Did the Committee Get it Right or Wrong? The Case for Each of the CFP Contenders

in steemsports •  7 days ago

SteemSports Presenter:@thesportsguy
SteemSports Editor:@scottybuckets
Championship weekend provided a lot of status quo, but not much for the fans of chaos and anarchy to be happy about. Favorites Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Ohio State, and UCF all won their Conference Title games, which meant there ended up being several very legitimate contenders, that each have what they believe to be a correct claim to be included in the last four. Ultimately, the Oklahoma Sooners were the committee's choice for the final spot, and I've ragged all year long about the committee's seemingly love-at-all-cost admiration of the Sooners. This week, however, I do have to give Oklahoma credit as they avenged their only loss of the season by defeating Texas by 12 and actually playing very good defensively. It was exactly the kind of showing that OU needed to book their place in the playoff.
Many others, however, were not that convinced that the Sooners should have been the pick, and believed that Georgia, Ohio State, or Central Florida had just as much of a claim to be in than anyone else. It is actually the perfect scenario for playoff expansion - a couple of 1-loss conference Champions playing in conferences that both had bit of down years (Big XII definitely; Big Ten somewhat), a two-loss team that did not win its conference, but lost its title game to the clear #1 team in the land by a close margin, and then finally, an unbeaten team outside of the "power 5" that has mowed through its competition. How do you decipher between them all?

Below we will go over the four above listed contenders, giving reasons for being left in and reasons for being left out. We will start with the team that got in, the Big XII Champion Oklahoma Sooners:
OKLAHOMA (12-1, #4 CFP) Big XII Conference Champion
Reason for being in:
The Sooners were able to avenge their only loss of the season (45-48) to rival Texas, by taking care of the Longhorns 39-27 in the Big XII Title game. The big knock on the Sooners had been their defense - or lack there of. In their final four games heading into the rematch with Texas, OU had allowed 47.2 points per game to teams with a combined record of 22-25. That's not a good look, and certainly doesn't scream playoff material. But, they went out and actually won the game behind their defense in the 4th quarter.
With about 8:30 to go, the Sooners D recorded a safety that increased their lead to 32-27 and allowed them to get the ball back as well. They took control of the game and put it out of reach with the ensuing touchdown drive. One other positive for the Oklahoma defense was that they held Texas to just 2.8 yards per rush for the game. Overall, the Sooners are a 1-loss conference champion, who avenged that loss and beat every team on their schedule. That is a leg-up on both Georgia and Ohio State.
Reason for being out:
Well there is this whole issue about how bad the Big XII actually was this year. Oklahoma owns four quality wins this season: @ Iowa State (8-4), Army OT (9-2), @ West Virginia (8-3), and then Texas (9-4) this past Saturday. The defense was not good, and they were very fortunate to be 12-1. Army is one of their quality wins, as they finished the regular season with a 3-1 record against teams that were ranked at the time. One could argue that the Sooners' play down the stretch was the least impressive out of the four contenders as a whole. And believe-it-or-not their overall resume really isn't any better than UCF's when you break it down.

