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.