This is the space where it is supposed to live.
Since College Football’s Playoff Committee released its first standings on November 2, we’ve sharpened our knives, waiting to climb to the top of a soapbox and defend the latest set of victims – Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, heck, even Notre Dame try to win some sympathy from the masses in accordance with playoff status. Sunday is the peak time, when all the anger, frustration, and second-guessing comes to a head.
Instead, we’re left with one real complaint: The whole thing is boring.
There is probably some controversy surrounding the Bulldogs, who were destroyed by Alabama in the SEC championship game. There’s been little call for a post-season rematch – even Georgia fans might be reluctant to wade back into those rife waters – and perhaps the country would be better served by awarding a shot for a team like Baylor or Utah, just to make things interesting. But doing so would be the most serious deviation from the core tenets of the commission in its history. Georgia, no matter how its SEC season ends, still earned its spot.
We can celebrate Cincinnati’s arrival, a first moment for Group 5. Indeed, it was a remarkable turnaround after the Bearcats were relegated to eighth place in the final standings of the five committees. last, a few years after 2017 Knight UCF made the argument for a relevant Cinderella on the national stage.
But it is not if the committee has bold views. No voter would stand on a table in a Texas boardroom and ask for the Bearcats’ participation. Instead, Cincinnati simply outlasted his opponent, beating the last three – all qualified – for a total of 71 points, while the others stumbled to the finish line. The committee did not need to weigh the Bearcats’ schedule with a two-loss Alabama or a one-loss Oklahoma State. By default, the Bearcats are in a position to add fuel to the fire for those who see their AAC schedule as the ultimate advantage. If Cincinnati wants to really change the momentum and deal a blow to the little guy, it will happen at the Cotton Bowl against the defending national champions.
It’s no surprise that Alabama remains the playoff’s brightest star. For all the post-Iron Bowl hands that this Tide team can sneak into the knockout stages based on reputation rather than results, there are no such concerns on Sunday. Without a doubt, Alabama belongs. What is perhaps more foreshadowing is that Tide’s most popular groups in the playoffs over the past few years – Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma – are all absent from the festivities of this season. The biggest frustrations with the current format have always been less about the number of teams taking part and more about seeing the same four teams over and over again.
And when it comes to surprises, this year’s playoffs really work. No, we’re not shocked to see Michigan here, not after a successful season, a winning moment in which Jim Harbaugh slays the Ohio State dragon, and a dominant performance before Iowa in the Big Ten championship game. Michigan has an exact hit to win them all – though that’s still an incredible sentence to type. A year ago, the other three playoff entrants of this season drew 28-1 with all other opponents. Their exceptionalism was established. But the Wolverines are different. They enter 2021 having lost six of their last eight, their job as a coach suspended. Heck, Michigan needs overtime to beat Rutgers last year! Now the Wolverines are contenders for the title. It’s something completely new in a system that has delivered as-is for seven years.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh reacts to his team’s entry into the College Soccer Round and heads to the game against Georgia.
In retrospect, there were countless ways that the final committee meeting could have turned out to be real. What if Oklahoma State doesn’t score multiple times on Saturday? What if Baylor didn’t lose TCU last month, same week, the Horned Frogs fired their longtime trainer and installed a new starter QB? What if Pitt not considered the heaviest loss of the season to Western Michigan back in September or if Bigsby . Tank don’t step out of bounds like Auburn works to hit the clock against Alabama in the Iron Bowl or if Utah goes with Orange Rising in midfield to start the season or if Tulsa unsuccessful in four consecutive games at the 1-yard line against Cincinnati?
If, if, if, if.
In any of these situations, the committee could be forced to analyze similar records, to assess Notre Dame’s independent role, to determine the net worth of the Five-Person Group schedule, to decide determine if Georgia earns a chance of redemption after the off-season, to make really tough choices that have been guaranteed to anger some of the big groups in the world of college football. All of these are hilarious hypotheticals that could add some real-life drama to Sunday’s proceedings. Instead, the results were all but rubber-stamped from the moment Michigan scored its first encounter against Iowa in the Big Ten championship game.
For all the national outcry over Cincinnati’s initial ranking that led to another depression or Notre Dame’s weak schedule and the lack of a conference game plus a playoff bid or a hurricane the latent perfection of the candidates who lost two at the end, none of which are likely to materialize, and the committee could step aside after another year to give everyone exactly what they want.
Four best records? The best four teams? The four most deserving? A Venn diagram is a near-perfect circle.
It’s amazing, indeed, how well the current process has resolved itself over the course of eight years. There was a potential stumbling block to the 2014 Big 12 tiebreaker, which the committee cleverly bypassed by handing the 4th seed to Ohio State in place of Baylor and TCU. The Buckeyes went on to win the national championship, a post-factual endorsement of the committee’s wisdom. Had Alabama’s playoff berth in 2017 after losing the Iron Bowl and missing out on an SEC West title. The Tide took it all too, as Tua Tagovailoa led a remarkable second-half comeback in the title match. (Sorry for another reminder, Georgia fans.) Beyond that, the road map to the knockouts is a channel for hot moves – starting with a wide landing, complaints from every side and end at the narrowest point, the result is absolutely clear.
If there’s a real push to a change to the system – expanding to eight or 12 teams or some other change – it won’t be due to some overly serious oversight. For all of November’s outrages, December always has an elegant solution.
However, expansion still seems inevitable, and this year’s sector may offer the best explanation. The SEC has two groups in the mix. Team of 5 cracked the code. Even if one of the last four members is gone, it’s still Notre Dame, an independent, waiting in the wings.
In other words, three of Power 5’s five tournaments were completely eliminated. Big 12, ACC, and (this is a copy/paste situation) Pac-12 will be watching the playoffs from their respective benches, and at some point that will be all the motivation they need to get through. through some new plans. The expansion will certainly make Sunday a little more appealing.
The reality today, however, is that the committee got it right. Again. It’s easy when the answers are filled out before the test is played.