College Football Playoff Committee To Reveal A Lot About Itself
After Michigan football’s devastating loss to Ohio State, the College Football Playoff committee is going to reveal a lot about what it values.
It won’t necessarily happen on Tuesday this coming week, but next Sunday, when the College Football Playoff committee reveals its final rankings of the season, we’re going to learn a lot about what it values.
Michigan football’s loss to Ohio State on Saturday was perhaps the most heart-breaking game in Wolverines history—you could argue that, anyway. That game saw Michigan dominate for the better part of 3 1/2 quarters before stalling in the final minutes, allowing Ohio State to push the game to overtime, where the Buckeyes eventually prevailed.
Just to give you an idea of how weird this installment of “The Game” was, according to Bill Connely’s S&P+ metrics, the Buckeyes only had a 17 percent win expectancy against Michigan. (That’s saying, all game stats considered, Ohio State only beats Michigan 17 percent of the time.)
The College Football Playoff committee now has quite a hefty decision to make about the Wolverines and other teams like Washington, Clemson and possibly Wisconsin and Penn State.
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The committee, according to its protocol, is supposed to select the best teams, not necessarily the most deserving.
For purposes of any four team playoff, the process will inevitably need to select the four best teams from among several with legitimate claims to participate.
Is Michigan one of the four most deserving teams? After losses to Iowa and Ohio State, as well as not winning the Big Ten East and going to the Big Ten championship game, the Wolverines would most likely be eliminated in that structure.
But is Michigan one of the four best teams in the country? That’s where there’s a strong case to be made.
The committee has made it very obvious, both on its website and in practice, that it values conference championships. That’s obviously to Michigan’s disadvantage. But let’s say Penn State—ranked No. 7 in the last rankings—beats Wisconsin and wins the Big Ten. Are the Nittany Lions in?
For argument’s sake, let’s say Washington (11-1) and Clemson (11-1) also win the Pac-12 and ACC, respectively. And there’s Alabama, which is in regardless of what happens in the SEC title game. That most likely leaves one spot left, which, presumably, Ohio State and Penn State would be fighting for.
Now let’s say Penn State wins, but Washington gets upset by Colorado and Clemson gets upset by Virginia Tech. Might the committee take Ohio State and Penn State? Or, because this is the main focus here, might the committee take Ohio State and Michigan? (There’s no point in arguing the committee should take Michigan and not Ohio State.)
It’s a long shot for the Wolverines, no doubt—there would probably need to be multiple upsets, and Penn State would most likely need to beat Wisconsin—but few people who watched Michigan play Ohio State could honestly say the Wolverines aren’t one of the four best teams in the country.
And that’s what the committee is going after: the four best teams.
When the updated rankings are released on Tuesday night (7 p.m. EST, ESPN), where Michigan stands is going to be significant. If the Wolverines are still in the top four, they obviously didn’t lose much credibility with the loss to Ohio State. Further, the committee would have to once again justify putting conference champions above what it considers one of the four best teams.
Either way, the next seven days are going to teach us an awful lot about what the selection committee is looking for.
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