By Mike Bachini, CBS Connecticut
Connecticut (CBS) – Let the debate begin.
This weekend didn’t provide total chaos, but right now the committee is laboring over the decision to include 11-1 Alabama or 11-2 Ohio State in the college football playoff.
The top 3 are set. Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia took care of business. They will be in the top 3 when the rankings come out today at Noon on ESPN for the final time.
But who is #4?
Until the rankings are revealed, it is anybody’s guess. But I’ll try my best to use all the facts to make an educated guess. Either way, there will be one loud and proud fanbase that will not be happy with the result.
For USC fans wondering why their team isn’t included in the debate, I’m sorry. USC is in the same boat as Ohio State as they have a 35 point loss on their resume to Notre Dame. Sure Notre Dame is better than Iowa, but Ohio State also has better wins than USC. USC’s best wins are over Stanford twice and 7-5 Arizona. This won’t be their year.
What are some of the most important pros and cons for each team?
– They have been ranked 2,2,1,1,5 in the committee’s first 5 rankings. The committee is supposed to scrub the rankings and start over each week. But I find it hard to believe the 13 people inside that room will drastically change their opinions on Alabama after one week. Alabama was ranked 3 spots higher than Ohio State last week. Was what Ohio State did last night enough to jump them 4 spots and ahead of Alabama? That’s easier said than done.
– Alabama has looked like the best team in college football for the majority of the season. Yes, they have looked vulnerable the past few weeks with key injuries on defense. But having 6 weeks off to rest and prepare for their next opponent will only help turn back in to the Alabama of old rather than the one that has looked human in recent weeks.
– Alabama has only 1 loss. Ohio State would be the first 2-loss team to make it into the committee’s final top 4 in the short 4-year history of the playoff.
– Yes if Auburn had won yesterday the Tide could argue that their one loss was to the hottest team in the country on the road in a key rivalry game to the eventual SEC champion. But maybe Georgia winning helps their cause as well. Georgia looked awful in a 23-point blowout at Auburn just three weeks ago. But what did Georgia do on a neutral field yesterday? They beat that very same Auburn team by 21. I’m sure the committee is taking in to account the fact that Alabama could do the same.
– They did not win their conference. Nevermind that, they didn’t even win their division within the conference. This won’t be the ultimate nail in the coffin for the Tide, but it certainly doesn’t help that Ohio State’s last game was a win and Alabama’s last game was a loss. Alabama fans will argue that Ohio State didn’t win their conference last year and even lost to the eventual Big 10 champions Penn State last year and still got in over the Nittany Lions. But Ohio State’s resume was full of big wins. Ohio State beat Oklahoma on the road last year, they beat Michigan who went to the Orange Bowl and Wisconsin who went to the Cotton Bowl. Alabama doesn’t have 3 big wins like that. So the situations couldn’t be more different.
– Their resume doesn’t hold up to Ohio State’s. Alabama scheduled Florida State at the beginning of the season. The Seminoles were ranked #3 in the country and were the ACC preseason favorites. Unfortunately none of that matters now as FSU just barely reached 6 wins yesterday. The committee didn’t rank Florida State #3, the AP poll did. And that poll is useless now. Alabama’s best wins are over 9-3 LSU and 8-4 Mississippi State. They can’t even hang their hats on Fresno State either as they lost the Mountain West Championship game to Boise State last night 17-14 and are certain to drop out of the top 25 today.
– The committee has yet to put 2 teams from the same conference in the playoff. You could argue that there has never been an opportunity quite like this to have 2 teams from the same conference make it in in years past, but it’s still a point worth mentioning and the committee will be hard pressed to leave out both the Pac-12 and the Big 10 this year. Just as I mentioned above in the pros about there never being a 2-loss team in the playoff working in Alabama’s favor, well this point works against Alabama. Either way, there will be a first this year.
– They are conference champions. It will be very hard for the committee to leave out the Big 10 champions if the teams are comparable.
– They have a much much better resume than Alabama. They have beaten 12-1 Wisconsin, 10-2 Penn State and 9-3 Michigan State on top of solid wins over 8-4 Michigan and 8-3 Army.
