LITTLE ROCK — Mississippi State-Florida State or Florida State-Mississippi State, either way 1-2 goes down easy. The one-loss teams that will be third and fourth in the initial rankings for the College Football Playoff, that’s a different story.

LITTLE ROCK — Mississippi State-Florida State or Florida State-Mississippi State, either way 1-2 goes down easy. The one-loss teams that will be third and fourth in the initial rankings for the College Football Playoff, that’s a different story.

Take your pick — Alabama, Oregon, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Auburn, Kansas State, Georgia, TCU, even less qualified candidates such as Ohio State, Baylor, Arizona, Arizona State, and Nebraska.

The big reveal this evening will come after the selection committee has weighed the importance of flubbed field goals, yellow flags, and teams at less than full strength. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that hotel room in Texas.

Acting independently, 60 voters in The AP poll simply moved up Alabama to third and Auburn to fourth. An open discussion in a closed room with a dozen people is likely to produce a different result.

Keep in mind that the committee’s rankings are only a starting point and that the committee will have the benefit of games in November, including Alabama-Auburn; Ole Miss-Mississippi State; Georgia-Auburn; Ohio State-Michigan State; Kansas State-TCU; and K-State-Baylor.

Plus, there are championship games in four of the five power conferences.

If plausible explanations of losses separate the teams behind Mississippi State and Florida State, Oregon should be No. 3, followed by Notre Dame, and Georgia.

Before detailing support for those three, know there are arguments against each and solid arguments for others, including:

• Alabama missed two field goals in a six-point loss to Ole Miss; Kansas State missed three in a six-point loss to Auburn.

• Baylor scored 21 fourth-quarter points to tie TCU at 58 and then kicked a field goal to win. Each of those four possessions included a major penalty against TCU, including a pass interference that could have gone either way.

• On the road, Michigan State wilted in temperatures pushing 100 and lost to Oregon in a game that was closer than 46-27.

• Starting his second game, first-year player J.T. Barrett missed on 20 of 29 passes vs. longtime Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster and Ohio State lost by 14. Since then, Barrett has done 61 percent or better in every game.

As far as Oregon, Notre Dame, and Georgia:

• Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, has promised that injuries will be part of the committee’s calculations so Exhibit No. 1 is the value of left tackle Jake Fisher. In the two games, the 6-foot-6, 300-pound senior missed with an injury, Marcus Mariota was sacked 12 times and the Ducks lost once. In the other five games, Mariota has been sacked six times, including three by Michigan State, and the Ducks are unbeaten.

• On the lip of the goal in Tallahassee, a Notre Dame receiver was nailed for blocking on a pass that would have ended Florida State’s winning streak at 22. Two receivers were guilty and officials are paid to call infractions no matter when they occur. Also, the argument that FSU blew the coverage is irrelevant. That said, Notre Dame was my upset pick in a season-long football poll and the loss cost me bonus points. It is popular to knock FSU as less than the 2013 national champion, but nobody has beaten the Seminoles since Nov. 24, 2012.

• Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan, who set an SEC record with 20 straight field goals, missed twice in the three-point loss at South Carolina. The Bulldogs were called for intentional grounding on first down from the 4 even though the pass hit a defender and Georgia had a receiver in the area. And, there was a controversial fourth-down spot in the final two minutes.

Not that it matters in late October, but I believe a one-loss Alabama will represent the SEC in the playoff. Considering Alabama’s escape in Fayetteville and Tennessee’s 17 straight points, the Crimson Tide should be No. 5 or 6 in the committee’s initial rankings.*

Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. Email: hleonk42@gmail.com.