Sprint Option: Fire the Committee (Into the Sun)

The table is set for the playoff and other bowl games. The four teams going are Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Washington. If this sounds familiar, it’s because you heard it last week. As you likely ascertained from the title, I am irritated by the result. Now, I promise that I will adhere to logic here; and I will hold out as long as I can. But, today, I write angry. 

That said, let’s get to the Option.

Let’s start with a recap of championship Saturday–which included Friday if PAC-12 is your flavor of choice.

Washington annihilates Colorado in best effort to get playoff bid possible…

The Buffs were not prepared for Washington. Browning and the Huskies dismantled the defense on their way to scoring 41. Additionally, Colorado came into this game with some credibility on offense; however, by the time the game was over, that credibility was shot. Washington crushed them and clearly made a case to stay in the top four as a playoff team.

Oklahoma overpowered Oklahoma State late to win the Big 12…

Welcome to the Big 12, where the defense is made up and the points don’t matter! Seriously, this was not the only Big 12 game this weekend where defense looked optional, but it was the most important game. In Bedlam, we saw Oklahoma led by Baker Mayfield’s handlebar ‘stache take down a pretty good opponent in Oklahoma State–in football, the votes are still being counted in the hair bowl, with Gundy’s mullet currently edging Mayfield’s mustache with 91% of precincts reporting. Oklahoma locked up the Big 12 championship, but let’s be real, we stopped paying attention to them after a 1-2 start.

Alabama throttles Gators in Atlanta, makes case for relegating entire SEC East to Division II…

Holy. Crap. Alabama held Florida to zero rushing yard–a caveat to this is that sacks idiotically count against ground yards and not passing yards and Appleby was sacked a lot. Still, zero yards rushing from the best opponent from the other division. Florida was overmatched and, although they showed signs of life, the Tide was way too much car for the Gators this year. Florida getting walloped puts Auburn in the Sugar Bowl as the highest ranked SEC team and the Gators in the Outback Bowl against Iowa. That’s also probably not going well for the Gators. As for the Tide, Alabama is frightening, and they will face the Huskies on New Years Eve, just in time for a Washington New Year’s resolution to do their best not to face Bama in 2017.

Gobble ’til you wobble, VPI gives Clemson all it could eat…

The Hokies fell short of glory on Saturday night but went punch for punch against the tigers. Coach Fuente seems to be settling in nicely, and the addition of him, Richt, and Narduzzi to the Coastal over the last few seasons points to a division on the cusp of explosion. It would not surprise me if the ACC was the best overall conference in football for the next decade–an honor that the B1G is currently the prohibitive favorite to win. Back to the game, Clemson had too many weapons to contend with and managed a 7 point win. Watson also renewed his campaign for a Heisman trophy that appears more up for grabs now than it did 1 month ago.

Ohio State comes back against Wisconsin to win the B1G and secure a spot in the playoff…

Oh…wait, that’s not what happened. Penn State did that. They clawed back from a 21 point deficit to knock off a good Badger team and win the conference outright. It was an excellent game and showed just how much grit James Franklin’s team has. This was a team that deserved a shot at the national championship. Alas, they won’t get a chance. Ohio State was selected as the B1G representative for the playoff.

All in all, the games this past weekend went off as expected. The teams that were supposed to win did, and the committee was forced into a lose-lose situation in trying to pick four teams. But let’s get into that.
The committee failed to do its job, not in the perfunctory completion of their responsibilities, but in the spirit of their charge. By opting for the three obvious conference champions and a conference championship couch potato, they managed to completely invalidate the conference championships.

Here’s what I mean. Going into championship weekend, the top four teams in the country were Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, and Washington. Coming out of the weekend, we had the same top four, notwithstanding the fact that Ohio State had to stand pat on its play because they weren’t playing for their conference.

Throughout the past two weeks, we’ve constantly heard it reinforced that Ohio State was bulletproof by B1G commissioner Jim Delany among others. Delany, you’ll remember, is a noted carnival barker and informally college football’s idiot-in-residence. He also casts one of the longest shadows in college football, and the public comments that Ohio State and Alabama had “done enough” to make the playoffs constitute tampering.

Here’s the problem and why his remarks are tampering. Ohio State, quite frankly, hadn’t done enough to be safe at all nor have they done anything sense to warrant anything more than being on the bubble for the last spot. Instead, Delany and others hijacked the narrative and virtually guaranteed that Ohio State wouldn’t be left out.

