The BIG Blog: Ohio State Left Out Of The College Football Playoff
Even after watching Alabama lose to Auburn last week and seeing Ohio State beat both Michigan and Wisconsin, it seemed clear to me that Alabama was a better team. That’s even without counting the Buckeyes’ humiliating loss at Iowa.
Should that matter? That’s the question that was hotly debated before, during, and after ESPN’s incredibly bloated (do they know any other way to do one of these shows?) playoff announcement program.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
At face value, that sounds like a dumb question. Of course, the best teams should be in the playoffs. Based on their body of work, there was no serious debate that Clemson, Oklahoma, and Georgia were the three best teams in the nation after yesterday’s games. All three teams won their conference championship with convincing performances against strong opponents. There could be some argument about the order of those three, but not their separation from the rest of the FBS.
There are four spots in the playoff, however, and that fourth spot was where it got pretty murky. Let’s be clear on one thing, though. If anyone thinks that expanding the playoffs to six or eight teams would end the arguments, all you need to remember is some of the passionate anger that surfaces almost every year on Selection Sunday for the 68-team NCAA Basketball Tournament over the one or two “deserving” teams that did not make the field. All an increased number of playoff teams would have done this year is move the argument down from Alabama vs. Ohio State to Wisconsin vs. Auburn or USC for the sixth spot, or USC vs. Penn State or Miami for the eighth spot.
So with all of that being said, there is an argument for Ohio State to have been chosen for the playoff ahead of Alabama. Ohio State won the BIG, while Alabama did not even win their division in the SEC. With five Power 5 conferences (BIG-please note the accurate math), there is always a guarantee that one champion won’t make the playoffs. The selection committee has listed winning a conference championship at the top of their selection criteria, but for the second year in a row they went against it. Ironically, it was to Ohio State’s benefit last year, when they failed to win the BIG East yet made the playoffs. They proceeded to lose 31-0 to Clemson, a result that could very well have been repeated if they had been selected this year. Did the possibility of a Clemson-Alabama rematch instead of Clemson-Ohio State factor in to the committee’s decision? It shouldn’t have, and even if it did certainly no one would admit it.
So with this selection, with I agree with in principle, I’m still annoyed (not surprised, though) with what I perceive as the dis ingenuousness of the committee to attach an importance to the conference championships that their actions do not support. I’m not a cynical person by nature, but it’s hard not to take that view with anything coming out of the NCAA, so I can’t help but wonder if they are trying to sustain the hype that accompanies conference championship games, when in fact they treat them like any other game. There is little question that Georgia locked up their spot Saturday, but I suspect it is more because they convincingly beat Auburn, not because they claimed their conference championship. Ohio State, on the other hand, did not gain nearly as much from their far less than convincing win over Wisconsin.
I saw a proposal regarding playoff expansion from radio host Clay Travis today that made a lot of sense to me. While I’m not one who is clamoring for expansion, I think this approach could really work; expand to eight teams with the Power 5 champions automatically qualifying, the top ranked Group of 5 team automatically qualifying, and then two wild-cards. The first round would be played at the higher seeded campuses. This season, that would have included the four teams who made it, Ohio State and USC as conference champions, Central Florida as the top Group of 5 team, and one more wild-card, which still would have been a spirited debate between Wisconsin, Auburn, and Penn State (I would have rewarded Wisconsin for going 12-1). Then everyone would be upset about the SEC getting three teams if Auburn got a wild card, but at least a conference championship would be rewarded in this scenario.
Still, what is place now is better than the BCS, and the best four teams are competing for a championship. That doesn’t sound so bad, unless of course you’re an Ohio State and/or BIG fan, but then again everybody can’t be happy.
LET’S GO BOWLING:
Here are the upcoming BIG bowl games, which I list from top to bottom in order of appeal to, well, me.
Cotton Bowl 12/29: Ohio State vs. USC
Fiesta Bowl 12/30: Penn State vs. Washington
Holiday Bowl 12/28: Michigan State vs. Washington State
Orange Bowl 12/30: Wisconsin vs. Miami
Music City Bowl 12/29: Northwestern vs. Kentucky
Foster Farms Bowl 12/27: Purdue vs. Arizona
Outback Bowl 1/1: Michigan vs. South Carolina
Pinstripe Bowl 12/27: Iowa vs. Boston College
It’s a shame that the Rose Bowl hosts one of the playoff semifinals this year because it would be fun to see a classic matchup of Ohio State and USC there, but that jumps out at me as perhaps the most appealing non-playoff game on the bloated slate of bowls.
Bloated? On December 21 there is something called the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. I rest my case.
At least one BIG school was happy this weekend-Nebraska. They got their man; Scott Frost is their new head coach after going 13-0 at Central Florida and getting them a date against Auburn in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Frost engineered one of the most remarkable turnarounds in sports history, taking his team from 0-12 in 2015 to 13-0 and a conference championship only two years later. I do not enjoy it when a program like Nebraska struggle, and Frost has appeared genuine throughout the process of making his decision-a rare commodity in the sport today. I find myself rooting for his success, and If he is not the right man for the job, I don’t know who is.
Only hours after I shared my expectation about the coaching carousel impacting no school other than Nebraska, a big pile of poop (forgive my language) hit the fan in Knoxville when Tennessee offered their head coaching position to Greg Schiano, then withdrew the offer after protests from fans. I use the word disingenuous here again to describe some of the outrage over Schiano’s alleged, but unsubstantiated, complicity in the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State, suspecting some of the fans used that as a reason to push away an unpopular choice. Several days later, Tennessee’s athletic director was unemployed, and practically everyone who has ever worked with Schiano was passionately standing by his integrity.
Penn State was also impacted, losing offensive coordinator Joe Morehead when he was named Head Coach at Mississippi State. Moorehead has received a good share of the credit for the Nittany Lions’ resurgence, so his absence will be a large void for Head Coach James Franklin to fill.
The coaching carousel spun out of control at times last week, even threatening to draw in Purdue’s Head Coach Jeff Brohm after only one year at West Lafayette. Sounds like he’s already on the clock to move toward his next job, and may yet be in play this year as several big jobs remain unfilled at this writing.
Don’t forget, you can follow my new twitter account at @TerpInTheSouth and reach me by e-mail at [email protected] I also hang out on the message boards, mostly in the University of Maryland & NCAA sections You can also go there to find the Deified Dozen football national rankings by the experts (?) here at BSL.
Next week I’ll share my thumbs up and thumbs down about the BIG football season and see if there has been any more BIG impact from the coaching carousel. Until then, live large and have a BIG week everyone.
Jim Johnson is a life-long Maryland Terrapins and college sports fan and a proud U of Md. alum. Jim started writing about the Terps on his own blog during the Steve Francis season of 1998-99. He then moved on to cover ACC hoops and football across the Internet, adopting the moniker "The Courtmaster" and becoming a frequent "expert" guest on Bob Haynie's old WNST show and other sports radio stations across the country. You can find some of his classic (?) work on his old blog. Jim laid down his gavel in 2007 and is returning to sportswriting after a sabbatical he spent furthering his career as a non-profit executive and senior accounting professional, becoming an ordained minister, and gnashing his teeth/sulking about Maryland joining the Big Ten. He figured the best way to scratch his sportswriting itch was to dive in head first to learn about the Big Ten, the current teams, schools, and history, and share what he learns with our readers. Jim enjoys interacting with readers, exchanging ideas, and most of all having fun. You can chat with him on the message boards or by e-mail at [email protected]