th and UCLA is ranked 12th.

While Joel Klatt, a college football analyst at FOX Sports, thinks the Ducks’ No. 6 rating is justified, he was perplexed that the Bruins are four spots behind the Trojans despite the two shows having identical records.

“It doesn’t make sense to me… it’s an oversight,” Klatt said in a recent episode of his podcast, “The Joel Klatt Show“There’s no data point I can point to that suggests USC is four points ahead of UCLA, and there’s no reason to make sense.”

Klatt: UCLA should not be ranked below USC

Klatt: UCLA should not be ranked below USC

Joel Klatt reacts to College Football Playoff rankings and questions UCLA’s position four spots behind USC.

When comparing the two programs, the first point that comes to mind is that both teams have an 8-1 record, with each defeating a conference opponent: UCLA has dropped to the then No. 10 Oregon, 45-30, while the Trojans lost to the then No. 20 Utah, 43-42.

However, while UCLA has two wins against ranked opponents in its resume (Utah and Washington), USC has none. In fact, the Trojans only have one win over a team that has more than five wins in Week 11.

From a statistical point of view, both programs have nearly identical numbers on the offensive side of the ball. The Bruins rank second in the Pac-12 in yards per game with 508.4, while the Trojans rank third with 495.9. Chip Kelly’s club scores 40.8 points per competition, while Lincoln Riley’s group averages 41 points.

This leads Klatt to a simple conclusion as to why USC is ranked higher.

“This again looks like brand bias,” Klatt said. “I know UCLA fans aren’t going to want to hear this, but USC kind of carries the day as far as the brand is concerned.

“The bottom line for me is that this is a ranking on Lincoln Riley, on perception, on Caleb Williams and on the logo on the side of the helmet. Because there is no number, game or movie you can put that suggests USC is four points better than UCLA.”

However, Klatt points out that the Bruins could benefit from Trojans ranked four places above them.

“From a UCLA perspective, you probably don’t want [the committee] to fix that, because if you want to get into the playoffs, you want as many big opponents as you can take down,” Klatt said. “So if you beat USC at this point, that’s what you want. You don’t care about that from a consistency point of view.”

The two Southern California schools will face off on November 19 at the Rose Bowl. USC has a 50-33-6 lead over the all-time UCLA, but it was the Bruins who had the last laugh, beating the Trojans 63-33 last season at the Coliseum.

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