Maybe Baylor needs to hire two PR firms.
Clearly, using only one firm has not gotten the word out sufficiently about the Bears' pronounced playoff résumé advantages over both TCU and Ohio State. Both the Horned Frogs and Buckeyes remain ahead of Baylor heading into the final weekend of games – and in the case of TCU, that gap has widened. TCU leap-Frogged, if you will, to No. 3 – Florida State (motto: Unbeaten, Unconquered, Unimpressive) has fallen back another spot – and created more distance between the No. 6 Bears and their Big 12 rival from Fort Worth. (Alabama and Oregon remained in the top two positions.)
Or maybe Baylor just needs a better PR firm. Because the one it hired this week, Kevin Sullivan Communications Inc., didn't even have the name of the school's athletic director right as of Monday morning. I got an email asking if I'd like to speak with "AD Ian McCall." Actually, the guy I wanted to talk to is Ian McCaw.
Lo and behold, there was McCaw on the phone Tuesday night, shortly after the rankings were released showing the continued lack of love for his 10-1 team. He was remarkably composed for a guy who has seen his team being kneecapped by the committee.
I asked him about the PR campaign. His response: "We may need to ramp things up, based on where we are tonight."
Here's what the committee doesn't want to acknowledge, for whatever reason: Baylor beat TCU on the field, and has the same record as the Horned Frogs. And will have played 10 common opponents after Saturday – nine in conference, plus SMU.
But Baylor isn't getting any help in that area from the Big 12 office. It said this week it will not formally name "one true champion," as its season-long commercials have proclaimed, but instead proclaim co-champions if there is a tie at the top. Theoretically, that's a benefit to TCU and not much of a boost to the team that beat TCU.
"The league bylaws are pretty clear … that the first tiebreaker is head-to-head," McCaw said. "From our standpoint, we think that's the way it should be interpreted."
McCaw said he has had a conversation with commissioner Bob Bowlsby about that issue. And how did that conversation turn out?
"We look at things differently."
In addition to ignoring head-to-head, the committee must be championing TCU's triumph over mighty Minnesota every bit as much as before, despite the Gophers' drop to 8-4 and out of the College Football Playoff Top 25 following a loss to Wisconsin last week.
Asked The Minnesota Question on a teleconference Tuesday night, selection committee chairman Jeff Long said, "I'm not sure I can define that for you. I can tell you that it is contributing. I can tell you the overall strength of schedule and opponents is a determining factor, as well. But I can't put a value on how much that Minnesota victory is contributing to the difference between the two teams."
Ohio State's position ahead of Baylor is even more mystifying. In fact, it's flatly indefensible by any rational argument other than one team is The Ohio State University, and the other is merely Baylor.
Using the Sagarin ratings for comparison, here's what we have between the lordly Buckeyes and the up-and-coming Bears:
Best win for Baylor: No. 3 TCU. Best win for Ohio State: No. 10 Michigan State.
Second-best win for Baylor: No. 9 Oklahoma. Second-best win for Ohio State: No. 34 Minnesota.
Third-best win for Baylor: No. 38 Texas. Third-best win for Ohio State: No. 46 Maryland.
Loss for Baylor: No. 28 West Virginia. Loss for Ohio State: No. 50 Virginia Tech.
Advantage Baylor across the board. Yet somehow, the committee doesn't see that.
Maybe that will change after Saturday, when the Bears play Kansas State – a chance for a major, résumé-enhancing victory. The Wildcats, after all, own victories over Oklahoma, West Virginia and Texas, and only have lost to TCU and Auburn.
But Ohio State has a chance to bolster its résumé by playing a Wisconsin team that appears to be inflated with helium, certainly not with substance. The Badgers are No. 13 in the CFP rankings despite having a 0-1 record against the CFP Top 25 – a loss to LSU. Wisconsin's top three victories, per Sagarin, are over Nebraska (No. 26), Minnesota (No. 34) and Iowa (No. 41). The Badgers' other loss, in addition to LSU, is to mighty Northwestern (No. 62). And that's a top-15 résumé to the committee?
So basically, Baylor would seem doomed without some serious help. It needs a big win over K-State and losses from at least one team in front of it, and most likely two. The situation is beyond the Bears' control.
Here's another issue that Long alluded to on the teleconference, one which may be driving committee group dynamics: how much influence is being exerted by the former coaches on the panel. I talked to one college administrator familiar with the committee process last week who said he's heard that the coaches are the most powerful voices in the room – and as it so happens, two of the three former coaches have Big Ten affiliation: Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez and former Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne. The third coach is Tyrone Willingham, formerly of Washington, Notre Dame and Stanford.
"Certainly our coaches and others in the room look at the way the game is played, evaluate the games, evaluate the competition," Long said. "Again, that's what this committee, human committee does. It evaluates the teams on their play in the game. That's one of the things we use to discern between teams. Again, I can't say it's one thing. It's a number of things we look at, and we believe TCU is better and deserving of that No. 3 rank over Baylor."
That perception seems all but irreversible at this point, despite who won on the field. More PR, Baylor. And more points against Kansas State.
Said McCaw: "I don't think our team is going to be lacking motivation Saturday."