The College Football Playoff Committee Failed

By Mark Nagi

Last week the College Football Playoff Committee picked the four teams that will take part in the playoff. 13-0 Big Ten champion Michigan and 13-0 Pac 12 champion Washington were no brainers. 12-1 Texas won the Big 12 and got in as well.

It came down to a choice between 13-0 ACC champion and 12-1 SEC champion Alabama. Never in the ten-year history of the CFB playoff had an undefeated Power 5 conference champion been left out.

Until now.

The committee in their infinite wisdom chose to put the Crimson Tide in the playoff and keep the Seminoles from having a chance at playing for a national championship.

As expected, the outrage machine on the television and radio talk shows. Twitter was its typical dumpster fire. Arguments back and forth constantly.

Florida State lost their quarterback, Jordan Travis, to injury a couple of weeks ago. Since then, they have gone 3-0 with wins at rival Florida and over Louisville in the ACC title game. The Seminoles offense was down to a third-string QB for the win over the Cardinals.

The committee, for some reason, considers key injuries when picking playoff teams. They chose to ignore how the injury to Travis didn’t stop the Seminoles from winning. The FSU defense is legit, with NFL talent all over the place. But the injury to Travis gave the committee just enough of an excuse to keep Florida State out and promote the SEC champions.

Is FSU as good today as they were before the Travis injury? Of course not. Does this mean that they can’t beat any of the other teams in the playoffs? Of course not.

And there’s the biggest problem with this entire thing. You can have any opinion you want on the topic, but the truth is that the committee chose to favor what they think might happen in some hypothetical, make-believe matchup over what they have seen with their own eyes.

I saw Florida State do everything they have been asked to do. They’ve won every game. They went 2-0 against SEC teams (LSU, Florida) and 3-0 against ranked opponents. I also saw Alabama struggle against mediocre opponents like South Florida, Texas A&M and Arkansas, and needed a miracle (and awful defense) to escape 6-6 Auburn with a win — the same Auburn team that got smoked the previous week against New Mexico State.

But the committee chose to ignore all those facts and concentrate on Alabama’s win in the SEC title game against Georgia.

Last year the committee did everything they could to get Alabama into the playoff. They ranked them ahead of Tennessee, despite the facts that Tennessee beat Alabama, that Tennessee beat the same LSU team that beat Alabama, and the fact that Tennessee’s strength of schedule was better.

Instead, the committee centered their choice on the season-ending injury to Vols quarterback Hendon Hooker, ignoring how backup Joe Milton fared as his replacement. Alabama finished ranked fifth, with Tennessee sixth.

The CFB playoff committee says that they are trying to get the “best” four teams in the playoff. That’s fine and good to say, but what constitutes “best?” It is a continually moving term for them, and something they’ve never really done in the past. They are now basically saying that they’ll go with the team that would be favored in a pretend meeting.

That’s fine… but aren’t we forgetting that you actually have to play the game? Upsets happen all the time. Washington was a huge underdog but beat Oregon. Alabama was the underdog and beat Georgia. If this is the way they are picking teams, then why are they even playing the games? Just let the folks in the big, shiny buildings in the Nevada desert tell us which team they think would win and go from there.

Another part of this equation (and there are many) involves Alabama. If the situation was reversed, and Alabama’s quarterback was hurt before the SEC title game, there is no chance that the Crimson Tide would be left out of the playoff. None.

The influence that Alabama head coach Nick Saban has over the sport should not be discounted. The committee chose to keep him happy.

I’ll accept that this was a tough call for the committee, and next year the decisions won’t be as tough thanks to the expansion of the playoff to 12 teams.

But in the final year of this deeply flawed four-team system, the committee gave us a deeply flawed decision.

I feel terrible for the Florida State kids because the adults in the room got it wrong.