Opinion: CFP Committee Got It Right Again

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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)


Welcome to Spin Cycle Sunday. It's the day we craft our College Football Playoff arguments to fit our personal agendas and preconceived notions.

Are you an "SEC 4ever" guy? Then you spent Saturday night kneeling at the throne of ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit, who insisted Georgia should make the playoff because of the "eyeball test."

My rebuttal: OK, but what about the Bulldogs' two losses? Should we pretend the SEC title game, in which Georgia couldn't quite beat Alabama with its backup quarterback, never happened?

Are you a Big Ten loyalist? Then you're still screaming about how one-loss conference champion Ohio State got hosed in favor of one-loss conference champ Oklahoma. You even have the data to prove it: Ohio State beat four teams ranked at kickoff - Penn State (No. 9), Michigan State (No. 18), Michigan (No. 4) and Northwestern (No. 21) - while Oklahoma took down just two: West Virginia (No. 13) and Texas (No. 14).

My rebuttal: Ohio State got smashed by Purdue 49-20 and followed that with uninspired efforts against Nebraska, Michigan State and Maryland. The Buckeyes, despite all that talent, played like a fringe top-20 team for much of the season.

And by the way, what makes us think the Big Ten was any good this season? Wisconsin lost to BYU. Michigan State threw more picks than touchdowns. Penn State almost lost to Appalachian State. Northwestern won the West with an 0-3 nonconference record, including a loss to 4-8 Akron. Michigan lost to Notre Dame without Ian Book or Dexter Williams playing for the Irish.

Are you a Notre Dame hater? Then it's time to scream, "They're disqualified because they're not in a conference!"

My rebuttal: The Irish are 12-0 and stamped out all comers. Until Ohio State joined the fun, they were the only team to beat Michigan. They trounced Stanford, which was No. 7 at the time. Winning at Virginia Tech and USC is no joke, even in their down years. They clubbed Syracuse on a neutral field, and the Orange went 9-2 in their other games with losses to Clemson and Pittsburgh. They beat a rugged Northwestern team on the road. In short, if you don't see Notre Dame as a playoff team, you need to get your eyes checked.

OK, now we probably should get to my view on the playoff and personal agenda: The committee got it right. Hey, these guys can convert a layup!

Alabama is No. 1 and will play No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 29. No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Notre Dame will duke it out in the Cotton Bowl the same day.

Easy call.

CFP Chairman Rob Mullens normally answers questions as if he's a Sleep Machine setting, but he put it properly and succinctly in defending Oklahoma as a "one-loss conference champion with their only loss on a neutral field - a close loss to a ranked team (Texas) they avenged (in the Big 12 title game). And their defense has made some big plays the last couple weeks."

Ohio State is headed to the Rose Bowl, a just reward for thumping Michigan and Northwestern down the stretch.

Coach Urban Meyer was all smiles Sunday - words that have never been written - about his first Pasadena trip, saying on ESPN: "It's all good. ... It's a bucket-list thing."

Also good - and noble - was Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany's refusal to lobby on behalf of Ohio State. One, it wouldn't have done any good. Two, he would lose credibility fighting for this Ohio State team after this Big Ten season.

Delany declined an interview request before the Big Ten title game but told ESPN afterward: "I'm not making their case; that's the committee's job. Each year stands on its own basis. ... We'd love to be involved, and if we're not involved, we'll go out and have a great bowl season."

This is the second straight year the Big Ten is not in the playoff, and some are saying that's proof the playoff needs to expand.

No, it's not. Look at basketball. The Big Ten typically gets six or seven teams in the tournament. Last year that number was four. The conference was top-heavy and the bubble teams had bad RPIs. Life went on.

My agenda: I do not want playoff expansion, so I root against chaos. College football has the best regular season in sports - the whole thing is a playoff, in many respects - and I want the games to count.

Sorry, Georgia, you lost twice. The good part about being in the SEC is that one loss will always be excused. The bad part is that sometimes to make the playoff, you have to beat Alabama.

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December 3, 2018


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