Committee May Face Tough Choice

Even though it would appear that only one of the four playoff spots is still in doubt, the possibilities remain intriguing. Let’s start with the nuclear option, in which Georgia knocks off Alabama in the SEC Conference Championship. This would give Georgia the most impressive victory among the one-loss contenders that include Oklahoma and Ohio State. Georgia would therefore solidify a spot in the top four, but I don’t anticipate that Alabama would drop out of this club based on their twelve straight weeks of annihilating every other opponent.

I believe Clemson would ascend to the top position while a Bama loss would keep them in the hunt at Number four. Georgia and Notre Dame would be pitted against each other in the other semifinal game. I seriously doubt the committee would slot Georgia and Alabama at #2 and #3, respectively, thereby setting up an immediate rematch. The public would not be amused. Nor would it matter much if the committee rewarded Georgia for beating Alabama by lifting them to the #2 spot above the Fighting Irish, since that argument would be settled on the field by these schools.

But let’s now assume that Alabama takes care of Georgia as most people expect. Unless the margin of victory is very narrow (and we’ll discuss a close Bama victory later), Georgia will have two losses and would be hard pressed to argue its case if either Oklahoma and Ohio State win their conference championships and are sitting at 12-1. Georgia already has a 20-point loss to LSU, and another beatdown by the Tide will put them on ice.

Wins by favorites Oklahoma and Ohio State coupled with a Georgia loss will trigger a debate between the Sooners and Buckeyes, and both teams have some explaining to do. Oklahoma will have avenged its only loss by beating Texas on Saturday, and that’s a big plus for them. The negative is they play in a league that can’t even spell defense, and none of their wins were comparatively impressive. Beating Army in overtime at home and edging Oklahoma State by 48-47 and West Virginia by 59-56 earn no extra bragging rights.

The Buckeyes have even bigger problems. Their win over Michigan is better than any of Oklahoma’s accomplishments, but they have a fairly recent 29-point loss to explain. OSU followed that fiasco by barely getting past Big-10 Conference mediocrities Nebraska and Maryland by the slimmest of margins.

While the committee will have an easier task if only one of Georgia, Oklahoma and Ohio State wins on Saturday, the greatest turmoil will ensue if Oklahoma and Ohio State emerge as conference champs while Georgia goes down. The committee will have to hold its nose and pick one of the two, and right now they seem to favor the Sooners by virtue of ranking them fifth over the #6 Buckeyes.

Can Ohio State jump Oklahoma by throttling Northwestern while the Sooners just get past Texas? I think not. Texas is the main rival of the Sooners and a clear sight better than the Wildcats. In the end, the Sooners will have avenged a three point loss while Ohio State still can’t remove the stink of the Purdue game.

It seems the only difficult decision will come if Georgia barely loses to Alabama while both Oklahoma and Ohio State either lose or look decidedly unimpressive. To reward Georgia for a close loss but managing to avoid a semifinal rematch with Alabama, the committee would have to raise the then 11-2 Bulldogs to the third postion over 12-0 Notre Dame. Probably not happening.

In that case, the committee would have to hold its nose and put Oklahoma in the playoffs at number four, since Central Florida and Michigan would be even poorer choices.

16 thoughts on “Committee May Face Tough Choice

  1. Barring a Georgia upset victory, I’m not sure how anyone can make a legitimate case of Ohio St over Oklahoma unless we have exclusively moved into a world where one good game trumps a a ton of mediocre performances. Ohio St got smoked to a 6-6 Purdue team and should’ve lost to another mediocre Maryland team. They just haven’t looked anywhere near a playoff team. Oklahoma while not playing Defense has a championship level offense and we’ve seen them prove this style can compete and even beat the top of the SEC in the past.

    • I totally agree with everything you’ve stated. No way a floundering 0$U jumps Oklahoma in any scenario. Another thing, I am sick to death of hearing about the blazing speed of 0$U that was on display against Michigan. Where was that same speed against Purdue, Nebraska, and Maryland (a game in which Maryland looked like the faster team IMHO). One good game against Michigan and, all-of-the-sudden, ESPN makes them out to be world beaters. Not true by any stretch. If the Buckeyes were to jump Oklahoma, that would be a huge controversy, if you ask me.

  2. Great analysis… my thoughts exactly and pretty darn near what I have been telling most everyone for the last week. You need to fix one thing, though… Georgia would be 11-2 with a loss to Alabama (you have them at 10-2 in the article).

  3. GeronimoRumplestiltskin says:

    “The Buckeyes have even bigger problems. Their win over Michigan is better than any of Oklahoma’s accomplishments, but they have a fairly recent 29-point loss to explain.”

    Recent? It was on October 20th. October is only one month removed from September, which according to B1G calendars was so long ago as to be barely remembered and irrelevant. Likewise, tOSU’s subpar efforts against NU and Maryland are ancient history – they occurred B.M.G. (Before the Michigan Game, the only B1G game that really matters, and therefore the only game in college football that really matters). All that really matters in determining playoff spots is “Did you beat Michigan by as much as tOSU?”. If not, you belong behind tOSU. Simple.

  4. Since ND is in the playoff and we have the weekend to watch the potential opponents have you given any thought to a what if match up scenario including the 2 or 3 likely opponents?

    • I haven’t done much analysis of these potential opponents, but I have a few gut reactions to most of the possible matchups. I would not be afraid to play Oklahoma or Georgia. Ohio State would be tough if Urban has a month to prepare for us. We would undoubtedly see the good OSU and not the lousy OSU if they got in and drew us as their opponent. They are high on talent and low on character, but in one high stakes game I don’t think anyone would want to play them.

