Kudos to James Franklin for eloquently stating Penn State’s case after his Nittany Lions staged an epic comeback from a 28-7 deficit to defeat Wisconsin 38-31 in the Big Ten championship game.
``We just won the toughest conference in college football,’’ the Penn State coach said. ``We've won nine straight, and they say you're allowed to overcome early-season setbacks. It's on you, now, the committee!’’
And kudos to Franklin for the classy way he handled the disappointing news on Sunday that the Nittany Lions didn't make the four-team playoff.
No. 1 Alabama will face No. 4 Washington in one semi-final. The other matchup will be No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Ohio State, which got the nod despite losing to Penn State and despite not winning the Big Ten championship—two accomplishments on the Nittany Lions' resume.
All things considered, this is the right four teams. It's the right call, but a close call.
``Our guys obviously would have loved to be in the playoffs,'' Franklin said, adding the issue of being out while Ohio State is in ``is the hard part. You can make arguments for and against so many teams. Us being conference champion and winning head-to-head, we felt gave us a lot of value. Plus, we feel like we're hot right now. You can make arguments a lot of different ways, based on your perspective. But we're very appreciative and honored for the opportunities we have. We've still got work to do. We want to finish this thing the right way.''
Penn State is headed to the Rose Bowl, where it will face USC, another talented team that's hot right now.
This was the problem: If you had put in Penn State, who do you take out? Unbeaten Alabama is bedrock. And Ohio State, Clemson and Washington are very deserving one-loss teams.
In the end, Penn State’s two September losses at Pitt and Michigan mattered—no matter how long ago.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
That’s been the argument all along, that a college football playoff would diminish the regular season.
This is proof that it doesn’t do that.
In golf terms, two double-bogeys on Thursday affect your position on Sunday.
If Penn State was going to trump the Buckeyes because of its Big Ten championship, the ``conference champion'' requirement should have been stated before the season began. But that was a tricky deal, because five conference champions don't fit into a four-team playoff.
If Penn State had edged Clemson or Washington, that would have meant putting a two-loss team ahead of a one-loss team. And that's a tricky deal, too, even though Washington was vulnerable on strength-of-schedule.
A key there: Washington is a program that's re-establishing itself. It wasn't dodging anything to sneak into the playoff. It simply didn't feel like it was in a position to over-schedule.
Also, if the committee had snubbed Clemson or Washington and gone with two Big Ten teams, this year's College Football Playoff would have been less of a national tournament. Penn State’s win over Ohio State was problematic, but until the rules say, ``Conference champions are automatically in,’’ they’re not.
And if they were going to elevate a two-loss Penn State, what do they tell two-loss Michigan, which crushed Penn State?
What do they tell two-loss Oklahoma, which also won nine straight after two September losses and also is a conference champion?
As Franklin noted, the consolation prize is awfully good: A trip to the Rose Bowl. The Granddaddy of Them All is still the best damned bowl in the land.
Trust me, I’ve been to a lot of bowls, from the Aloha to the Sugar/Orange/Fiesta/Cotton to the Micronpc.com. And I can tell you, nothing touches Pasadena, baby.
That said, I understand if my many Nittany Lions friends are disappointed.
A historical note. . . Penn State has been snubbed before, and that snub helped change the national-championship landscape. When the Nittany Lions went unbeaten but didn’t win the national championship in 1994 because they couldn’t settle their differences on the field vs. Nebraska, that was a key incentive to create the Bowl Championship Series.
Although the BCS wound up being a system hated by many, at least it attempted to match up the nation’s two best teams.
This year’s five-into-four imbroglio, I firmly believe, will help grease the way for an eight-team playoff down the road. It’s pretty far off at this point, but it will happen.
If it were in place this season, here’s how it might look:
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 8 Western Michigan
The nation’s last two unbeatens meet in a David vs. Goliath bowl.
No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 7 Oklahoma
Two hot offenses create plenty of sparks.
No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 6 Michigan
An awfully dramatic rematch of an awfully dramatic Big Game.
No. 4 Washington vs. No. 5 Penn State
Wouldn't it be nice if we could settle the 4-5 question this way this year?
And if those were the pairings, you know what would happen. Somebody would be moaning. Maybe team No. 9 or 10. Or maybe Michigan would be moaning about having to play Ohio State in the quarter-finals. And if the pairings were different, somebody else would be moaning about something else.
Ain't college football grand?[/membership]