Keep in mind that Penn State not only beat Ohio State for the division, but also won the conference outright. The committee snubbed them because somehow, the team sitting at home chomping on popcorn was more deserving? No, they’re a bigger brand and had a more visible campaign manager.
Think about what actually happened. The committee, by not changing the top 4 and including a non-divisional winner in the playoff, has said that playoff games are not important. This is a complete reversal from the argument to exclude TCU in favor of, you guessed it, Ohio State. That’s untenable at best and downright corrupt at worst.

On a Penn State versus Ohio State basis, the committee has effectively assessed two wins, one of which is head to head and the other of which is a championship game, and valued them less than a loss and a null data point.

Here’s my argument: Penn State should have gone over Ohio State by virtue of winning the conference, playing an extra game, and losing to a team (Pitt) that beat another playoff finalist, Clemson. This is actually not so much an argument over Ohio State as it is over a team like the Buckeyes who do not deserve a shot, period.

Can you imagine if Penn State and Ohio traded seasons? What if Penn State didn’t win their division but we were talking about sending them? It would never happen. The crux of the matter is this: if Penn State were in OSU’s situation, would they be treated the same way? My answer is a resounding “no.” And if the answer to that question is no, then the committee is putting its thumb on the scale for the sake of branding and hype. And that’s just not what they’re for.

This weekend we were also forced to evaluate Penn State as the B1G champion against Washington since, as you know, Ohio State was sacrosanct. My argument here is that if you are fairly evaluating Washington and Penn State, there is no way you can conclude that Penn State, with its two losses to good teams, is behind one loss Washington in the pecking order.

Washington’s strength of schedule was almost last in the FBS! They lost the only game they played against an opponent that belonged on the same field as them (until Colorado). I firmly believe that PAC-12 guilt played a role in breaking the tie. The committee was so anxious to show everyone how fair they could be that they put the PAC champion in the playoff. This also feels like an arrangement of convenience to avoid having to answer tough questions about Ohio State again, or questions about conference biases if they put two B1G teams in. Personally, I believed Washington should have gone. But I also believe that if you make my decision binary for one spot, I’m putting the B1G champion in that spot.

At the end of the day, Ohio State may win another title–Meyer is very good in bowl games. But, I personally cannot abide a system that puts so much weight on the quantity of losses. Look at the final win-loss records. Until you get to WMU, the rankings proceed in order based on number of losses. It’s absurd.

My playoff would have been:

Alabama vs. Washington
Clemson vs. Penn State

Now, we get to watch a playoff that has almost been custom-picked to have the two biggest brands in football play for the national title. It all feels completely contrived this season.

It’s all so very sad. I’m sorry, Penn State.

College football isn’t a meritocracy this year.

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4 thoughts on “Sprint Option: Fire the Committee (Into the Sun)

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  1. Let’s have some fun…shall we? Understanding this is not a news outlet, but someone’s opinion, let me point out a few flaws or….maybe flaws is not the best word to use. How about counter-arguments?

    Showing the picture of Urban and using a quote he made in 2006….BEFORE THE NEW PLAYOFF SYSTEM…is a childish attempt at influencing the reader before he/she has even read the first word. To me, it screams bias. But hey….this is your blog and you get to write what you want.

    The basis for this response is mainly due to the quote: “Ohio State was selected as the B1G representative for the playoff.” You have failed to grasp the overall concept of the committee’s job. It is not to pick the representative from a conference, it is to simply choose the four best teams. You may argue all day long about who you think are the best teams, and I’d jump all over that bandwagon. But you didn’t. You tried to justify your own bias…or better/worse…rationalize it. The committee decided, as did the AP and the Coaches Polls, that Ohio State was one of those four best teams. And, let’s not forget that the committee is NOT comprised of a bunch of yahoos that have no understanding of what a quality team looks like….or should look like. Well, let’s say that most of them have a working knowledge of quality; I can’t speak for everyone on the committee (point for you). Either way, Penn State beat Ohio State. Penn State got trounced by Michigan. Ohio State beat Michigan. That pretty much makes it a wash; so now move on to other data points in an attempt to decide who is a better team. One could say (and many have) that while Ohio State not playing in the B10 Championship should have removed them from consideration; perhaps one could also say that their game AT Oklahoma speaks louder than Penn State playing at a neutral site against Wisconsin. But I digress…..I’ll get to the committee’s opinion later. My point now is simply to argue your overall approach to your post. The committee is claiming that a team being able to hoist their conference trophy in the air at the conclusion of a game is not an automatic birth in the playoff. This is not March Madness.

