Cincinnati is the biggest loser and USC is a surprise winner

Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell looks toward the field during a game against Navy on Oct. 23 in Annapolis, Md. (Julio Cortez / Associated Press)

The College Football Playoff selection committee’s first rankings of the season served as a reminder of why expansion is a must for the health of the sport long term.

Here are the five biggest losers from Tuesday’s unveiling (hint: None of them are from the Southeastern Conference or the Big Ten):

1. No. 6 Cincinnati

The Cincinnati Bearcats are undefeated and ranked No. 2 in both polls, but they can now get used to seeing a No. 6 by their name because college football’s most important rankings were not swayed by their 24-13 win over No. 10 Notre Dame in South Bend — or the emotional pull of giving a Group of Five conference school that elusive first shot in the playoff.

“The committee has great respect for Cincinnati,” CFP selection committee chair Gary Barta, the athletic director at Iowa, told ESPN’s Rece Davis. “The win at Notre Dame is a really impressive win. When you look at their schedule and who they played after that, most recently in the last two weeks, a 2-6 Navy team and then a 1-7 Tulane team with a freshman quarterback starting, looking at the whole picture we feel six is the right place for Cincinnati.”

Barta is right that the Bearcats have not looked like a playoff team the last two weeks, but they still have the third-best win this season using these rankings. In this system, a team like Cincinnati simply has zero margin for error, and it was docked by not blowing out sub-par American Athletic Conference opponents in a way that Alabama was not negatively affected by barely beating a Florida team that is struggling to tie its own shoelaces at this point of the year.

Oh, and the Crimson Tide, handed a No. 2 ranking by the committee as a lifetime…

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