– They have at times looked like one of the best teams in the country. After their 2 losses this season, Ohio State has blown out teams. One of these was a 45 point blow out against Michigan State who the committee ranked #16 just last week.
– Not only do they have 2 losses, but they were non-competitive in each loss. Most, including myself, were forgiving the Buckeyes for their 15 point loss to Oklahoma at home in week 2 and giving them credit for even scheduling such a tough opponent. The Buckeyes should get some credit for scheduling what turned out to be one of the best teams in the country. But if you lose by that much at home, how are you expected to compete on a neutral field a second time around? Add on top of that a completely inexcusable 31 point loss at 7-5 Iowa just a month ago. Ohio State’s game against Penn State is basically a microcosm of their entire season. In the first half they looked lost and downright awful. In the second half they looked like a championship contender. So which Ohio State is the real Ohio State? The one that just beat Wisconsin, has beaten Penn State and crushed Michigan State? Or the team that lost by 31 to Iowa? If the committee puts Ohio State #4 they risk the Buckeyes suffering the same fate they did last year against Clemson in the semifinal which was a 31-0 blowout in favor of the Tigers.
– Is a win over Wisconsin enough to vault the Buckeyes over the Tide? Wisconsin was 12-0 and the committee ranked them #4 just last weekend. But they clearly weren’t believers in the Badgers. Last week was the first time they ranked them in the top 4 despite being undefeated the whole season. Week by week, 1-loss teams were passing the Badgers and even last week 2-loss Auburn jumped over the Badgers. When ESPN reveals the rankings in reverse order today, it’ll be telling to see where the Badgers are slotted. They will be behind Ohio State, Alabama and USC and ahead of Miami. But will they fall behind Penn State? Will they stay behind Auburn? They will stay in the top 10, so this may all seem like splitting hairs. But when you take in to account the human element and how the committee has viewed Wisconsin all along, will a 6 point win against the Badgers be enough to move Ohio State up 4 spots and ahead of Alabama? If it was 59-0 like it was 3 years ago, sure. But did the Buckeyes leave no doubt in that game?
I’ve been going back and forth on this one since the end of the Big 10 Championship game last night. While Urban Meyer was accepting the Big 10 Championship trophy he was campaigning for his team to be included in the top 4. At the very same time, Nick Saban was on SportsCenter doing the same exact thing for his team. Either way, one of the true bluebloods in college football will be left out of the top 4. Both teams have such compelling arguments and such glaring holes that it just isn’t that simple.
If you favor resume, which I’m sure some in the committee do, it’s clearly Ohio State. They’ve proven much more than Alabama.
If you favor the eye test it’s clearly Alabama. Alabama was more likely to beat Iowa by 31 on the road than they were to lose by 31 like the Buckeyes did.
The committee has shown they can excuse a bad loss. If this weren’t the case, they wouldn’t have thought so highly of Clemson and their loss to 4-8 Syracuse all along. But can they excuse a bad loss when it is your 2nd loss of the season? That’s much tougher.
The committee’s job is to put the 4 best teams in the playoff. If you had to bet your mortgage on a game between Alabama and Ohio State on a neutral field tomorrow, who are you picking?
That’s why I’m picking Alabama. And I couldn’t be more nervous about the pick.
FINAL TOP 25
- Clemson 12-1
- Oklahoma 12-1
- Georgia 12-1
- Alabama 11-1
- Ohio State 11-2
- USC 11-2
- Auburn 10-3
- Wisconsin 12-1
- Penn State 10-2
- Miami 10-2
- UCF 12-0
- TCU 10-3
- Stanford 9-4
- Notre Dame 9-3
- Washington 10-2
- Michigan State 9-3
- LSU 9-3
- Washington State 9-3
- Oklahoma State 9-3
- Memphis 10-2
- Northwestern 9-3
- Virginia Tech 9-3
- Mississippi State 8-4
- NC State 8-4
- Boise State 10-3
Follow Mike Bachini this bowl season as he previews and predicts each game.