A few hours after the New Year's Six bowl matchups were announced, we put this up:
The College Football Playoff committee had been in charge of booking the Big Ten's representative in this Rose Bowl. The bowl takes a Big Ten team and a Pac-12 team, and Stanford had already clinched its conference's spot. With Michigan State in the Playoff, that meant the Rose had its choice between 12-1 Iowa and 11-1 Ohio State, and it decided to yield the decision to the committee's rankings.
It all came down to the final rankings. Those revealed Iowa staying at No. 5 after losing to then-No. 6 MSU in the Big Ten Championship, meaning the Hawkeyes would go to Pasadena.
Ohio State's just a better team that had a more impressive season.
This isn't revisionism; the case is linked above from a month ago, partially using the committee's own metrics. Ohio State played a better overall schedule and still did better overall things against it.
Perhaps the committee just gave Iowa the benefit of the doubt for losing close to Michigan State, thus matching ... uh ... OSU's own loss.
"We really thought Iowa really proved more in that loss [than] they did throughout the rest of their schedule," Playoff chairman Jeff Long said at the time. "I think the committee was really thoroughly impressed by how they played in that game. Holding them [at No.] 5 was a strong sentiment of the committee."
Even if you give Iowa bonus credit of some sort for winning the unspectacular Big Ten West, OSU still did enough in the regular season to top Iowa's 13 games.
Any rating system you want to look up ranked the Buckeyes ahead of Iowa even before New Year's Day. Just to pick an extreme example in this case, S&P+ had OSU No. 4 and Iowa No. 34, 22 spots below the Stanford team it would go on to be outclassed by. (Here's why Iowa's so low.)
Bowl results are fickle, but they're helping to prove Ohio State had been superior.
Hours later, No. 6 Stanford started doing this stuff to No. 5 Iowa:
204 teams have played in Rose Bowls. In one half, Stanford's outscored 173 of them.— SB✯Nation CFB (@SBNationCFB) January 1, 2016
This is Sad Hawkeye:
It's now 38-9 in the fourth.
Iowa fans might read this as trying to take away from their season.
It's not. There's no question the Hawkeyes deserved a New Year's Six bid. Iowa vs. Notre Dame could've been a great game.
We chose to send our top reporter, Steven Godfrey, to the Rose instead of either Playoff game, all because of Iowa and the great story of its Pasadena trip.
Ohio State was better, the committee made an immediately questionable ranking choice, and the greatest bowl game was a dud this year because of it.