Revisiting the College Football Playoff’s Alabama/Ohio State Decision

Exactly three months ago today, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee released their final team rankings for the 2017 College Football season, determining who would be included and who would be left out of the 2017-18 College Football Playoff. The Clemson Tigers, Oklahoma Sooners, Georgia Bulldogs, and Alabama Crimson Tide were selected to participate in the 4 team playoff for the National Championship. Alabama ultimately went on to win it all in historic fashion. They took down the first ranked Clemson Tigers 24-6, before rallying back down 20-7 to defeat the SEC Champion Georgia Bulldogs 27-23 in OT. They did so behind the play of their (then) backup Quarterback Tua Tag Tagovailoa, as Head Coach Nick Saban made the gutsy decision to pull his starting QB, Jaylen Hurtz, after being down 13-0 at Halftime. Tua rallied them back and threw the Game Winning Touchdown Pass in OT.

All in all, it was a spectacular finish to to the College Football Season. And for Alabama, it was their fifth National Championship Win in nine years, all under Nick Saban. Yet the aura surrounding the conclusion to that game seemed to almost entirely overshadow the fact that Alabama was very close to not even making the Playoff at all, and that their inclusion by the committee was rather controversial at the time, and something that many viewed as a big mistake. Now that the season is over and we have access to the results, I think it’s worth revisiting this decision by the committee, as doing so will better help us understand how they operate, why that decision was made, and whether we were wrong to create so much controversy over the inclusion of a team that would eventually become National Champions.

The Lead-Up: How We Got to Alabama vs Ohio State

For much of the season, it was a reasonable assumption that Alabama would make the playoff. They started the year on a tear, absolutely destroying everyone they played. They were ranked 1st in the AP Poll from weeks One Through Thirteen straight. They dropped down to five in Week 14. The College Football Playoff Rankings started during Week 10. In these rankings, which would ultimately determine entry into the four team Playoff, Alabama was ranked 2, 2, 1, 1, until they dropped to five in Week 14.

So what happened in Week 14? Up to that point, they seemed like a shoe-in. Well, Alabama lost to their SEC West rival, the Auburn Tigers, 26-14. This was Alabama’s final scheduled game of the season before the SEC Championship Game. Though Alabama would finish the regular season with fewer overall losses than Auburn, they were both  7-1 in conference play, which meant that their head to head matchup would be the tiebreaker for inclusion in the Conference Championship Game. Naturally, having won that matchup, that honor went to Auburn in the West. This put Alabama in the awkward position of, despite having just one loss on the season, not being able to further bolster their case to the committee. Without a Conference Championship game to participate in, they had no games left to play. While other teams could go distinguish themselves in their respective championship games, Alabama, now just looking in from the outside ranked at 5th, would seemingly have to rely on external circumstances to get in. (Nick Saban, recognizing this, wisely began making his case to the committee for Alabama’s inclusion right away.)

I bring this up because the committee needed every possible game available to make their decision. 4 Teams is an awfully small playoff field, and with only 12 to 13 games, depending on the team–I’m not sure why some teams play more games than others–plus conference championship in the College Football season, every game counts. This is especially the case when there are so many good teams. This year was one of the most competitive Top 10s we’ve seen in College Football in awhile. You could have made a case for just about any team in the Top 10 to be included in the playoff. Heck, you could even go further than that. The final CFP Top 16 were as follows: 1Clemson, 2OU, 3Georgia, 4Alabama, 5Ohio State, 6Wisconsin, 7Auburn, 8USC (Pac-12 Champion!!), 9Penn State, 10UMiami, 11Washington, 12UCF (Undefeated on the season!! (and would later go on to defeat Auburn in their bowl game)), 13Stanford, 14Notre Dame, 15TCU, 16Michigan State. You could easily make a case for an expanded playoff field with all those teams, and we very well could be looking at one not far off in the future.

Notre Dame (14Final) was ranked 3rd in the Week 10 and 11 CFP Rankings. UMiami (10Final) was ranked 3rd and 2nd in the Week 12 and 13 CFP Rankings. No team in the final Top 12 had more than 2 losses. It shows how hard it is to pick just 4 teams, and because of that, why even just one loss, especially late in the season, can be exempting. Look at Penn State, for example. They were ranked in the AP Top 5 for Weeks 2 Through 9 of the season. They had a phenomenal year and looked great in their bowl game. But their two losses were to Big Ten East rivals: A 38-39 loss at 6Ohio State (5Final), where OSU’s game winning touchdown came with less than two minutes left, and a 24-27 loss at 24Michigan State (16Final), who kicked a field goal as time expired. Both tight, to the nail losses to quality opponents, the latter of which could have been very different had their not been a 3+ hours long rain delay in the middle of the game. Nonetheless, those losses kept Penn State out of a conference championship, as well as out of the playoff.

