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Did The Playoff Committee Get It Right or Wrong?

Below you'll find two arguments, one for and one against the Playoff Committee's team choices for this year's Football Playoff. This topic is always contentious so we thought it would be fun to give our best defenses for both perspectives. As always, let us know what you think!

 

Why The Playoff Committee Got It Wrong

By Martin Magers


When an underdog upsets a higher ranked team, the adage “that’s why they play the game” is often invoked. When Ohio State travelled to Happy Valley to take on a struggling Penn State team, the Buckeyes were 17 point favorites. The Nittany Lions were 4 and 2, lacking wins against any good teams. They had lost a close game to unranked Pittsburgh, and they were absolutely destroyed by Michigan. On the other hand, Ohio State was undefeated with strong wins against Oklahoma and Wisconsin in hand. On paper, there was no reason to think the garbage fire that was burning in Happy Valley was going to start playing football, much less be capable of beating Ohio State. As they say, that’s why they play the game. 

Penn State found a way to win, and it completely turned their season around. James Franklin, Saquon Barkley, and Trace McSorley rode the momentum of that win all the way to an unlikely Big Ten Conference Championship, beating a very good Wisconsin team en route. Ohio State, on the other hand, struggled to beat bad Northwestern and Michigan State teams, and the Buckeyes were outplayed by Michigan in a double overtime thriller, needing help from both the referees and Wilton Speight to finish a comeback. 

And so on college football’s version of selection Sunday, the committee completely screwed it up. Ohio State fans will drone on about their strength of schedule and only having one loss and that loss having been on the road at night in a hostile stadium. Guess what? That doesn’t matter. You lost to Penn State. Thus, Penn State holds the tie-breaker. As discussed, football is decided on the field, not on paper. 

After a weekend in which we saw Alabama annihilate Florida, Washington look surprisingly good against Colorado, and Clemson, in typical Clemson fashion, barely beat Virginia Tech, the committee got three out of four teams correct, but they absolutely should have put Penn State in over Ohio State. 

In the end, maybe it’s better for Penn State to not have to face Alabama in the playoff (everyone is playing for second place, anyway). With a Rose Bowl berth, the Nittany Lions can prepare for a showdown against USC, a team that on paper they are capable of beating. Actually, using the committee’s logic we should skip actually playing the game and simply award the Rose Bowl win to Penn State. Head to head play on the field doesn’t matter, right?

 

Why the Playoff Committee Got It Right

By Cam Brennan

The College Football playoff is supposed to showcase the 4 best teams in the country, regardless of conference or division. It is a hard task some years to determine which four teams are actually the best, especially in years like this when the Big Ten East had 3 teams playing top-class football. Nevertheless, the committee must make a decision. Martin thinks they got it wrong but I'm here to tell you why they got it right.

I think we can all agree that Alabama is untouchable, so I'm not going to waste any more words explaining why they are the #1 seed.

Clemson, on the other hand, has some people concerned because of a few close games early in the season. Those concerns are fine, every team including Alabama had a few close calls throughout the season, this is normal...it is football after all. Unexpected close games are one of the many reasons we love this game. 

If you are worried about those close games for Clemson though, you must also concern yourself with the 11 wins (by an average of 23.3 points), 4 of which were by 46 points or more, and 3 of which were over ranked teams, including Louisville and Florida State. The bottom line is that Clemson's season shows a team with a prolific offense that found a way to win, 11 times. They belong in the Playoff.

Now on to Ohio State. I genuinely don't understand why some people are mad that they made the playoff. They destroyed the Big 12 Champs Oklahoma, they beat Big Ten West winners Wisconsin, they destroyed then #10 Nebraska AND they beat then #3 Michigan. Were two of those games overtime wins, yes, is that a big deal? Not at all. What matters is that they won. 

A big argument against Ohio State is that they didn't even win their division, so they couldn't compete for a conference championship. The counter argument to this is that in a conference with one stacked division you're bound to have 1 or 2 deserving teams miss out on the conference championship game, even though they have the same record as the team that made it. It's a system that can't fairly handle multiple great teams.

Ohio State lost to Penn State, on the road, by 3 points. No one denies this. Penn State lost to Pitt on the road, by 3 points. So far they're even in the loss column. Penn State has one more loss though, by 39 points to Michigan, a team that Ohio State beat. 

Yes, Penn State beat Ohio State head-to-head and this matters but it isn't the only thing that matters. It is one game out of 12 that the committee had to weigh to determine who the overall better team was. On October 22, 2016 Penn State was the better team, but the committee is concerned with every other Saturday in the season as well. Head-to-head matters in determining your divisional standing and is why Penn State made the Big Ten Championship game but it isn't the sole determining factor in who makes the Playoff. 

Penn State didn't get screwed out of the Playoff, heck they finished the season ranked higher than Michigan, the team who beat them by 39 points. Yet more proof that one game isn't the sole criteria by which the Committee judges a team. 

Ohio State is in the Playoff because the Committee sees their body of work and sees a team that is dominant on both sides of the ball, is well coached, and has a killer instinct to close teams out. A trait Michigan fans know all too well.

And so we come to Washington, the team doomed to lose to Alabama in the Semi-finals. I really like Washington and am glad that they made the Playoff. They've got a great offense, a really good defense, and wins over 4 ranked opponents. Their only loss was to USC, the team representing the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl against Penn State. 

The biggest injustice done to Washington this year was Jake Browning not getting invited to the Heisman ceremony...are you kidding me??

You can argue that Penn State or Michigan deserved the #4 spot but you'd be wrong. Washington has 11 wins over quality competition, 1 loss to a really good team, and are a team that is strong if not great in all aspects of the game. Good luck against Alabama boys and godspeed. 

Martin may disagree but given the body of work for all four of these teams, the Committee got it right this year. Here's to some great football games and another Alabama National Championship.