College Football Playoff Update: The Final Decision

It’s all over.  The games have been played, and now the decision rests in the hands of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee to decide which four teams will play for a national championship.  The question is, who will they pick?

Finally, after weeks of uncertainty and crazy scenarios,  I think the answer has become fairly simple.  Let’s once again start with the obvious- Alabama will be the #1 overall seed.  I considered their top position to be set in stone regardless of the outcome of their game against Florida, but the Crimson Tide’s 54-16 thrashing of the Gators dispelled any doubts.  Bama is the only undefeated major conference team, and I’d give them better odds of winning it all than the other three teams combined.

Next up is Ohio State, the team everyone seems to love to hate.  I locked up their playoff spot last week, but since have been shocked by how many people seem to oppose the Buckeyes’ inclusion in the field.  The sentiment from many internet commenters is thus: “if you don’t win your own conference, you can’t be in the field.  Heck, Ohio State didn’t even win their own division!”

There are many problems with this, but it starts with the whole premise of the playoff system- to give the four best teams in the country a chance to prove themselves to be the best team in college football.  Ohio State was the #2 ranked team in the country, then beat Michigan, the then-#3 team, and just because Penn State beat a 3-8 Michigan State, all of a sudden Ohio State is no longer a top-four team?  It’s a ridiculous argument.  The Buckeyes’ schedule speaks for itself- they have wins over #5 Michigan, #6 Wisconsin, and #9 Oklahoma, and have dominated most of their games.

If Alabama were to have lost to Florida in the SEC Championship, would that have disqualified them from contention?  Of course not.  In fact, they probably would’ve remained #1.  Conversely, Florida would not suddenly become in contention had they won.  Nowhere in the criteria does it state a playoff team must be a conference champion, and 2016 is a prime example of why.  It would be ridiculous to leave Ohio State out of the field.  They entered this week at #2, and by Penn State, the only team the Buckeyes lost to, winning the Big Ten, Ohio State’s argument only got stronger.  While they aren’t necessarily a lock for #2, they will be in the field.

That leaves the final two spots.  Entering this week, the four teams left in contention were Clemson, Washington, Wisconsin, and Penn State.  Since the Nittany Lions were victorious in the Big Ten Championship Game, we can get rid of Wisconsin.  This leaves us with three teams.  For the last few weeks, I’ve considered Clemson a team with control of their own destiny.  It could have been prettier, but DeShaun Watson shined with five total touchdowns in the Tigers’ win over Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship.  They’re in, and they might even make the jump to #2.  This leaves just Washington and Penn State to fight for the last spot.

Outside of Clemson losing, it’s been a dream week for Washington.  They needed a big win over Colorado to make a statement to the committee that they are deserving of a spot, and they got the job done with a 41-10 victory over #8 Colorado. Especially with how highly Colorado was ranked, and that this result came in the Pac-12 Championship, it’s simply a massive victory.  To boot, Wisconsin, the higher ranked of the Big Ten Championship participants, lost the game, and Penn State won by just seven.

If Washington was ranked #4 this week, and blew out a top-10 opponent, they simply cannot drop below a Penn State team that entered #7.  I understand that Penn State won the best conference in the nation, and has the best win in college football with their defeat of Ohio State.  However, this is a two-loss team that fell to Pittsburgh and then to Michigan by 39 points.  It’s been a great run for the Nittany Lions, but I think it’ll come up just short.

Ultimately, Penn State did all they could but failed to catch a break.  None of the top four teams lost this week, and when Washington, the only one of the four that wasn’t entirely safe with a win, tore apart Colorado, the Huskies put themselves in a position where they couldn’t be jumped.

Props to Oklahoma for taking down Oklahoma State and winning the Big 12, but they had no chance coming in.  Congrats to Western Michigan for winning the MAC and finishing 13-0, guaranteeing them a spot in the Cotton Bowl.

Of course, there’s a chance the committee disagrees, but I would find it very hard to defend a different set of four teams.  Here are my final rankings, as well as the first few teams out of the field.

1. Alabama

2. Ohio State

3. Clemson

4. Washington

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5. Penn State

6. Michigan

7. Oklahoma

 

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