So because of this small margin for error when it comes to the playoff, it was reasonable to think that Alabama’s loss to Auburn and lack of Conference Championship would keep them out of the Playoff.  How can you be the best team in the country if you’re not even the best in your conference?

After Bama lost to Auburn, the CFP Rankings looked like this:

  1. Clemson
  2. Auburn
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Wisconsin
  5. Alabama
  6. Georgia
  7. University of Miami
  8. Ohio State

It set up for a fascinating Conference Championship Weekend, which would go a long way in determining who would make the playoff. It truly was (just as ESPN advertised it to be) a fight to the finish. These were the matchups:

SEC Championship: 6Georgia (11-1) vs 2Auburn (10-2)

ACC Championship: 1Clemson (11-1) vs 7Miami (10-1)

Big 12 Championship: 11TCU (10-2) vs 3Oklahoma (11-1)

Big 10 Championship: 8Ohio State (10-2) vs 4Wisconsin (12-0)

Thinking back to this time, there were so many scenarios that could have occurred that it’s hard to keep track of and explain. Teams were most likely out if they lost, but if other teams also lost, they could maybe have snuck back in, depending on who it was that lost. But the simplest way to get in was to win. SEC Champion was guaranteed in. ACC Champion was guaranteed in. Oklahoma and Wisconsin, if they won, were guaranteed in. That would have been the simplest scenario. TCU was probably too low either way. And Ohio State, ranked at 8 was riiighhtttt on the cusp. Recall that Alabama was looking in on the outside, so they needed help. Which meant, based on what I just wrote, that if Oklahoma and Wisconsin won, then Alabama was out of luck.

The simplest scenario almost happened. Clemson blew Miami out of the water, and Georgia comfortably handled Auburn on the neutral field. There go two spots. Oklahoma comfortably handled TCU, there goes another spot. The last spot was there for the taking for Wisconsin. But they faltered and lost the Big Ten Championship 27-21 to Ohio State.

Notice that I’ve made very little, if any, case for Ohio State yet. When the final rankings came out, many people viewed them as slighted because of their Conference Championship. In those peoples’ minds, that Championship (along with other factors, which I’ll get into later), rightly earned them the spot as the Fourth Best Team in the Country. The three other conference championships were determining factors for the other three teams in, so why shouldn’t that be the case for Ohio State too?

This is how the narrative was framed, and it was justifiable once we were at that point. But I think it’s important to look at the big picture and remember how we got there, and I think once we do that, this narrative starts to look a little shortsighted. The narrative was that you had these elite teams at the top, and that Ohio State was one of them. But that wasn’t really the case. As I’ve established, the final few weeks gave us a generally very strong top 10 with a lot of possible scenarios and a lot of contenders vying for spots. When you look at the entirety of the season, there was a group of elite contenders at the top as generally indicated by both the AP Polls and the CFP Rankings. Those teams were Clemson, Georgia, and Alabama. Auburn rightfully put itself in that conversation with its dominant wins over both Georgia and Alabama. I think it’s useful to look at their Iron Bowl win as them essentially switching places with Bama. It both served to elevate their own standing (that they beat someone as good as Bama) while simultaneously lowering that of Bama (maybe Bama’s not as great as we thought). But their loss to Georgia in the Championship proved that they’re not the same team on the road, and that re-opened the door for Bama.

So Clemson, Georgia, and Bama–>Just Kidding Auburn–>Just Kidding Actually Bama were always the top dogs. Oklahoma too, put itself in that conversation because, well, despite a bad defense, Baker Mayfield was generally unstoppable. Then there was, in my opinion (and I think it’s backed up by the committee rankings) this second tier of contenders. Miami, Notre Dame, USC, etc. They all ended up having losses that showed they weren’t quite ready. And Ohio State was always more teetering on the top of that second tier then being part of the first tier. You could really put the top four Big Ten Teams there. They’re all very good, but are they at the level of Clemson, Georgia, and Alabama/Auburn? So the question then became, did Ohio State deserve to move to the bottom of the first tier (the playoff group) as opposed to the top of the second tier?