      The most likely matchup for ND appears to be Clemson. Although it would be a tall order to beat them, I would not dismiss the possibility out of hand. I expect it would be a close game. Before making a pick I want to get a sense of how our offensive line is coming along in practice and in their overall health, because that battle with Clemson’s DL is the key matchup for ND.

      Unfortunately, I don’t give us much of a shot to beat Alabama. There’s no shame in that because they are the best team, and I don’t give anyone else much of a shot, either.

      • On the other hand Alabama is also a collection of earth-bound 18 to 23 year olds, and Notre Dame has had a full season of playing well together. Go Irish!

      • Most pundits and especially SEC media/fans love to hold the title game from 6 years ago against us. It’s fair to a certain degree but they are completely ignoring more recent history against elite programs. More recently we have went to the wire with 3 playoff teams, FSU (2014, last second robbery), Clemson (2015, last second missed 2pt conversion) and Georgia last year. We showed signs of breaking through with the LSU win in the bowl. While Alabama is in a league of their own and take a bunch of breaks going our way everyone else is beatable including Clemson. Since we are most likely playing them, I hope we can get the game in Texas instead of Miami (Texas has always treated us better then Miami). I’d love to see our D-Line take a crack at that true freshmen QB and hope the O-Line holds up enough to give Book time to make just enough plays. It could be a classic type of game. The only other realistic opponent would be Georgia if they upset Bama and while we would be the underdog, we’ve shown that we can compete with them. Really 1 playoff win, would do wonders for the perception of this program and likelihood of getting back into future playoffs.

  5. Thank you for the in-depth analysis. A few points of disagreement, however:

    1. I think that a Georgia loss to Alabama probably would eliminate Georgia from playoff consideration, particularly if either Oklahoma or Ohio State wins. While one certainly can make an argument that Georgia is the best of those three teams, even with a loss to Alabama, in that situation, elevating Georgia to the playoff means that the committee would have to select a two-loss non-conference champion (Georgia) over a one-loss conference champion (Oklahoma and/or Ohio State). Yes, in the past the committee has selected non-conference champions over conference champions — Alabama over Ohio State last year, and Ohio State over Penn State in 2016. The difference between those situations and the current one, however, is that in both of those situations, the non-champion had only one loss, while the conference champion had two. Here, the situation is reversed. I just don’t see the Committee going down that road.

    2. Far be it from me to defend Ohio State, but I do believe that the Committee is punishing Ohio State for its blowout loss to Purdue. I believe that is the only reason Ohio State is ranked below Oklahoma, and based on the fact that the Committee has determined, in no uncertain terms, that Texas is a better team than Northwestern, along with the current rankings, I don’t see any possibility of Ohio State leapfrogging Oklahoma if both teams win. As for the all-important fourth and final playoff spot, I think this week’s rankings clearly indicate the order of priority. Georgia is in with a win. Oklahoma needs a win and a Georgia loss. Ohio State needs a win and losses by both Georgia and Oklahoma. The real dilemma occurs if all of those teams lose. The Committee still would have to pick a fourth team, and any of the remaining Power 5 conference champions — Texas (three losses), Washington/Utah winner (three losses) or Northwestern (four losses) — would not be a credible selection. The Committee would have to choose from among Georgia, Oklahoma and Ohio State, and perhaps you could throw in Michigan and UCF (assuming they win against Memphis). Georgia probably is the best of that group, but then you would be back to an immediate rematch between Alabama and Georgia.

    It’s also worth noting the following:

    1. If the final team comes down to a choice between Oklahoma and Ohio State, that would be decided by only 10 of the 13 committee members. The following members would have to recuse themselves from those discussions: Gene Smith, Joe Castiglione (Oklahoma AD), and Frank Beamer (son is a member of the Oklahoma coaching staff).

    2. Expanding the outlook to the NY6, Penn State may be a victim of schedenfreude. If the season ended today, Penn State would qualify for a NY6 bowl. However, it’s more likely than not that they’ll be bumped from the NY6 after the dust settles. As I see it, the only scenarios where Penn State will remain in the NY6 picture, despite being idle this week, are as follows: (1) Georgia, Oklahoma and Ohio State all win; or (2) Oklahoma and Ohio State both win, Georgia loses, and Ohio State somehow leapfrogs Oklahoma into the #4 position.

    • Your so-called disagreements don’t make any sense, because you essentially agreed with my positions. You probably didn’t read them very closely. Regarding your item number one, I concluded that Georgia would not make the playoffs with even a close loss to Alabama. You made the same point. As for number two, I stated that the committee would choose Oklahoma over Ohio State if both teams won on Saturday. Again, you did not disagree.

      Also, an immediate rematch between Georgia and Alabama is not happening under any circumstances.

      And finally, I don’t give a shit about Penn State.

      • Love the Penn St comment…One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is the stupidity behind creating divisions within conferences. If the idea is really to create a “play in” for the playoffs, then these conferences need to scrap divisions and best two records meet. I think the better idea is the Power 5 gets their regular season champion in and they add 3 additional playoff spots. Makes the regular season matter more, still gives a very good 2 loss team who played a great schedule or even a 1 loss team who losses a tiebreaker a chance to get in plus allows an upstart team (UCF, Boise St etc…) a better shot to grab the 8th seed. If they really want to make it perfect, have the better seed host on campus the opening round. Talk about excitement!

  6. I agree if all the favorites win that it is OU over tOSU.

    Here is an interesting side thought just to stir the pot. What happens if Alabama, OU, tOSU and PITT win? Presumably two spots for three one loss teams. The Pitt loss would be almost on a par with Purdue, but Clemson has had the weakest schedule of any of the three one loss teams at that point. Would the committee exclude Clemson for OU and tOSU?

    Conference championships won is supposed to matter. The committee has taken teams that did not make their championship game, but never a championship loser.