Did the College Football Playoff Get it Right?
There’s no debate that the 13-0 SEC Champion Georgia Bulldogs or the 13-0 Big Ten Champion Michigan Wolverines should be among the four teams selected to play in the College Football Playoffs. But there was no shortage of arguments or politicking for the final two slots in the CFP.
The most laughable evidence submitted was when Alabama Crimson Tide headman Nick Saban came up with this doozy, “I guess I would ask the question: If we played these teams in question, would we be underdogs in the game or not?”
Really Nick? Let’s have FanDuel or BetMGM decide who should make the College Football Playoffs? No offense to our partners, but I can’t believe he got that one out with a straight face.
Saban also cited injuries and how his team ended the season strong. As if the Tide are the only contender who dealt with injuries or team that improved after losing games. In their final three games, they beat Ole Miss (lost four of their last five), Austin Peay, and 5-7 Auburn. With a straight face!
With their best win of the season coming against No. 20 Texas, Alabama doesn’t have a strong case. The TCU Horned Frogs went 12-1, with their lone loss coming in overtime in the Big 12 Championship Game. They also beat No. 20 Texas (more impressively) and No. 9 Kansas State.
Not only did TCU deserve to make it, but the committee was correct to leave them third. That leaves us with the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes, who lost by 22 points at home the last time they took the field. They didn’t look worthy on that day, but they are one of four teams with fewer than two losses.
Was it fair that 11-1 Ohio State could sit at home licking their wounds as a non-division champ while the 11-1 USC Trojans, first place in the Pac-12 after 13 weeks, had to play a 13th game? If the Pac-12 didn’t have a championship game, the Men of Troy would be in, so no, it’s not fair.
But fairness isn’t the task of the College Football Playoff committee. What is? That, too, has been deliberated exhaustively. Should they pick the four “best” teams or the four most “deserving” teams?
It has to be the most deserving. Why? That’s why we play games, for outcomes. If not, how far does it go? Would we still argue for ‘Bama if we believed a three-loss Tide would beat undefeated TCU? That seems silly. But mainly because we don’t KNOW who is better. That’s too subjective.
So did the committee get it right? Probably. But I don’t know. No one does. It’s a flawed system in a sport with no path to a genuinely objective mechanism for picking a postseason field.