Because let’s remember, in the second to last CFP Rankings, Bama was ranked 5th (just looking into the playoff) and Ohio state was ranked 8th (more middling). Yes, I know they had the Conference Championship, but they were the lowest ranked team heading into Championship Weekend besides TCU, and had the most losses as well, tied with TCU and Auburn. But Auburn had the two dominant wins over top dogs Georgia and Bama, which, with a Conference Championship, would have been enough to overlook their two losses.

So when you look at it from this perspective, even with a Conference Championship, Ohio State should never have definitely been in. They were still teetering in the middle. So outside of that simple metric of Conference Championships, something that is very easy to point to and has a ring of prestige to it (as well as the recency bias of it, being the last game of the season played before the playoff), what led to people thinking that 8th ranked Ohio State deserved to be in the conversation with the top teams?

Well, I think the Conference Championship is the main reason, but also look what happened to everyone ranked above them. They beat Wisconsin in that game, so they had to be ranked higher than them. Georgia, with the comfortable win over Auburn, reaffirmed their season-long position as top dog, which also led to Auburn dropping way down. And Miami–who, despite starting the season 10-0 with two primetime blowouts of ranked opponents–the committee was always skeptical of, dropped way down with their meltdown in Clemson, which justified the committee’s hesitance.

So really, what screwed this whole thing up was Auburn. You had top dogs Clemson, Alabama, and Georgia, and then you had Auburn dominantly defeat and knock back both Georgia and Bama on separate occasions. The committee was very high on Georgia and Bama, so by defeating them, the committee was forced to respect Auburn as well. But after the SEC Championship game, Auburn’s loss–their third of the season–gave the committee the rationale to reverse back to their original position of Georgia and Bama being at the top. Enough teams moved around that Ohio State was able to slip into the No 5 position, but it still wasn’t enough for the committee to value them at the level of Georgia, Bama, Clemson, and Oklahoma.

It’s all very complicated, but we have to do our best to break it all down and look at as big a picture possible if we want to understand why what happened, happened.

Ohio State Had a Case

Now that we’ve established what led to Ohio State’s position of being just outside the top (in short: Bama lost to Auburn, Auburn lost to Georgia, Ohio State beat Wisconsin in the Championship, a bunch of other things did and didn’t happen…), let’s look at why so many people thought that Ohio State should have been included in the Playoff. And just to be clear, I’m not shilling for Bama here. Ohio State did have a strong case for inclusion, and there’s a good argument that, at least according to resume, they were a more deserving team than Bama.

1) Ohio State Was the Big Ten Champion.

As I mentioned earlier, the top 3 ranked playoff teams were Conference Champions. If Wisconsin had beaten Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship, they almost certainly would have gotten in as an undefeated Conference Champion. Alabama, on the other hand, didn’t even play in their Conference Championship. So after a week where Ohio State further distinguished itself with a win, and Bama didn’t do anything to change their prospects (they didn’t play), the committee still went with Bama. That is frustrating if you’re an Ohio State fan, and deservingly so.

2) Ohio State had a Stronger Strength of Schedule than Alabama

The committee talks a lot about the importance of strength of schedule. College Football teams, after all, choose which opponents they will play in advance. Ohio State had one more loss than Alabama, but one of those losses was to the Oklahoma Sooners. Buckeyes fans felt that the committee was punishing Ohio State for their strength of schedule. “The committee is making the point [that] wins and losses matter more than resume,” ESPN analyst Jesse Palmer said in response to the final rankings reveal. Ohio State would finish the season with wins over Michigan State, Penn State, and Wisconsin. Two of those teams would finish the season in the CFP Top 10, and Ohio State would add a third top 10 win with their shutout of Pac-12 Champion USC in the Cotton Bowl. Alabama, on the other hand, played LSU (Final17) and Mississippi State (Final23). Their toughest opponent was Auburn, and they lost that game. So according to season ending rankings, Alabama’s best ranked win (Final17LSU) was worse than Ohio State’s worst (Final16 Michigan State).

3) Alabama didn’t look good against quality competition.

Alabama destroyed the nobodies on their schedule. But they seemed to sleepwalk down the stretch against some of their SEC opponents. They beat Texas A&M 27-19, LSU 24-10, Mississippi State 31-24 with a late rally, and of course, their only real quality SEC opponent, the Auburn Tigers, they lost to.

