If the College Football Playoff selection committee has taught us anything the last three weeks, it's to not expect the weekly CFP rankings to behave like a poll, or the old BCS formula, or any other previously-reliable measure by which the game's best teams are judged.
Mark this down: The assumption that a second loss is essentially the kiss of death for any team's playoff hopes is, likewise, rooted in an obsolete, old-school line of thinking.
The day of the two-loss CFP qualifier will dawn.
The only question is when.
In just the first three incarnations of the CFP rankings, the selection committee has already demonstrated no qualms about ranking two-loss teams above those with one loss, or one-loss teams above unbeaten ones. Tuesday, it even flopped one-loss Oregon ahead of unbeaten Florida State within the top four.
Strength-of-schedule considerations are in, and as the ultimate judge of merit, the almighty loss column is out. And with the selection committee charged with lending weight to conference championships in its final determination, it's only a matter of time before that consideration leaves a one-loss team wondering how it wound up in the Citrus Bowl.
The reality is there is more than enough parity within the so-called "Power Five" conferences to produce a two-loss champion in any given year, if not more than one.
As well, many major programs have been beefing up their future non-conference schedules since the playoff format was first unveiled, in anticipation of beating the strength-of-schedule curve. Over the next five years, we'll see regular-season tangles between Georgia and Notre Dame, between Oklahoma and Ohio State, between Texas A&M and UCLA. Want some Nebraska-Oregon? See you in 2016. There will be legitimate playoff contenders on the wrong end of games like those. And over the long-term, the stigma of two losses will vanish.
Could the first two-loss invitation to the playoff party be handed out this year? Probably not.
Of the four conferences with a championship game, only one has a division being led by a two-loss team (SEC East, Missouri), and the SEC East winner emerging as a conference champion this year hardly looks likely. The other, the Big 12, is fairly certain to finish the year with a one-loss champion between Baylor and TCU.
But at some point sooner rather than later, the committee will be faced with a choice between a two-loss conference champion -- or perhaps a two-loss Notre Dame temptation -- and a one-loss runner-up from another league.
And nothing about the selection committee's criteria or rankings to date suggests it doesn't have the gumption to leave the one-loss team behind.