The argument we knew was coming: it’s here. The fourth College Football Playoff spot appears almost certain to come down to Alabama, the previous No. 5, or Ohio State, the team that just beat No. 4.
With Clemson, Oklahoma, and Georgia in, all eyes turn to a Crimson Tide team that didn’t win its conference and the Buckeyes who lost two games by a combined 46 points.
The Playoff committee’s got no chance of pleasing everyone, with no great argument for either team.
College football fans are in a fun place right now. Usually, they’re max-volume confident that TEAM A is CLEARLY BETTER than TEAM B, and anyone who FAILS TO RECOGNIZE THAT is BOUGHT AND PAID FOR by TEAM Z and THE MEDIA.
But I’ve yet to see anybody who’s really, really confident either Alabama or Ohio State has hands-down earned the No. 4 spot ... other than Big Ten commish Jim Delany, who likes the fact that Ohio State played a lot of Power 5 teams, or Nick Saban, who likes the fact that he didn’t lose a game by 30 points, that is.
I spoke with Nick Saban tonight, and he said he hopes the CFP committee weighs a team’s entire body of work, both good and bad. “Let’s say we lost by 30 points to Texas A&M, do you think we would even be considered?” Saban told me.— Chris Low (@ClowESPN) December 3, 2017
Sure, everybody’s got their opinion on which team they’d take, and plenty of people are calling for 11-2 USC (a conference champ that only got blown out once) to join the debate or for the spot to just go to 12-0 UCF. But there’s a lot more shrugging than usual.
I personally think Bama’s the less embarrassing choice and that Ohio State’s loss to Iowa should be considered disqualifying, but won’t put up much of a fight against anyone who thinks Bama’s light schedule and lack of a division title are reasons to rule out the Tide. I’m also not on the committee.
Whichever team is out can only blame itself.
Bama should’ve won its division. Simple as that. That’s the expectation we had for Wisconsin, another team that ended up facing a schedule without a bunch of ranked teams on it, so fair is fair.
Ohio State should’ve lost one game, and it probably shouldn’t have made it the 31-pointer against a 7-5 team. Just delete that one from the records, and you’re golden.
Somehow, the committee’s got to agree to enshrine one of these deeply flawed résumés.
And you know what? We’re getting a great Playoff either way.
All four teams will be contenders to win it. We weren’t able to say that a year ago (with Washington and, apparently, Ohio State), the year before that (Michigan State), or the year before that (an extremely smoke-and-mirrors Florida State).
If the worst team in your tournament is coached by Nick Saban or Urban Meyer and has one of the country’s two most talented rosters, you’ve got a hell of a tournament.
And if you like advanced stats, you might find yourself picking the No. 4 seed to win the whole thing.
Fans of Alabama and Ohio State will have a hard time agreeing with this next part, but here’s a proposal.
Let’s just be glad the committee has to make this choice, instead of us.
And then let’s enjoy the Playoff it produces, because it should be the best one ever.
That’s what I plan to do.