When you put these facts together, it’s clear why Ohio State fans felt slighted. They had a strong schedule and a conference championship to go with it, and instead they lost their playoff spot to Alabama. Many saw this as the committee both a) capitulating to the Alabama name, and b) being biased towards the SEC.

At face value, it seems like Ohio State should have gotten in. And had they, they would have easily been able to justify it. Even so, these facts still don’t tell the whole story.

Ohio State’s Case Wasn’t That Strong

At the end of the day, the question wasn’t whether Ohio State had a case. It was whether that case was strong enough to put them in the competition over Alabama, and it simply wasn’t. Each of the points I just made for Ohio State could be justifiably argued against, as I will do now.

1) Ohio State Was the Big Ten Champion.

Earlier I talked about how the fact that there are so few games in College Football makes the margin for error very small. This applies to Conference Championships too, and nothing shows this better than Alabama’s 2017 season. They were undefeated up until their last game of the season. They lost a tough fight to one of the best teams in the country (and their rival) at one of the hardest places to play (Auburn also beat Georgia in Auburn, 40-17. Bama lost 26-14). Just like that, they’re out of the Conference Championship.

Don’t get me wrong. Everyone wants to be a Conference Champion. And I’m new to College Football so maybe I’m looking at this wrong. But ultimately, Bama wasn’t a Conference Champion because they lost one game (their only loss) at the end of the year. Those are the rules, and if they keep Bama from playing in the SEC Title Game, then fine… but I’m not sure it should undermine the fact that Bama was one of the best teams in the country for the entire year.

Even better though, let’s look at Ohio State. Yes, they won a conference championship. But it was only by the margin of 27-21. And if you watched that game, you got the sense that it could have been by a lot more. Wisconsin was more or less sleepwalking through that game. And they still took it to the very end. I think if Ohio State had gone out and destroyed Wisconsin, they would have had a much better case for going in. But they didn’t. When you’re that low in the rankings, you need to make as strong a case as possible, and I’m just not sure Ohio State did that.

2) Ohio State had a Stronger Strength of Schedule than Alabama

This is another point that is a bit overblown, in my opinion. Yes, it’s true, but I’m not sure the difference was significant enough to merit Ohio State’s inclusion.

Ohio State lost to Oklahoma, yes, but that wasn’t the loss that doomed them. It was their 55-24 loss to unranked Iowa in November. That’s a 31 point loss to an unranked team. Yes, there are weaker teams in college football, but it’s still unacceptable. That showed the committee that they simply couldn’t trust Ohio State to play with the big boys. You need to beat who you’re supposed to beat, and you need to be consistent on a week to week basis. Alabama has a record 73 straight wins against unranked teams. There is a zero percent chance they would have lost to Iowa. Zero.

Furthermore, Ohio State had their fair share of nobodies on the schedule. They played Army and UNLV early in the year, as well as all the little brothers of the Big Ten (Rutgers, Maryland, Nebraska, Illinois, etc).

Also, we have to mention that Alabama, in their opener, pummeled Florida State, during the only 3 1/2 quarters of the season when they had their starting QB healthy.

3) Alabama didn’t look good against quality competition.

But the same could be said for Ohio State. Yes, their wins against Penn State and Michigan State were impressive. As I said, they really weren’t that impressive at all in the championship vs Wisconsin. And what about their 31-20 win vs Michigan? I watched that game, and it was hardly dominant either–despite the fact that Michigan had zero offense last year. John O Korn had two straight drives to push for a go ahead TD and just threw the game away. On the first, he lost his composure under pressure and threw a jump pass (for no reason), missing a wide open man on 4th and 2 around midfield. On the next, he lobbed an INT straight to the safety on the first play of the drive with plenty of time in the pocket. A replay showed it was clearly the wrong read.

Sure, throw out the records when it’s Michigan/Ohio State, but the same can be said for LSU/Alabama. Mississippi State as well. The fact of the matter is that both of these teams had arguments counting against them, and Ohio State’s argument for simply wasn’t strong enough to push them in over Alabama. They had a case, and it would have been fine if they got in, but their case certainly wasn’t strong enough that people should have been getting as upset as they did.

The Committee’s Reasoning Made Sense

After Ohio State got left out, there was a lot of criticism surrounding the College Football Playoff committee and their process. That they’re too inconsistent, that they’re not holding themselves to the standards they set out, that they can’t justify their decisions, etc.

