Columnists, Sports

Going for Two: Breaking down the College Football Playoff Ranking

Clemson has played to a 6-1 record at Memorial Stadium this season. PHOTO COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Clemson has played to a 6-1 record at Memorial Stadium this season. PHOTO COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The College Football Playoff Selection Committee released its final rankings on Saturday night, placing four teams in the coveted College Football Playoffs with a chance to capture the national title.

The Alabama Crimson Tide, the Clemson Tigers, the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Washington Huskies were all selected for the NCAA’s third annual postseason. And while the decisions came with some scrutiny, ultimately the committee made the right decisions with its four participants.

Alabama was by far the easiest decision that the committee had to make. The Tide rolled past the No. 15 Florida Gators en route to their third consecutive SEC championship title. This season the Crimson Tide have been literally unstoppable, as they’ve roared to a perfect 13-0 record.

Against the University of Mississippi in mid-September, Jalen Hurts and company stormed back from a 24-3 deficit in the final minutes of the first half to cut the deficit to one score. The Tide then parlayed that momentum into a 31-point second half, and a monumental victory.

Taking the No. 2 seed in the playoff are the champions from the ACC, the Clemson Tigers. Once again led by quarterback Deshaun Watson, coach Dabo Swinney and boasting the sixth-best offense in the nation, the Tigers captured their second straight ACC title by downing No. 19 Virginia Tech in Orlando.

While the Tigers have proven their mettle with hard-fought wins over good teams, I am surprised by the decision to move them up over Ohio State.

Both squads have lost one game apiece this season; however, the Buckeyes’ loss came to now-No. 5 Penn State, while Clemson’s defeat came at home to an 8-4 University of Pittsburgh team.

Though the committee highly values conference championships among the top four seeds, the Buckeyes surpass the Tigers by miles when it comes to the eye test.

The Buckeyes have laid claim to high quality wins over teams like then-No. 14 Oklahoma, then-No. 8 Wisconsin, and then-No. 3 Michigan. Ohio State’s quality of wins blows Clemson’s far out of the water while its lone loss is also more palatable than the Tigers.

The mere fact that Clemson beat a team with four losses for the ACC Championship should not give its resume so much of a boon that they leapfrog a superior Ohio State team. However, with both squads facing off in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, it really doesn’t matter.

What does matter is the fourth and final spot in the playoffs. After much debate and uncertainty throughout the season, the Huskies finally grabbed the final spot with a victory over Colorado in the Pacific-12 championship game.

Many fans and pundits around college football have been critical of Washington, citing a weak schedule as a reason to keep the Huskies on the outside looking in. Those critics have a point.

With most ranked teams coming east of the Rocky Mountains, playing good football in a not-so-good conference has handicapped Washington. The Huskies also have a home loss against No. 9 University of Southern California, which didn’t even play in its conference championship game.

A team like Michigan, which has been the best defense in the nation throughout the season, was one of the few teams vying for that final playoff spot.

While many Wolverines fans complain that losses to Ohio State and a stingy Iowa defense on the road should hurt less than the Huskies’ pair of defeats, the conference champion factor once again rears its head.

However, I’m not so perplexed by this decision. Washington has had a powerhouse of an offense the entire year and was able to exorcise a demon by beating Colorado. While the Wolverines and Penn State both play in a much tougher conference, the fact of the matter is that Washington fulfills the want and need for a West Coast team.

Like it or not, the fact that Washington plays in the Pac-12 and brings the West’s media market matters to the committee. Is it the right decision? Who knows? Is it one I understand? Yes. Is it one I agree with? No.

While debates will rage on about who should be in and who should be ranked where, one thing is for certain: we should all tune in on New Year’s Eve.

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