- Marcus Hartman
First off, let’s be clear: I don’t really think Ohio State got a raw deal in being left out of the College Football Playoff this year.
Neither the Buckeyes nor Alabama had much to complain about given what they did and did not do on the field in 2017.
Both teams were absolutely at the mercy of the committee going into Sunday, and the committee showed favor to the Crimson Tide despite a lack of compelling evidence to do so.
The Buckeyes had more positive marks on their resume, but there were also more negatives.
Here are five takeaways from Sunday:
1. The Alabama announcement sounded like an early death knell for the four-team playoff.
I don’t know how long it’s going to take for an expansion to eight teams, but I’m pretty certain it’s going to happen for the same reason Alabama making the BCS championship in 2011 killed the two-team system.
This proves again every game doesn’t matter, which was the mantra the BCS reps leaned on and the one used by defenders of the four-team playoff against expansion.
If we’re still just guessing who are the best four teams, we might as well just go back to voting on the winner on Jan. 2.
2. The obvious problem with the four-team deal continues to be there are five power conferences.
The conferences are very hard to compare in any given year, and we start necessarily having to leave out one based on some assumptions that may or may not be correct.
That’s not ideal, and it’s often going to be unsatisfying.
But leaving out two leagues even when none were dominant (or blatantly down) is even worse.
(Ironically if this were 2011 it would have made a lot more sense because LSU and Alabama reasonably were considered to be a lot better than everyone else.)
Now that the conference of Jim Delany, one of college football’s ultimate powerbrokers, has been spurned, I would expect change to happen sooner or later.
3. My main takeaway from CFP chairman Kirby Hocutt’s appearance on ESPN after the final four was revealed was the committee simply felt Alabama was better than Ohio State.
Therefore, they used whatever justification they wanted to explain the decision to pick the Crimson Tide. That was the Buckeyes’ blowout loss at Iowa.
I want the the four best teams to make it, but only when it’s unequivocal who those are.
That was not this year.
Neither team really passed the eye test, so claiming one did rang really hollow -- especially since Football Outsiders ranked Ohio State ahead of Alabama overall and in terms of strength of schedule.
That is why I still would have gone back to the resumes, and I have always felt comparing wins was better than comparing losses because if nothing else it is a larger sample size.
I’m also more interested in what a team is like on its best days than its worst, but if the committee disagrees that’s how it’s going to be I guess.
And yet Hocutt’s statement, “Alabama was clearly the No. 4 ranked team in the country as a non-champion,” just doesn’t hold water to me.
4. If we’re really just going with the four best teams, it’s a shame for Ohio State that didn’t start earlier in the playoff era.
In 2015, Ohio State was probably one of the top two let alone four, but the Buckeyes were not afforded the same treatment as Alabama this year.
That year, too, the Buckeyes could have made the argument moot by taking care of business against Michigan State, but that’s beside the point. At least they finished the season by crushing Michigan in Ann Arbor, leaving a positive last impression rather than a loss like the 2017 Crimson Tide.
It was generally agreed upon that was a special Ohio State team even with its flaws.
Can we say that about this Alabama squad?
5. But what could prevent expanding the playoff?
The conferences (who made up the BCS and comprise the group that oversees the playoff) might still draw the line in the sand at four teams in the playoff so they can protect their garbage championship game cash cows that often don’t mean anything in the playoff discussion when all is said and done.
Lots of people say every year the first weekend of December works as the round of eight, but that’s obviously not true since 50 percent of the time a playoff participant has not even taken part.
A move to eight teams could guarantee the importance of a conference championship by granting the Power 5 winners a spot and leave room for someone who might have had a fluke loss, be in a league that really had two of the top four or five teams in the country or be Notre Dame. Also then someone like this season’s undefeated Central Florida could get a shot to be a college football Cinderella.
That could be fun, right?
They left room in the calendar to do this already, and expanding just this once wouldn’t upend the bowl system as a 16-team playoff would, which is why the latter will never happen.
It’s all fantasy for now, but I have a feeling we’re closer to it becoming reality than we have ever been.