Did The College Football Playoff Committee Get It Right?

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The playoff field has been set.  Sunday, the committee released their final rankings, and the results weren’t too shocking.  Many predicted that these four would end up being in the playoff come weekend’s end, and this year proved something to us; a conference champion is not guaranteed a playoff spot.  Alabama was a guarantee, with an undefeated record and an SEC title.  Ohio State, who did not play in the Big Ten title game, got in as an at large bid.  Their only loss came to Big Ten Champion Penn State, and they took care of business everywhere else.  Clemson took care of business by winning the ACC title.  Washington blew out a very good Colorado team en route to their Pac 12 title.  Penn State won the Big Ten, but got left out in the cold.  And what about Michigan, who proved they are a top five team in the country.  Did the committee get it right?  There are inconsistencies from the picks, so let’s analyze them here.

Like Andy Staples on Sports Illustrated, I will give you all a blind resume test.  Let’s look at the resumes of each team not named Alabama and compare.

Team 1

Record: 12-1

Top 10 Wins: Zero

Strength of Schedule: 40

Conference Champion: Yes

Team 2

Record: 12-1

Top 10 Wins: 1

Strength of Schedule: 54

Conference Champion: Yes

Team 3

Record: 11-2

Top 10 Wins: 2

Strength of Schedule: 50

Conference Champion: Yes

Team 4

Record: 10-2

Top 10 Wins: 3

Strength of Schedule: 53

Conference Champion: No

Team 5

Record: 11-1

Top 10 Wins: 3

Strength of Schedule: 26

Conference Champion: No

(Thanks to Andy Staples of SI for the Strength of Schedule Numbers)

Okay, you’ve seen the blind resumes, and if you’re like me, you know who each team is on that list.  Team 1 is Clemson, Team 2 is Washington, Team 3 is Penn State, Team 4 is Michigan, and Team 5 is Ohio State.  Now, if you look at the resumes, what stands out to you?

I’m not extremely huge on the strength of schedule argument, because of how much parity can exist and how you begin a “what if this team had to play them?” discussion.  I do not want to bother with that.

The top 10 wins bear importance in two ways.  Obviously, if you beat more teams in the top 10, you prove that your team belongs in the conversation for the playoff.  Ohio State beat Big 12 conference “champion” Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Michigan.  Michigan beat Wisconsin, Penn State, and Colorado.  Penn State beat both Wisconsin and Ohio State.  All this right here shows you the Big Ten was the best conference in college football this season.  Now, what about the others?  Washington’s only win against a top 10 team was Colorado, in the Pac 12 title game.  Clemson?  Well, they don’t have any wins over current top 10 teams.

Here’s where the other part of top 10 wins come in: out-of-conference scheduling.  Now, more than ever, we look at the schedule in its entirety.  Teams usually have three games to schedule out-of-conference opponents.  So, let’s look at who each team put on that part of the schedule.

Washington: Rutgers, Idaho, Portland State

Clemson: Troy, South Carolina State, South Carolina

Penn State: Kent State, Pittsburgh, Temple

Ohio State: Bowling Green, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Michigan: Hawaii, Central Florida, Colorado

What does this tell us?  Ohio State and Michigan went out to find quality competition for one of their games this season, and look at that!  Both of those games (Colorado and Oklahoma) turned out to be top 10 teams.  The other three?  Nothing to really speak of, and even though Clemson had South Carolina, that’s a permanently scheduled rivalry game.  No way out of that.

This is where things get dicey now.  You have three Big Ten teams in this conversation, and all of them are deserving of a spot.  You also have three conference champions.  Here’s where I like what the committee did in terms of choosing between the four.  Ohio State had the best resume of the five that were considered here.  The committee put its foot down on the fact that just because you won your conference title game, that doesn’t necessarily make you better than the other team.  If it came down to Ohio State and Penn State, yes, Penn State won the head-to-head game, but their resume, combined with no real out-of-conference opponent, a blowout loss to Michigan, and a loss to Pittsburgh, Ohio State gets the nod, and the conference champion argument falls.

Here’s where I have the issue.  There’s a level of inconsistency.  No matter what two teams it came down to, at some point, a debate sprouted between Ohio State and a conference champion, and the debate ended with Ohio State getting a spot.  Now, I wonder, while looking at resumes, was record just taken into account?  If the committee saw the difference between Ohio State and someone else, then it clearly should have seen a difference between Michigan and conference champions.  Michigan’s resume tops both Clemson and Washington’s, and they blew Penn State out.  And, how convenient is it that the conference champion left out of the playoff had two losses?  I think the committee fed us controversy in the last week before ultimately deciding solely on record.  It shows in the previous rankings, and it shows here.

Time to be completely opinionated, and yes, there are plenty of arguments against what I am about to say.  But, the way I have looked at this season and the resumes presented, I do believe this.  The teams in the playoff, according to what I see, should have been as follows: Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, and a conference champion.  Ohio State and Michigan have been top three teams all year, and their game showed that both belong in the playoff.  Yes, Michigan lost at Iowa, but games against Penn State, Wisconsin, and Colorado all yielded wins.  Now, some would say that would deem the Ohio State-Michigan game irrelevant.  That’s not entirely true, because seeding is a big factor this time around with Alabama being the clear one.  Michigan and Ohio State both deserve to be there, no matter the result of their game against one another.  The resumes are too great.  Now, on to the conference champion.  Based on resume, I would lean towards Penn State.  Washington makes a solid case, while Clemson does not.  But, Penn State’s win over Ohio State and win over Wisconsin give a resume that is slightly better than Washington’s, and they, like Washington, are a conference champion.  Three Big Ten teams would cause an absolute uproar, but it should have happened.  It was the best conference during the year. Also, it’s very possible this exact scenario would have pushed the possibility of six or eight teams in the playoff, which I am in favor of happening.

No matter how much we complain and whine, this is what we have been given.  Four teams have been given the chance to win.  Now, we get to see how things play out.  Maybe the committee will see the error in its ways, maybe we won’t.  Maybe the games will be extremely competitive like we don’t believe they will.  Maybe, just maybe, someone who we argued against profusely will win it all.  I mean, it happened with Ohio State.  Yes, I still believe in everything I said above, but now, let’s enjoy all the playoff offers.  It’s better than the BCS, right?

 

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