    Finally, no where in your post do you mention these two facts. Clemson jumped Ohio State and Penn State jumped Michigan. What does that tell you? It tells me a few things. 1) Clemson and Ohio State were viewed as pretty comparable. And as the committee said all along….conference championships will be used as a “tie-breaker” when teams are comparable. Hence the swap by those two teams. Although it didn’t make a difference, imagine if Washington hadn’t lost to USC and stayed at #2. 2) Penn State can’t have it both ways. They (and you) feel that one game should decide who the better team is, but only the game against Ohio State. They (and you) want to forget Penn State’s game against Michigan. If you expect Penn State to move ahead of Ohio State because they beat them, how do you account for Penn State moving ahead of Michigan? The committee decided very consistently that one team beating another only means they were better on that specific day, and that does not necessarily translate to being the overall better team. As a fan, I appreciate that. I may not always agree….but it certainly is better than computers. Speaking of which…..3) Every year is indeed different. If you want a rigid system, bring back the BCS.

    For transparency purposes, I am an Ohio State fan. Unlike many OSU fans, I am not blindly loyal. With that, I believe Penn State should be in the top four. But, at the expense of Washington…and not Ohio State. To me, that is where the committee and I differ. My reason is simple. I think Washington is not as good as Penn State. In fact, I actually believe Washington is behind Penn State and Michigan. That might be bias speaking, but it’s probably partially due to the fact that I only watched Washington play three times, one of which was against a very athletic USC team at home. And they were overwhelmed. Obviously, the committee watched a lot more and felt they are the 4th best team, based only on competition variables and not trophies earned. For that, I commend them. I don’t 100% agree with their opinion, but I agree with their methods.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Honestly, I think it’s more about what people value and lend weight to, but I genuinely think the committee took the path of least resistance with leaving Penn State out. After all, they’re the second B1G team and putting them in would leave out either the most talented B1G team in OSU or it would leave out the PAC and there would be cries of conspiracy from the left coast. I personally subscribe to the belief that winning your conference should be one of the most heavily weighted criteria for the selection. I also acknowledge that not everyone thinks like me, and that’s ok. But, I am going to lean on my lens of how things should be when evaluating the top 4. And, if I had a ballot, I’m probably leaving Ohio State off…but it’s down to them and Washington, not them and Penn State. It’s an op-ed piece meant to argue a point.

      As for moving Penn State ahead of Michigan, despite the whooping: Michigan lost the division outright by dropping OSU AND IOWA, Penn State didn’t. OSU didn’t go play Wisconsin because of a same record tiebreaker, Michigan was mathematically behind. That alone is enough for me to put Coach Khaki McPleats and his team third on the list. I’m not trying to move the goalposts on you because I stand by my entire assessment, including my use of Meyer’s comments AT FLORIDA which enabled *my* team to play for their first BCS title. That remark, while part of his perceived “whining” to get Florida in, is indicative of my personal stance on the way these teams should be picked. That said, it’s not fair to pick him out specifically because he has not come out and said anything to make him a lightning rod for this. He didn’t put them there, so it’s a projection of my frustration, sure.

      Also, I don’t fail to grasp the committee’s job at all. The most unarguable fact about this season is that the B1G is the best conference with the best teams in football. Period. The conference was going to have at least one representative, and objectively, should have two. That’s what I meant, however, by the line you quoted. Put another way, I believe that if the B1G was only getting one team, it should have been Penn State, not Ohio State for the reasons I outlined.

      I also made it clear that in a binary contest between Washington and Penn State, you put Penn State in. It’s not close. Washington is nowhere near the quality team that Penn State is. And it would be a tough decision to pick them over Ohio State *if* that were the choice. If you’re objective, OSU wins that binary argument, but you’re faced with deciding between a 1 loss conference champ with a dog crap schedule and a 1 loss divisional runner-up who played the toughest schedule in football as of week 14. Tough call. And worse still is the question whether Washington could trump Michigan for the last slot.

      I honestly appreciate the long rebuttal, Dan. I wanted to write up enough in my reply to keep the conversation going if you want. The underlying conclusion I think is that 4 spots is about half as many as there ought to be

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  2. Now we’re getting somewhere. I won’t try to rebuttal everything, mostly because I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. Whether or not cries of conspiracy would have occurred if the PAC was left out for two B1G teams became moot when UDub convincingly beat the 3rd best team in the conference, and 8th rated team in the country. So assuming Washington “earned” their spot by virtue of their on-field performance, you still believe Penn State earned it over Ohio State….and that’s the crux of this reply.

