I suppose the College Football Playoff committee got the playoffs right this year.
Following the formula that we have always known, the top four should be some order of Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma, which it is. Georgia’s two losses and Ohio State’s 49-20 loss to Purdue ultimately cost both schools a spot among the final four.
You can make your argument for Ohio State’s wins over Oklahoma’s, but the committee only has a few rules and one of them is that Ohio State better not get blown out by an average team, and the Buckeyes broke that rule for the second year in a row.
To this point, the largest margin of defeat by a playoff team suffered during the season is 23 points, which came in Georgia’s 40-17 loss at No. 10 Auburn last year. The Tigers won the SEC West in 2017, so they were far from average, and the Bulldogs avenged their lone loss by defeating Auburn 28-7 later on in the SEC Championship Game.
I’m not going to argue for Ohio State’s inclusion in the playoffs. I will continue to buy into the fact that no other team has been blown out by a middling team and made it. For me, that’s a hard and fast rule.
And at this point, it is one of just three precedents set by the committee. The first is that if you’re a Power 5 team and you’re undefeated, you’re in, even if you’re Notre Dame. The second precedent is that if you are Alabama, then why didn’t you say so in the first place!
The concerning thing, however, is that the committee continues to move towards an “If it feels good, do it!” set of rules.
The most egregious example of this was Sunday’s placement of a 2-loss Georgia team that didn’t win a conference championship ahead of a 1-loss Ohio State team that did.
A conference championship is supposed to be one of four criteria considered when teams are close. The other three are strength of schedule, head-to-head competition, and comparative outcomes of common opponents.
The committee stated that they went through this rigmarole with Oklahoma, Georgia, and Ohio State all in a group. Oklahoma won out over Georgia because of their conference championship, so that’s something. When it came to OSU, however, their conference championship was trumped by their inconsistent play and loss to an unranked Purdue team.
In other words, “What conference championship?”
Instead, Georgia was placed ahead of Ohio State because they had good wins (over teams that lost 38-17 to Mizzou and 24-7 to Tennessee) and a close loss to Alabama.
If that close loss to Alabama had occurred earlier in the season and their 36-16 loss to LSU happened later in the season, are the Bulldogs still in the conversation? I don’t know what the answer would be, but I know what it should be.
The issue at hand, however, is that if Oklahoma had lost to Texas last week — or to Army in overtime, or in any of their other one-score victories against Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, or West Virginia — then the committee appears more than willing to put a 2-loss SEC team without a conference championship in over a 1-loss Power 5 conference champion.
That’s a problem — and it may be leading to a fourth precedent that says, “We’re just gonna do whatever the hell we want.”
The argument that is being used by many in Georgia’s defense is that the Bulldogs would beat Ohio State, which is fine, but it’s a dishonest argument that only gets used in certain situations
Ask it of Georgia and Notre Dame or Ohio State and Notre Dame, and see how many votes for the Irish you’ll actually get. Undefeated teams don’t have to face this same scrutiny, even though the opinions are still there. In general, the “who would win” argument can have a very short shelf life, and it usually goes bad right after that second loss.
In college football, losses have always been the decider. Save for the never-before-seen-or-ever-seen-since 2007 season, a second loss always canceled out the “Who would win?” conversation because a second loss took that team out of the conversation.
Hell, in 2015, it was one 3-point loss to No. 9 Michigan State in a cold, rain-soaked late November game that saw Ohio State drop from No. 2 in the CFP rankings all the way down to No. 8 and fall completely out of the mix with two weeks to play.
Why did they drop out? Because the Buckeyes struggled through a season where they only beat eight of their 12 regular season opponents by 18 or more points?
Last year, meanwhile, No. 1 Alabama lost at No. 6 Auburn 26-14 in the final week of the regular season and still ended up at No. 4 and in the playoffs.
Why didn’t they drop out? Because they believed Alabama was one of the four best teams in the nation, as evidenced by beating seven of their 12 regular season opponents by 18 points or more.
We know the committee loves the SEC, but on Sunday they showed everybody that they are ready to make a move and skip right past protocol.
Oklahoma may have kept a 2-loss team that didn’t win its conference out of the playoffs, but the committee still showed its cards for all to see.
Losses are only as bad as the committee thinks they are. And sometimes losses can be almost as good as wins when they need them to be.
Even though the committee got the Final Four correct, things are now completely out of hand. They have shown that they are willing to create justifications for things that have never been justifiable before, and unless the Big Ten gets its big stick out of the closet and starts swinging it, it’s only going to get worse.
That’s not just on B1G commissioner Jim Delany, that’s also on the conference’s coaches and athletic directors.
They all need to turn the money counting machines off for a minute in order to listen to what’s going on outside the walls of their vaults.
The Big Ten’s fans are begging for a voice and the conference sits silent, which may actually have been the first precedent all along.