College Football Playoff: Selection Committee succeeds in a tough task

Penn State head coach James Franklin holds the trophy in front of defensive lineman Derek Dowrey after defeating Wisconsin to win the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game in Indianapolis on Dec. 4th 2016. (AJ Mast/AP Exchange)

Another selection show has come and gone, and once again there is controversy about the four teams chosen to play in the College Football Playoff.

No matter who the committee picked, there was going to be an uproar. The reality is that this year, six or seven teams had a legitimate case as one of the four best teams in the country, and only four can make the playoff.

Any conversation about the best teams in the country has to start with Alabama. The Crimson Tide rolled to a 13-0 season, beating eight teams ranked inside the AP Top 20 on their way to an SEC Championship. Nick Saban’s team is in, and there’s no way to deny it.

After that however, it gets tricky. The next five teams in the committee’s final rankings – Clemson, Ohio State, Washington, Penn State and Michigan – each had strong résumés for the three remaining spots. Even No. 7 Oklahoma has a lesser case to get in because of winning the Big 12 with only two losses.

The committee decided to select the three teams with one loss, and leave out the three teams with two losses. They picked the Southeastern Conference champion, Atlantic Coast Conference champion and Presidents’ Athletic Conference 12 champion, passing on conference champions Penn State and Oklahoma.

Here’s a look at the six teams that fought for the last three spots.

Michigan almost beat Ohio State on the road, but slipped up at Iowa two weeks earlier. The Wolverines defeated No. 10 Colorado and No. 8 Wisconsin, but both games were at home. Without a chance to win the conference championship, and with the head-to-head result against Ohio State, the committee made the right decision in leaving Michigan out.

Penn State has a much better résumé. The Nittany Lions beat No. 3 Ohio State and then Wisconsin in the Big 10 Conference Championship. While they were blown out at Michigan and were upset at Pitt, the conference title and win over Ohio State makes them a better option than Michigan despite losing the head to head matchup.

With Oklahoma winning a weaker Big 12 and not being up to par with the top six teams, that left Penn State, Washington, Clemson and Ohio State for the final three spots.

Although Ohio State didn’t win their conference, they only lost a tough game at Penn State, so they deserve to be in the Playoff.

Clemson, like Penn State, also won their conference championship and lost to a weaker Pitt team. The Tigers didn’t have as tough of a schedule as Penn State, but you can’t fault them for winning their games. Wins over three ranked teams and a conference title while only losing one game makes Clemson worthy of the top four.

So, Penn State or Washington? Many thought the Nittany Lions were more deserving of a spot in the playoff, but Washington’s résumé has been underrated. The Huskies had four wins over AP Top 25 opponents, and three of them were won by 28 or more points. This includes the conference championship against the Committee’s 10th ranked team, Colorado, where Washington convincingly won 41-10. The Huskies lost to current No. 9 USC in November, but the one loss absolutely should not knock them out of the Playoff with the season they had.

With this year’s dramatic selection, talk of expanding the playoff has resurfaced. Eight teams would be fantastic, and every college football fan and revenue-making party alike would be in favor. However, the same arguments would exist.

Just as the March Madness tournament has “bubble teams” that may or may not have been snubbed from the 68-team field, there is always going to be a few teams that feel they were left out. This year, USC and Colorado would have been on the outside looking in for an eight team Playoff, while both could easily argue that they are more deserving than Wisconsin.

Eight teams would be great for college football fans, there’s no denying that. But four teams is pretty entertaining in itself, and the ratings on New Year’s Eve will likely reflect that. The selection committee picked the right teams to compete in the Playoff, and the best team will reveal itself in a few weeks.


Josh Buser is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at joshua.buser@uconn.edu.