When former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese was asked to be a member of the first CFB playoff selection committee he asked CFB Playoff executive director Bill Hancock one basic question. Do you want the four best teams or the four teams who you feel have earned their way into consideration?
Five years into the process and the committee may still not have it right. This will all play out on Sunday afternoon when the college football world learns whether Big Ten champion Ohio State, Big 12 champion Oklahoma or SEC championship game loser Georgia is part of a Final Four grouping which is expected to include Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame, all who are unbeaten and ranked in the top 3 slots going into Sunday's final rankings.
Notre Dame finished its regular season with a 12-0 record last week and presumably is safe. Clemson wrapped up its march through the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 42--10 romp past Pittsburgh in the ACC championship game, while Alabama needed lots of help to overcome a 14 point second half deficit and overtake Georgia 35-28 in the SEC title game.
And there is the problem. Georgia, you see, played a heroic game and arguably could have beaten and perhaps should have beaten the Tide. The Dawgs didn't, and finished with a 11-2 record.
Oklahoma won its rematch with Texas, 39-27, to finish with a 12-1 record, while Ohio State romped past Northwestern, 45-24 to also finish with a 12-1 record.
The argument which was being waged late on Saturday night and early on Sunday morning in Grapevine, Texas, where the CFB playoff committee is sequestered, was that one loss and a championship worth more than two losses against a team who again arguably played better competition and could qualify as as one of the "four best teams'' in college football.
By choosing Georgia, the committee would ignore two of the five conference champions included in its playoff pool and invite a 2-loss team into the Final Four for the first time.
Since one of the teams that would be left out would be the Big Ten champion, for the second consecutive season, the feeling here is that Georgia will have to settle for a New Year's Six Bowl berth in the Sugar Bowl. It is bad business to smack the Big Ten in the face too many times since a proposal to expand the playoffs from four to six or eight teams is only a (Big Ten commissioner) Jim Delaney press conference away.
The problem is that the committee uses the "best team'' criteria when it wants to prove a point and ignores it in other instances. It was only last season that Alabama made the Final Four field without even winning its own division at the expense of Ohio State, the Big Ten champion.
Without knowing who will win the argument before Sunday's announcement, here's our guess at the New Year's Six bowl pairings.
*Orange Bowl-Alabama vs. Oklahoma
Cotton Bowl--Clemson vs. Notre Dame
Sugar Bowl--Texas vs. Georgia
Rose Bowl--Ohio State vs. Washington
Fiesta Bowl--UCF vs. LSU
Peach Bowl--Florida vs. Michigan
*Technically the committee will place the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds at the bowl games closest to their campuses, which would put Alabama in Dallas and Clemson in Miami, but if Oklahoma is chosen as the No. 4 seed, the committee might not want to give the Sooners, who have played in Dallas twice this season and played the Big 12 title game in AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Saturday any edge, so they could move Alabama to Miami and send Clemson to Texas.
ACC Bowl bits--It wasn't a good karma day for Boston College in the final regular season ACC results which put Virginia Tech into the bowl eligibility mold after a romp past Marshall and solidified North Carolina State's status to gain the No. 2 slot in the ACC bowl rotation after the Wolpack rolled past East Carolina in a pair of (hurricane created) make up games.
The trickle down effect could send the 7-5 Eagles to unwanted bowl destinations.
Here's a GUESS as to what the ACC bowl picture will look like:
Cotton Bowl or Orange Bowl--Clemson
Camping World Bowl (Orlando)--NC State
Sun Bowl (El Paso, Tx) --Syracuse
Belk Bowl (Charlotte, NC) --Virginia
Pinstripe Bowl (NYC) --Pittsburgh
TaxSlayer Bowl (Jacksonville, Fla)--Miami
Military Bowl (Annapolis, Md)--Virginia Tech
Independence Bowl (Shreveport, La)--Duke
Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit)--Georgia Tech
First Responder's Bowl (Dallas)-Boston College
Birmingham Bowl--Wake Forest
BC doesn't want to go back to Detroit or Shreveport and potential bowl games played in St. Petersburg, Fla and Birmingham are before Christmas. BC policy doesn't allow pre-Christmas bowls because it conflicts with BC's final exam schedule for the semester. The First Responder's Bowl is Dec. 26th and the Sun Bowl and Military Bowl are on Dec. 31st.
If the Sun Bowl opened up--Syracuse to Orlando and NC State heading to the Belk Bowl and Virginia taking another bowl slot, the Eagles could wind up in El Paso. The Military Bowl would have been a nice option, but with Virginia Tech becoming bowl eligible, the Hokies become a more attractive bowl team for that game.