It will come as a surprise to no one that when the College Football Playoff committee sets its final table for deciding this year’s football final four, that the unbeaten Big 12 representative isn’t Oklahoma or Oklahoma State.
There’s not a rock broad enough or heavy enough to keep that news from getting around to anyone on Planet Earth who has cared to find out. The Bedlam rivals (for just a few years more it seems) combined for a 13-11 mark, the win total being just one above 12-0 Georgia, Michigan and TCU.
Yes, no crimson, no orange not even green this weekend in Arlington. It’s all Deep Purple - Kansas State and the Horned Frogs.
But be it because they’re TCU, or be it the Big 12’s lack of success in winning games since the CFP came about, it’s a strong bet the committee is just waiting to chop some frog legs off the board with a loss on Saturday.
Out with the amphibian, back with the bluebloods and hello, Big Ten title game non-participant Ohio State. Or maybe even two-loss Alabama, who barely got by Texas and Texas A&M as well, and the crossed fingers of the SEC outside of Knoxville, where a same two-loss Vols team beat Bama. Both of them are like Ohio State, peddling their cases to any ears that will tune in.
The unavoidable truth of this whole process is the CFP committee, or what some call the Cartel Football Playoff Committee, does what people can’t avoid. They have internal biases, they make criteria that seems to be important one week and less important the next week.
Only emphatic statements by involved teams can back them into a corner quietly. And in this week’s case, that can only happen if Michigan beats Purdue, the winner of the historically weaker division of the Big Ten, Georgia beats an LSU team backing the truck in after losing to a non-bowl qualifier A&M team, then TCU takes care of K-State.
And finally (deep breath Sooner fans), if Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams lead USC over a Utah team that back-doored its way into the Pac-12 title game.
Then it’s clear — four conference champions, all with no more than a loss. The other Power Five champ could be a two-loss Clemson against another back-sliding team in Mack Brown’s Carolina Tar Heels.
Otherwise, truthfully it will come down to opinions, measures of influence among friends and probably some arm-twisting from ESPN.
Like, remember 2014, when TCU and Baylor tied atop the Big 12 with one loss, yet neither made the playoff — TCU fell from 3 to 6 after a 59-3 season-ending win over Iowa State, losing its spot to Ohio State, which wiped the floor with Wisconsin in the Big 10 championship? On the committee that year was Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez and Nebraska’s Tom Osborne. You remember Tom, the guy who helped seek more fertile fields for Husker athletics while making it known over time he never liked the Texas insurgency and influence takeover of the Big 12? Stepping out of conflictory votes or not, they’re in the room during the weeks of discussion and definite reps of the Big Ten.
Yahoo Sports columnist Dan Wetzel wrote Sunday that Saturday’s games should have no impact on who goes to the playoff — only seeding. He has a point, but his dream is being blown through a pipe. The committee would never yield that much power with unfinished business at hand.
Here’s a thought. Especially in a four-team playoff but usable even in a 12-team playoff coming soon to a bowl near you:
Conference championships are supposed to mean something. That was what they told us in 2014 when the Big 12 didn’t play one.
It would seem awkward to do this immediately, given the rules weren’t in place at the outset — but how about the first spots being given to conference champs?
What if Kansas State, Purdue, Utah, LSU and North Carolina all win this week? Chaos has never seen such a mess. Bias in that room would likely prioritize one or two-loss teams that couldn’t win their first championship opportunity. Heck, a team that got blown out trying to get an opportunity might be the top seed in that scenario.
Look back in the AP/UPI voter era. Conference champs went to their respective bowl games, were considered the teams in the running for the national title, then the voters decided which conference champ was the best after the bowls. Only Notre Dame, Miami and Penn State ever messed that up as independents. All but Notre Dame is in that boat now.
If you can’t be a champion to begin with, it’s a farce. the CFP is no more than an invitational tournament and conference championships are meaningless. Heck, I’ll refer back to my position when OU in 2003 steamrolled everyone but K-State. K-State won the conference and OU won a spot against LSU in the BCS format, which left a Pac-12 champ USC out. USC, one might say, atoned for that slight the next year in Miami against the Sooners.
Taking the four highest-rated of the five Power 5 conference champions (or a Group of 5 or Notre Dame if it breaks into the top four) would pit the teams that did what was required to be called a champion in the first place. With a future 12-team bracket, do that with the top four, and let the other eight go to the fifth champ and wild-cards.
The CFP would rank a top 25 right up to the conference championships, then simply seed the final four.
It’s a playoff system similar to that which has always worked in the NFL. Imagine a division winner sent home after week 17 of the regular season.
Makes no sense.
So committee, the smartest thing would not be to declare the final four now, but let the best of the conference champs go.
Sorry Irish, Lincoln and Caleb dumped on you last week, so no independents welcome.
That dump is something some of us up this way can relate to.