But at the end of the day, if you listen to what they said, they gave perfectly logical justifications for their inclusion of Alabama.

1) Alabama was consistently a top team over the course of the year.

This is something I addressed earlier in this post–it’s crucial to look at the rankings over the course of the season, and when you do that, it’s clear that the committee (who watches each of these teams each and every week) consistently viewed Alabama as a top football team. Here’s Kirby Hocutt of the CFP Committee the day of the rankings release:

“We spent a great amount of time last night into the morning, again beginning at 7:30 this morning, talking about the full body of work. Now that the complete season is in front of us, we have the full body of work. The selection committee just favored Alabama’s full body of work over that of Ohio State. And it was consistent over the course of the year. As we saw Alabama play week in and week out–our rankings show, when we start with a clean sheet of paper each and every week, that the selection committee believed that Alabama was the better Football team.”

2) The Iowa loss mattered.

When you see Ohio State fans say that Ohio State didn’t get in because they played a stronger schedule and that they should schedule weaker opponents in order to get in, it’s somewhat absurd because it totally ignores the Iowa loss. Iowa wasn’t a ranked team. So that loss didn’t have anything to do with strength of scheduling. Yes, Ohio State also lost to Oklahoma, but that wasn’t the deciding factor. Replace Oklahoma with an easy win on that schedule, keep everything else the same, including the Iowa loss, and the committee’s decision is very much likely to be the same. Or, take away the Iowa loss, and both Bama and Ohio State have one loss to ranked opponents, and in that case Ohio State probably gets in. So although strength of schedule did favor Ohio State, it’s also not what kept them out, and shouldn’t be mentioned as such. Heres Hocutt echoing the point:

“The selection committee looked at a one loss Alabama team, that one loss coming against the final ranking No 7 team Auburn in a very competitive game; we compared that to a 2 loss Ohio State team, obviously the one loss at home to the No 2 ranked Oklahoma, but more damaging was the 31 point loss to unranked Iowa.”

3) In this case, resume was a tiebreaker that wasn’t needed, not the deciding factor.

This is the one people struggle with the most. “How can you leave out a Conference Champion Ohio State team?”, they ask. The answer is that the committee’s agenda first and foremost is to pick the best teams on film. Things like conference championship, strength of schedule, are mere tiebreakers when the film isn’t clear. But in this case, the film was clear, so the tiebreakers weren’t needed. Therefore, it didn’t matter that Ohio State was a Conference Champion. Says Hocutt:

“Our charge is very simple. Our charge as the selection committee is to identify the four very best teams in the country for participation into the semifinals. And when there are close separation between teams, then we’re instructed to look at certain criteria. In this case, the margins weren’t close enough for us to look at those matters. […] Our charge is very clear: The four very best teams, and Alabama is included in those teams this College Football Season.”

4) So Conference Championships Don’t Matter?

This is another overreaction you heard a lot. No, they do. Three of the teams were Conference Champions. Usually, most of the time, the best teams will be Conference Champions. But sometimes they aren’t. Ohio State should know this better than anyone else. They were selected for inclusion two years ago over conference Champion Penn State. The committee chose Ohio State over Penn State, despite the latter’s championship and the former’s lack thereof, because they believed Ohio State was the better team. No Ohio State fan who supported that decision can rationally be upset by this one. Again, here’s Hocutt explaining the matter:

“We look at the four very best teams. Conference Championships are important. If you look at the history of the CFP Playoffs, 14 of the 16 teams have been Conference Champions. But however, we have the flexibility and the discretion to put non-champions in the top 4 if they are one of the four very best, and that’s what took place last night [and] was confirmed this morning.”

The job of these guys is to pick the best team on film. If you believe that, after watching film, Ohio State was the best team, then so be it. Go make your case. But for the most part, that’s not the argument you’re hearing. You’re hearing the argument I outlined above. But the fact that the Ohio State Bukeyes were Conference Champions and played a tougher schedule, doesn’t make them the best team on film. It might make them more deserving or more accomplished, and that’s something we can argue. But that’s not what this system is about. Here’s ESPN Analyst and former player Booger Macfarland after hearing the decision:

“The initiative of the College Football Playoff Committee is to get the four best teams. I think we in the media try to figure out different ways to make it easy for people at home to come to that conclusion. We come up with all these different formulas, all these different numbers. Let’s go back to the beginning what it’s about: It’s about the four best teams.”