GEORGIA (11-2, #5 CFP) Lost in SEC Title Game
Reason for being in:
If the task of the CFP committee is to select the "four best" period, doesn't matter about the win-loss records, conference champions, or undefeated or not, then Georgia certainly could be included in the playoff. They led Alabama in the second half, by two touchdowns only to give up 21 straight and fall by a touchdown, 35-28. That is hardly a bad loss, but actually quite the contrary. Their other loss is not a bad one either, on the road to a top-10 ranked LSU (9-3, #10 CFP). They own impressive wins over Missouri (8-4) W 42-29, Florida (9-3) W 36-17, Kentucky (9-3) W 34-17, Auburn (7-5) W 27-10, Georgia Tech (7-5) W 45-21, and South Carolina (7-5) W 41-17. Two of those wins were against teams inside of the top 10 at the time (9 Florida, 9 Kentucky). It is the most impressive resume from top-to-bottom outside of top-ranked Alabama.
Reason for being out:
The problem is, the whole wins and in UGA's case losses thing. If the wins and losses don't matter, then why play the SEC title game if both teams are going to get in anyway? Something should also be said for a conference champion. The other issue is, the Bulldogs just had their chance and held a 2-touchdown lead early in the third quarter, but failed to score any points at all after the 12:39 mark of the third quarter, while allowing the Tide to score 21 unanswered to close out the game. Georgia had their opportunity and couldn't get it done. Plus the loss at LSU wasn't by a field goal or a touchdown, it was by 20 - 36-16.
OHIO STATE (12-1, #6 CFP) Big TEN Conference Champion
Reason for being in:
The Buckeyes boast one thing that only Georgia and Alabama do, and that is wins over teams ranked in the top 25 at the time of the game. Ohio State went 5-0 in such games, but two of the those games were against a TCU early in the season that finished just 5-7, and Michigan State, who also was disappointing down the stretch, finishing just 7-5. So it depends how much weight you want to put in that metric. That being said, they actually own by far the most impressive win out of any of the four contenders with their 62-39 romping of rival Michigan last week. By rankings standards, the blowout of the Wolverines, who were ranked #4 the CFP committee, is easily the best win compared to Georgia (#9 Florida), Oklahoma (#13 West Virginia), and Central Florida (#19 Cincinnati). A victory over #12 Penn State also stacks up well for the Buckeyes. They out-scored #4 Michigan 62-39 and #22 Northwestern 45-24 in the past two weeks, so the argument can be made that if you want the team playing the best heading into the playoff, the Buckeyes could certainly make that claim.
Reason for being out:
Outside of those past two football games, and a 26-6 win over an offensively challenged Michigan State, and a 1-point come-from-back victory at Penn State, the Buckeyes played some pretty average, to down-right awful football at times. They were completely dominated in a blowout loss, 49-20 at Purdue, and then followed that up by narrowly defeating a self-inflicting Nebraska squad at home, who came in with just a 2-6 record at the time. Two weeks ago they were very fortunate to get out of Maryland with a 52-51 victory in overtime to a team that finished the season just 5-7. There is nothing about any of the above that screams "playoff worthy". None of the other playoff contenders, including UCF, has any kind of a poor stretch of play remotely close to that degree.

CENTRAL FLORIDA (12-0, #8 CFP) American Athletic Conference Champions
Reason for being in:
Hey, all they've done is win 25 consecutive games, and finished each of the last two seasons as undefeated American Champs. They showed true heart and grit when they overcame the adversity of losing star QB McKenzie Milton to a horrific knee injury last week, as they went into the AAC title game with Freshman QB Darriel Mack Jr. The Knights fell behind 38-21 to Memphis at halftime of the AAC title game on Saturday, after their young replacement QB - who was making his first start in a game of this magnitude - committed a couple of turnovers early that led to 10 points for the Tigers. After a 35-3 second half, and 4 rushing touchdowns from Mack, UCF rallied past Memphis for an impressive 56-41 victory. They have one common opponent with unbeaten and also 12-0 #3 Notre Dame - Pittsburgh (7-6). The Irish struggled to pull out a 19-14 home win, while UCF throttled the Panthers 45-14. It was a perceived down year for the Big TEN, and the Big XII, ACC, and Pac 12 all had poor seasons as a collective. The American Athletic actually had a pretty good season overall, and enjoyed a better season than on average, so it was actually an "up" year for the conference. Overall, they defeated six teams with winning records, four of which were 8-5 or better.
This team has dealt with more than probably any other this year, between the divisiveness they generated in college football conversations all season long, and with the injury to Milton last week. They've been downgraded, counted out, and thrown to the side all season long, but all they've done is finish undefeated, with just 1 game being decided by less than 11 points. What else does UCF have to do? Four undefeated teams, four spots in the playoff…
Reason for being out:
Well, there is the whole issue of quality wins. One win against teams ranked in the top 25, just probably isn't quite enough. The American Athletic conference is not nearly as grueling as the Big Ten or SEC. They still struggled with teams as well. Narrowly winning at Memphis (8-5) (31-30) during the season, and defeating Temple (8-4) by 12, and Navy (3-9) by 11. One non-conference game against a team with a winning record (Pitt, 7-6) doesn't help either. The overall resume just isn't quite good enough in the end.
Final Takeaway:
In the end, I've got UCF in at #4. I'd like to see the four unbeaten teams go at-it and I feel like they've earned it. That being said, I really think Georgia is one of the four best teams in the country, but they finished with 2 losses and did not win a conference title. They are the perfect reason, in my opinion, for an expansion to an 8-team playoff. Georgia would be in, Ohio State would be in, and UCF would get their crack at Alabama in a 8 vs 1 matchup. Behind UCF at 4, I've got the Sooners at 5, just barely edging out Georgia, because of the conference title, and the fact that they were able to avenge their only loss of the season with the win this past weekend. Georgia at 6, which is really difficult to have them there. I actually could see an argument for the Bulldogs being anywhere from #3 to #6 believe-it-or-not. Ohio State would be #7. When it's this close between several different teams for the final spot, and you're the only one that owns a blowout loss to a 5-7 team on your resume, it is going to be the deciding factor.
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