By the time Saturday night had slipped into Sunday morning, the politicking on Twitter was in full force.
Fans of one-loss Alabama (11-1) were convinced the Crimson Tide was worthy of a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Supporters of two-loss Ohio State (11-2) – the freshly crowned Big Ten champions – were equally sure their Buckeyes deserved to join No. 1 Clemson (12-1) , No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1) and No. 3 Georgia (12-1) in college football’s most exclusive club.
So back and forth they went, bashing “experts” who disagreed with them while praising third parties who shared their party line.
Of course ultimately it came down to the CFP Selection Committee, whose members knew they would be highly unpopular in either Tuscaloosa or Columbus, depending on their decision.
Turns out it was Columbus that was the Whine Capital of the college football world today when Nick Saban’s charges grabbed the last spot and left Urban Meyer’s team out of the Final Four.
And while college football has changed dramatically since it first came to be nearly 150 years ago, complaining fans remain the one constant.
They’ll moan about their team being disrespected, groan about them being overlooked, and wail about the kids being unappreciated. Shoot, sometimes they even have a point.
And woe were the denizens of “The Discovery City” once they discovered their team wasn’t considered pretty enough to go to the dance.
“The committee views Alabama as a non-champion that is unequivocally one of the four best teams in the country, and that’s why they are in,” CFP committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said on a teleconference earlier today. “Here is why the committee ranked Alabama at No. 4. Alabama has one loss, and it was on the road to now No. 7 Auburn. Ohio State has two losses, one by 15 points at home to Oklahoma, and the other more damaging by 31 points at unranked Iowa.
“Alabama is superior in just about every statistical category that we think are important. For example, they are No. 1 or No. 2 in every key defensive category.”
The Buckeyes had a Big Ten title going for it (a 27-21 victory over previously unbeaten Wisconsin last night), but as Hocutt said, both of their defeats were by substantial margins and one was simply horrible.
Plus, a two-loss team has yet to crack the CFP.
And as tempted as Ohio State faithful might’ve been to demand entry because their team won its league title, history was not on their side. Last year’s Buckeyes were playoff-bound while Penn State hoisted the Big Ten trophy – yet was assigned to the “New Year’s Six” Rose Bowl.
(11-2 Southern Cal won the Pac-12 title on Friday, by the way, but not a lot of fuss was made about the Trojans’ playoff snub. USC and Ohio State will meet in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29).
“You have to understand, they’re not kind of disappointed – they’re probably devastated,” Meyer said of his players. “But that’s one thing families do. How do you handle devastation? Get around those you love and let’s go back to work.”
Alabama hardly ended its season on a high note, which gave Ohio State hope it could play its way into the CFP.
UA had to rally late to beat a middlin’ Mississippi State team on Nov. 11; logged an easy win over Mercer a week later in a game that, frankly, should have never been scheduled; and then fell to Auburn 26-14 in the Iron Bowl – a contest that saw the Tide get outplayed and Saban, outcoached.
“Even though we didn’t finish in the last game like we’d like, we feel like the committee did a great job of picking the four best teams,” Saban said this afternoon. “We certainly feel like we’re one of the four best teams.”
Of course he does. But remember what I’ve been saying from Day One – this is more an invitational than a traditional playoff. And unless some major lawyering takes place, the Football Bowl Subdivision is contractually obligated to a four-team format for another decade.
And that’s too bad.
I was pimping a 16-team playoff long before it was a twinkle in the NCAA’s eye – back when the FBS was still Division 1-A. That model is based on the myth that all “major” college football programs are part of the same classification.
They aren’t. In name maybe, but not in practice.
The Power 5 conferences run the show and the Group of 5 schools are the second division of the FBS. That’s why 12-0 Central Florida, the only unbeaten team among its 130 members, never had any chance whatsoever of making the playoff.
And as long as the CFP is a Power 5 product, teams from leagues like the American Athletic and Conference USA never will.
So let’s just go ahead and admit that – in the eyes of college football’s overlords – there are only 65 major college teams (that includes all Power 5 conference members plus Notre Dame).
But even if you decrease the sample size to that number, the current CFP is still insufficient.
If there are five power conferences, shouldn’t playoff spots be available to the champions of those conferences?
And with the SEC taking up two places this year, more hell will be raised and the heat will be hotter as the CFP is cussed and discussed heading into next season.
Based on the committee’s final rankings, an 8-team playoff in 2017 would feature Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Southern Cal as conference champ qualifiers, while Alabama, Wisconsin and Auburn would make it in as wildcards.
That would’ve left Penn State, Miami and Washington – all 10-2 – on the outside looking in.
Their fans – like those of Ohio State today – would also be upset, but with all leagues represented in the tourney the “fairness factor” would be adequately addressed.
Fairness, however, doesn’t really come into play.
So on New Year’s Day, the Sugar Bowl will have Superfight III between Clemson and Alabama, and the Rose Bowl will match up Georgia and Oklahoma in their first-ever gridiron meeting.
If the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs both lose, the committee will look bad for putting two SEC teams in the field.
But even if they both win, building its entire format around five conferences but having room for only four participants makes the CFP look even worse.
Just ask Ohio State fans.