If The Committee wants Alabama, The Committee obviously can have Alabama. I don’t have a problem with Ohio State being snubbed. I wouldn’t have done it that way, because the Alabama that I saw in November didn’t dazzle, and I’m not just talking about the loss to Auburn.
In a bizarre but very minor sort of way, though, The Committee declared its independence.
If it had chosen the Buckeyes, everyone would have said the fix was in, that Jim Delany and the Big Ten always get their way.
Now we can say that that’s not always the case. Then again, considering that Nick Saban—who always gets his way, too—won this staredown, the fix was simply in for another branch of college sports’ royal family.
What we really learned, though, is how The Committee does the math.
It gathers the nation's finest pigskin minds, puts all of those stats into a top-secret algorithm and comes up with this magic statistical formula.
It’s called ``Fewest Losses.''[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
Just as Ohio State and Washington, who each had one loss a year ago, trumped two-loss Penn State, one-loss Alabama got the nod over two-loss Ohio State this year.
In the four-year history of the College Football Playoff, only unbeatens and one-loss teams have been selected. Two-loss teams do not make this cut.
The beauty of it is that in these complex times, it’s a concept we all can understand.
I just don’t necessarily agree.
First, I think Ohio State at this moment is a better team than Alabama. Clearly, the Buckeyes were being punished for getting shredded at Iowa on Nov. 4. That was inexcusable. But after that, Ohio State crushed Michigan State, won a tough game at Michigan and handed unbeaten No. 4 Wisconsin its first loss. Those three wins, plus the classic comeback vs. Penn State, give the Buckeyes a better resume than the Crimson Tide.
But that’s OK.
Because when you get down to it, the College Football Playoff process is a lot like the nation’s tax code: With the right lawyers and accountants, you can do anything you want.
Not that it matters now, but consider, for example, No. 16 Michigan State and No. 21 Northwestern. Both are 9-3, with virtually the same resumes. Except for one thing: Northwestern beat Michigan State.
If this actually was Rocket Science, the calculations would read: No. 16 Northwestern and No. 21 Michigan State.
Part of the allure of college football, of course, is its chaos and its endless argumentative debates—which are necessary because college football just doesn't have a neat and tidy way to determine everything on the gridiron.
GIVE ME BAMA VS. BUCKEYES. AND YOU CAN HAVE THE PLAYOFF.
I kind of wish The Committee had given that No. 4 slot to Central Florida so we could see the Buckeyes and the Crimson Tide settle the controversy in a bowl game.
Now that would be a playoff.
Second, I also thought The Committee would pick Ohio State because its better wins offset its worse losses in comparison with Alabama, which had neither better wins nor worse losses.
Third, I thought the conference-champion thing carried significant weight, especially in a situation where The Committee could have promoted diversity—by, you know, having teams from four conferences instead of three competing for the national championship.
This is significant because once teams get into the heart of conference play, there’s no way to know if they’re living off of early reputations or actually continue to be as good as initially advertised.
I’m guessing that the playoff’s TV partner,ABC/ESPN, wouldn’t have minded that—as opposed to three out of four teams from the Deep South. There's only so much you can do try to pry loose some of that Waffle House advertising budget.
The Deep South Invitational aspect probably won’t affect ratings. Because all three are excellent teams and historic programs. But why risk it?
Recapping. . . I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here at The Committee.
And I’m not convinced that Alabama was a better choice than Ohio State.
But I’m fine with it. I don’t think the Buckeyes got jobbed out of anything. Snubbed? Yes. But fair and square.
Fewest losses? The beauty is in its simplicity.[/membership]