The playoff is set. Ohio State is in and Big-12 is out. UAB gets out of football completely. Here are five takeaways from the weekend in college football.
We begged and pleaded. We ranted and complained. We lobbied. We finally got a college football playoff. It’s been a long time coming, but the wait is now over. The CFB playoff committee has spoken for the final time this season, and a thrilling set of playoff games is on the slate.
The first semifinal, #2 Oregon vs. #3 Florida State, will be a quarterback showcase, putting last year’s Heisman winner, Jameis Winston, and this year’s likely winner, Marcus Mariota, on the same field. The second semifinal pits #1 Alabama against #4 Ohio State, two high-powered offenses with oppressive defenses. The debate over which teams should be in the semifinals will continue, but the quality of these matchups will make for an exhilarating inaugural playoff.
Big 12 Odd Man Out
No Big 12 team will play in the CFB playoff and the conference is to blame. Its first mistake was to add only two teams after losing four teams to conference realignment. A ten-team conference is precluded from having a conference championship game, which appears to be what gave Ohio State the edge in the rankings. The second offense was to roll out the slogan, “One true champion,” as if that would make the CFB world forget that the Big 12 is the only power-five conference without a championship match.
Its third and greatest mistake was to hitch its wagon to TCU midway through the season. After TCU led Baylor in the committee’s rankings, the Big 12 announced that it would have co-champions if teams ended the season tied. It was a shameless attempt to get TCU into the playoffs although its website states, “If two teams are tied, the winner of the game between the two tied teams shall be the representative.” The conference tried to have its cake and eat it too and ended up with nothing.
Playoff Committee Breakdown
In its first year of existence, the playoff committee did some good things and some very confusing things. Here is a quick look:
Evaluating the big picture- The committee did appear to look at the big picture each week and evaluate teams according to their entire record, unlike the previous system which was largely reactionary. While highly controversial, examples include keeping Ole Miss in the top four after its loss at LSU and moving TCU down three spots and out of the top four this week.
TCU ahead of Baylor- Although Baylor defeated TCU in early October, the Bears trailed TCU in all of the committee’s polls until this week. The committee’s rationale was that both teams had one loss by the time the first poll was released and that TCU had a better resume. This is somewhat understandable if you take the names off of the jerseys and look at what caliber of teams each played and how they fared in the games. However, this rationale cuts at the core of why CFB switched to a playoff system. Fans, coaches and players wanted a championship to be decided by head-to-head matchups, not computer algorithms and subjective decisions.
Early Bowl Games
As usual, the bowls don’t project to be very entertaining until the last few days of the year. Here are two early games to keep an eye on:
BYU vs. Memphis (Dec 22): The Memphis program is on the rise in its third year under Coach Justin Fuente. After winning a share of the American Athletic Conference, the Tigers will look to continue their success against a quality BYU squad.
Arizona State vs. Duke (Dec 27): Arizona State showed that it can be an offensive juggernaut. Duke underperformed in a season in which it was projected to represent the ACC Coastal Division in the conference title game. Both teams look to prove their worth.
UAB Shutters Football
The University of Alabama-Birmingham announced this week that it will close its football program due to spiraling cost. At the time of year when the college football excitement and fervor reaches its highest, this move reminds us that in the end college football remains a business.
Follow Daniel J. Freeman on Twitter @djfree