    If you tell me you honestly believe Penn State would beat Ohio State 5 out of 10 games at a neutral site, then I can move on from this discussion. Not because I think you’re wrong. I move on because at that point, you believe those two teams are so equal that the committee would use the tie-breaker (head-to-head, conference championship) to determine Penn State one of the four teams. However….and it’s a huge however, if you tell me you believe Ohio State would beat Penn State 6 out of 10 games played at a neutral site, well…..now we have the basis for a solid & lengthy conversation.

    I prefer the existing methodology. It appears you don’t. Keep in mind I’m not mixing in whether the playoffs system should move to eight teams (that’s for later). The current format is four teams and I truly believe that placing a higher value on conference championships is the wrong way to go. That approach is nearly as bad as the BCS in terms of rigidity. It de-values the games like Ohio State and Oklahoma, and I don’t think we want that….as fans. Washington is perceived as a lesser team right now because all they did was play a bunch of non-conference cupcakes, coupled with a really down year for the PAC. Imagine if there were two other teams in the playoffs with a similar year? So long as you win your conference, you’re in! Naw….I’m all for earning that spot by beating good teams in and/or outside the conference. If you’re conference sucks, like the B1G was a few years ago….well, you better get out there and beat good non-conference teams.

    Pivoting to what I want. Yes, I want eight teams. I want the conference winners to be awarded a spot in the playoffs, with three at-large spots. And if we go that route, I suggest the caveat of the seeding being done equally. Meaning the conference winners are NOT automatically seeded 1-5. The result from that setup is two-fold. We will still have the bitching and complaining about the three at-large teams. That’s never going away. But, I think that system allows more of the Ohio State/Oklahoma games being scheduled. In fact, I could see the “Ohio State’s” scheduling teams like Oklahoma and Georgia Tech in the same year. Why not? If they win both games…..helps their case later on if they nut-up in a conference game or conference championship. If they lose one or both….all is not lost as they still have a legitimate shot at the playoffs. The only downside I see (besides the logistics of adding games, etc), is the non-Power conference teams will lose out on at least one pay-day from traveling to and getting their collective asses kicked by the home team (exception: App State).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So I think we want the same ultimate goal and I completely agree. The value to me for a committee is seeding based on merit. It would be ridiculous for autobids to get 1-5. 5 champs go in and then are at the mercy of the committee.

      As for OSU/PSU, I honestly don’t know. I would say that Penn State wins the game 4-6 times out of 10 at a truly neutral site. Because it really depends on what Ohio State team shows up. If it’s the NW/Sparty game team, Penn State wins. If it’s the Michigan/OU game team, Penn State gets blown out. However, I think that Penn State wins by a touchdown or more maybe 2 out of 10 times? Most wins by them would be tight. OSU is more likely to win convincingly in their games. I think that’s the distinction folks have trouble with. OSU has way more upside, but raw result in my opinion is even enough to settle the tie with H2H, or at least lend it more weight than it apparently received–obviously I have no idea what happened in that room. Of course I think that, or else I wouldn’t believe the slight of Penn State was as egregious as I do.

      For me it all falls like dominos. I believe Penn State is more deserving than Ohio State. But it all gets murky when you pit the Bucks against Washington. As a fan of the convincing conference win, I like Washington. But, Ohio State’s week 14 resume is almost unmatched, only Alabama has more week 14 top 25 wins (4, with 1 top 10 win). OSU has 3, but they’re all top tens. I think Washington is still more deserving, but the disparity of win strength is enough to have a tough conversation about leaving them out anyway–that disparity isn’t there between OSU and PSU IMO. But, if you make OSU bulletproof without a conf championship, then your choice is Washington or Penn State. I just cannot see how you can honestly say that Washington is the winner of that race. If the decision to exclude Penn State as 4th was based at all on the fact that the B1G already had a team in the playoff, then the wrong decision was made.

      And that’s at the heart of this to me, it seems like the committee gerrymandered its reasons for each team. It’s hard to see a uniform method. The weighted criteria that got Alabama and Ohio State in does not appear to have the same weighting as the criteria used for Clemson and especially Washington.

      Long story short: Go to 8. Eliminate conference championships and divisions. The elimination of the champ game gives you the extra week you need for the extra games. Seed top 8. 5 in automatically. 3 at large. All 8 seeded on merit.

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