COLUMN: LSU belongs above USC in the College Football Playoff Rankings

The playoff committee released its latest rankings on Tuesday night.

There wasn’t much drama. Everyone knew Georgia was going to be No. 1 and Ohio State, Michigan and TCU would round out the top four. We knew Tennessee would fall, allowing for a shakeup in the back half of the top 10.

Perhaps the biggest debate before the release centered around USC and LSU. The Trojans, still just with one loss, got their first ranked win last week, beating UCLA.

USC has been sitting right behind LSU for some time now, despite the Tigers having an extra loss. People wondered if USC would be able to leapfrog LSU now that Lincoln Riley’s group has a signature win.

LSU trails USC in the AP Top 25 and the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll, but the playoff committee held firm, slotting LSU at five and USC at six. LSU and USC are neck and neck in ESPN’s strength of record. LSU sits eighth while USC is ninth.

There’s a much wider gap when it comes to strength schedule. LSU is 15th and USC is 58th. That isn’t to say USC has played a cupcake schedule – it’s been respectable. The Trojans’ win at Oregon State has aged well as has a 30-14 win over Washington State. Mix those in with the win at UCLA, and it’s a decent resume.

But it’s not LSU’s. The Tigers’ 45-20 win over Ole Miss and the hard-fought win against Alabama are two of the best wins any contender has had this year. To compliment that signature win, LSU beat Mississippi State by two touchdowns — a win that’s probably as impressive as anything USC has done this year.

Yes, LSU has two losses, but one of them came by one point in week one to a Florida State team that has turned out to be pretty good. The committee has said before that it values improvement throughout the season and LSU has earned the benefit of the doubt in that department.

USC’s toughest tests still await. It’s set to host Notre Dame this weekend and will face a tough but to-be-determined opponent in the Pac-12 championship.

With Tennessee’s loss and a No. 5 ranking, LSU officially controls its destiny.

In my view, I thought an 11-2 LSU that manages to win the SEC title was always getting in. An 11-1 Tennessee was the only real threat because of the Vols’ head-to-head win in Baton Rouge.

If USC had jumped LSU, it would have been tough to say LSU controlled its fate. That would have left too many one-loss or undefeated teams in front of the Tigers.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s playoff predictor, LSU has a 97% chance of making the playoffs should it win out. If USC loses to Notre Dame and TCU doesn’t win the Big 12, those chances rise above 99%.

LSU couldn’t have asked to be in a better position in Brian Kelly’s first year. Despite the struggles, despite the two losses, LSU controls its destiny.

List

LSU enters the top five of the College Football Playoff Rankings heading into rivalry weekend

Contact/Follow us @LSUTigersWire on Twitter, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Louisiana State news, notes, and opinions.

Story originally appeared on LSU Tigers Wire