In an alternate universe the Missouri Tigers are getting ready for their first appearance in the College Football Playoff’s expanded 12 team field.
Sure, the arguments across the internet rage on, but they’re discussing the exclusion of Louisville and Iowa. Two teams who made appearances in their Conference championship game and should have been included over Penn State or Ole Miss. I mean, come on people!
But we aren’t in that alternate universe. We’re in this dumb one with a four team playoff and a situation one can only describe as mild chaos brought on by decades of poor decision making at the highest levels. For years the power brokers in college sports tried to hold onto that power and one thing that made them a lot of money was the bowl system. As television coverage expanded so did the number of bowls. While every other sport in the world had playoffs, high level college football ignored it all and stuck with bowls.
So for years we had teams who were voted national champion at the end of the season. Sometimes the voters disagreed and you had multiple national champions. Then in a misguided attempt to keep the bowl system alive, they ushered in the BCS. Then they expanded to a four team playoff, and once that happened it was only a matter of time until we got a real playoff.
That real playoff will have to wait though, thanks to the ACC, Big 10, and Pac 12. A four team playoff was always going to head towards a situation like this. Where you give teams arbitrary parameters and subjective rankings week after week and state clearly you plan on taking the four best teams and not the four most deserving teams.
But really, what’s the difference?
Last weeks College Football Playoff rankings:
- Georgia Bulldogs — lost to #8 Alabama
- Michigan Wolverines — beat #16 Iowa
- Washington Huskies — beat #5 Oregon
- Florida State Seminoles — beat #14 Louisville
- Oregon Ducks — lost to #3 Washington
- Ohio State — did not play
- Texas Longhorns — beat #18 Oklahoma State
- Alabama Crimson Tide — beat #1 Georgia
- Missouri Tigers — did not play
- Penn State Nittany Lions — did not play
This is who matters. And really you can leave off Mizzou and Penn State. Nobody past Alabama at #8 has a chance to get into the top 4, and realistically Ohio State is probably on the outside looking in with the way the rest of the results went.
All of this could have been avoided by Georgia beating Alabama. The Bulldogs are two-time champions, they were the favorite coming into the season and held the top ranking heading into the Conference championship game. The Bulldogs were favored over Alabama also... but they lost.
No undefeated power conference team has been left out in the short history of the CFP. After beating Louisville in the ACC Championship, Florida State finished their season 13-0 and they were 4th in the last rankings. Washington beat Oregon twice this year to finish 13-0 as Pac-12 champions. Michigan did their job and finished 13-0 after beating Iowa in the Big 10 Championship.
So easy enough, right? Include the three undefeated power conference teams, Washington, Michigan, and Florida State, and then pick a fourth team from amongst the 1 loss teams: Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Texas.
That’s where it gets more complicated. Pick the SEC Champion Alabama Crimson Tide and Texas fans will squawk. After all, the Longhorns clipped Alabama in Tuscaloosa in week 2. Pick the Longhorns and the entirety of the SEC would squawk at being left out despite having the deepest and best league in college football. Pick Ohio State and you’ll probably get laughed at. Pick Georgia and there will be a legitimate question about the validity and importance of conference championship games.
All of that, and we don’t even get into the discussion about who are the best four teams. That’s just covering the most deserving, which the playoff committee has said is not what they’re looking for.
The games matter as they’re the best way to figure out who is worthy. Florida State is without Jordan Travis but the resume is otherwise solid. Wins over LSU, Clemson and now Louisville without a Quarterback.
It seems possible, if not likely, that the Seminoles are left out if the committee decides to skip over an undefeated team. But perhaps we’re looking at cutting the wrong undefeated team. Washington ranks 11th in the SP+, they don’t have a good non-conference win to hang their hat on, but they’ve got Oregon’s number. We tend to give them credit for beating the Ducks but the Ducks’ best non-conference win was Texas Tech, a team Texas beat by 50 points.
I think Georgia is one of the four best teams. But they also don’t have much to hang their hat on. Their non-conference opponents were UT Martin, Ball State, UAB, and Georgia Tech. They narrowly beat South Carolina and Auburn, and their best wins were over Missouri and Ole Miss at home, and at Tennessee. At least Alabama tried a tougher non-con opponent in Texas, even if they lost the game.
I don’t know what the committee is going to do.
It would at least seem possible the SEC gets left out. But it’s hard to imagine a world where the SEC doesn’t have a chance to win the title. The league has been represented in the title game every year except the first one in 2014, when Alabama lost to Ohio State in the semi final. They’ve won most of the championships since the late 90s. If this were next year or if the 12 team playoff existed, there would be at least 4 teams in the playoffs with a chance at a title. Now there might be zero.
We’ll find out soon enough. But what a mess.