It Will Never Be 100% Consistent

At the end of the day, you can’t quantify all this stuff. There are simply too many factors. So it’s not entirely accurate to say that film is the only thing that plays a role. If you’re an undefeated conference champion, you’re going to get in. There are things you can do to control your own destiny. If you play good teams, dominant your opponents, and win, you’re going to get in. Not necessarily all those things at the same time. But it’s why Wisconsin and Miami would have been in with Conference Championship Wins. They would have been 1 loss and 0 loss Conference Champions. It’s why Auburn would have been in with 2 losses–because they would have been Conference Champions with 2 wins over top teams.

But there are also things you can do to take destiny out of your own hands. When Ohio State lost by 31 to an unranked team, they took destiny out of their own hands. It’s not just that they lost. It’s that they lost by 31, and that it was to an unranked team. But let’s be clear: When Alabama took themselves out of Conference Championship contention, they took destiny out of their own hands too. It wasn’t just Ohio State.

At that point, you had two teams that didn’t make clear cases for themselves. So when that’s the case, it’s purely up to the committee and what they think by watching film. And they thought Alabama was better.

This isn’t bullshit. Let’s not treat it as such. No one liked the BCS. No one wanted a formula. Football is too subjective. This was an attempt to make the system and the competition as good as possible. And while there will obviously be blips along the way, it’s hard to argue with this year’s results. And ultimately, that is why we should be optimistic about the committee and trust their process going forward.

The Bottom Line: Was Alabama one of the Four Best Teams?

How many times have I used the phrase “four best teams” in writing this article? That’s what’s been drilled into my head the more I listen to the committee, to Kirk Herbstreit, to people who talk about the CFP and understand the system. That’s what it’s about. So at the end of the day, Alabama was the right choice if they were one of the four best teams. So were they?

I’m not a big fan of using results to justify the process. In fact, I think it’s one of the biggest problems in sports (and politics, and society in general…). But with this, it’s different. The only way to say if Alabama was one of the four best teams is if they beat the other top teams. And that’s exactly what they did.

Look, we won’t ever know how Ohio State would have done if they had gotten in. We can guess, but we can’t say for sure. But we do know how Alabama did. And the results speak for themselves.

It’s funny looking back at the youtube comments on the final CFP rankings reveal video. Everyone was saying Alabama would get destroyed by Clemson. I mean, I think we forget with how high a regard this Clemson team was held. They were considered by many, including the committee, to be the best team in the country. Alabama beat them 24-6 in the semifinal. And we know what happened next. Bama came back down 20-7 to beat Georgia in OT. In the same way that Oklahoma’s offense stalled late in the game when it played Georgia in the Rose Bowl, Georgia’s offense stalled late in the game in National Championship. At the end of the day, Alabama’s defense is the gold standard, and they can play with absolutely anybody.

Sure, there were a lot of things that could have gone differently in that game, like in any Football game. But it wasn’t a fluky win (like Super Bowl 51 was, but that’s another conversation…). Bama was dominant in every facet of the game, and they earned the win.

If you can look me in the eye and tell me that you’re positive that Ohio State, after barely beating Wisconsin, could have gotten through Clemson and Georgia in the way that Alabama did, then by all means, more power to you. But I have trouble that most people could really believe that.

At the end of the day, the CFP Committee got it right. Their job was to pick the best teams, and that’s exactly what they did.

Why bring this up now?

Because no one would shut up about it, that’s why!

The CFP is broken! The committee is corrupt! ESPN is a joke! Bla bla bla…

Look, I’m not saying it was a no brainer. Heck I just spent over 5000 words writing about it. There’s obviously a ton that went into this and a ton to talk about. It’s something I myself struggled with a lot.

But it’s worth looking back. For one, because it’s simply an interesting exercise to reflect on process, evaluate what we were right and wrong about, what went into it, and how we can learn from it. But two, because going forward, the committee showed that, despite how upset everyone got, it made the right decision, and because of that it deserves our trust.

I’m not saying don’t question the committee. I’m not saying don’t keep having conversations about this moving forward. Absolutely do. At the same time, this was a decision that perplexed a lot of people at the time it was made. Now, with the season past us, hopefully having this discussion has made some things more clear in retrospect, and will allow us to better understand the process the next time something like this happens.

And let’s also remember, the next time people get upset and say that the CFP committee doesn’t know what they’re doing, that at the end of the day they put a team in that many people thought they shouldn’t, and that team went on to win a National Championship. Maybe they know some things that we don’t.

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