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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)
The great thing about college football, we are told, is that every game matters.
Except when it doesn't.
Penn State beat Ohio State this season. Penn State also won the Big Ten championship, defeating Wisconsin in the conference title game.
Ohio State was not in the game because it lost to Penn State.
Ohio State is in the College Football Playoff. Penn State is not.
The final spot in the four-team playoff wasn't between Penn State and Ohio State, as you might think it should have been. Instead, it was between Penn State and Washington.
Michigan, which beat Penn State 49-10 but lost to Iowa and Ohio State, wasn't even in the conversation.
This much is certain about the CFP: Alabama deserves to be in the playoffs and deserves to be the No. 1 seed. It is the perennial national champion, last lost a game during the pre-forward pass era. If college football teams were ranked by votes of the electoral college, Alabama would have all 538 electors.
After that, well, we need to talk.
Strength of schedule always comes up when discussing the decision to pick one team over another for the CFP.
Washington almost didn't make it into the field because of its weak strength of schedule.
What's overlooked in college football is strength of schedule usually comes down to three nonconference games.
Washington played, and beat, Rutgers, (from the Big Ten), Idaho (from the FBS Sun Belt but soon heading to the FCS Big Sky) and Portland State (a Big Sky member).
Not much to brag about there. C'mon Huskies, you can schedule better.
Clemson won at Auburn (an SEC school), defeated Sun Belt member Troy, 30-24 at Clemson, and walloped South Carolina State (a MEAC and FBS member).
Winning at Auburn is good. Barely beating Troy and fattening up on South Carolina State fall into the category of "not much to brag about."
Ohio State won at Oklahoma.
Penn State lost at Pittsburgh, which is the primary reason Ohio State was a lock to make the playoffs while Penn State needed Washington to lose in the Pac-12 championship game.
But let's not forget that Pittsburgh also beat Clemson, at Clemson.
So, maybe Pittsburgh should be the fourth CFP team. Or maybe Virginia Tech should be, since the Hokies won at Pittsburgh.
We can do this all day, but after a while it gets a bit tedious.
The CFP committee has one charge: Pick the best four teams in college football.
We can argue the playoff field should be expanded to eight teams. Then there would be room for Penn State and Michigan, and probably even Western Michigan, 13-0 and the Mid-American Conference champion.
But then the argument would be whether the ninth team got short-sheeted, and there would be calls for expanding the field to 12 or 16.
There's also another impediment to expanding the field. The current TV contract runs until 2025. No changes will occur until after that, and who knows how college football will look then. There could be two super conferences and everyone else could be told, "Let them eat cake."
Alabama still will be undefeated.
A little controversy is good for the CFP. It gives people something to talk about in the month before the three games are played.
But an important point is being missed.
A team shouldn't be rewarded with a playoff berth while someone else plays for a league championship and risks losing a CFP berth, as Clemson and Washington did. Alabama was in, win or lose in the SEC title game.
If every game in the college football season matters, it should matter greatly to the playoff committee that Penn State beat Ohio State and won the Big Ten championship.
Winning the title in a Power Five conference is worth more than the equivalent of a pat on the back. And if that's all it's worth, there's no point in playing the games any longer.
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