The entire College Football regular season came down to this past weekend where Conference Championships were played for big bowl game invites and for a few teams, the possibility to earning a spot in the College Football Playoff.
On Saturday, the rankings for the playoffs stood as thus:
2.) Ohio State
7.) Penn State
Before we get into what transpired Saturday and the ultimate rankings that came out Sunday, let’s go over the controversial scenarios.
The biggest cog in this entire machine was the Big Ten Conference, which featured four teams in these top seven spots, who all had resumes that could possible find themselves into the top four playoff slots.
The biggest cog in that Big Ten dilemma was Penn State who after starting off the season slow, had roared to a 10-2 record with their exclamation point coming from a victory over a second- ranked Ohio State at home. What makes this controversial is the fact that Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan are all in one division within the Big Ten and therefore, only one team could make it to the conference championship game. Penn State would become the representative due to their victory over Ohio State and Ohio State’s victory over Michigan.
With Michigan’s loss to Ohio State and their earlier loss a couple weeks prior to Iowa on the road, they have two losses in conference play, which removed them from contention for the conference championship. So now, it came down to Ohio State and Penn State who each had one loss in conference play with Ohio State’s loss coming from Penn State, which gave Penn State the the nod to play in the championship game over the Buckeyes.
Outside of the Big Ten, Clemson and Washington were the teams who had to win their conference championship to have a shot to stay within the top four seeds in the playoff. According to experts, Clemson had more room for error even if they did lose do to the fact that they play in a power five conference in the ACC and a tough out of conference schedule while Washington playing in a weaker power five conference, the Pac-12 and having a very weak out of conference schedule and overall strength of schedule. In essence, Washington had everything to lose, if they lost on their Friday night Pac-12 Championship game. Even though Clemson had more room for error than Washington, it wasn’t much because Big Ten teams like Penn State, Wisconsin, and most notably Michigan were waiting in the shadows for one of those two teams to lose in order to sneak into the top four.
Suffice to say, Championship Weekend had a lot riding on it.
On Friday, Washington dazzled in the Pac-12 Championship Game versus a top ten ranked Colorado team who they completely overmatched. They won the game 41-10 and dominated from the first snap, giving off a great impression to the playoff committee who were likely holding a lot of consideration into not only if the Huskies won, but also how they won.
Despite this victory, they still weren’t completely sure if they were a lock for the playoff due to their weak overall schedule and lack of big wins versus non- conference opponents while teams like Michigan and Penn State played in the best conference in football this season and had big wins out of conference, especially Michigan.
On Saturday night, both Penn State and Clemson won their championship games with Clemson defeating Virginia Tech 42-35 in a shootout and Penn State, staying true to form, coming back from a 28-7 deficit to defeat Wisconsin in dramatic fashion 38-31.
This was the committee’s worst nightmare because Clemson, Washington, and Penn State all won, so now the big decisions have to come. And they did.
On Sunday at noon, the rankings came out… and the the top four teams stayed the same with the only change coming in Clemson moving up to the number two spot and Ohio State moving down to three. Washington stayed at four.
Now, the outrage came in the fact that Penn State’s impressive run came for naught as they were left out of the top four, coming in with the fifth ranking. Despite people’s reservations for this, it was the right call.
This year, the committee took record and the gravity of those wins and losses into account as the top priority after each of those teams won their conference championship games. Due to this fact, Penn State suffered.
Although Washington played in the Pac-12, they only had one blemish all season and that was a loss to a great USC team on November 12 who were ranked ninth at that point and much like Penn State, had been on a roll and playing like a top four team in the country. So in hindsight, it was a good loss for the Huskies. On the other side of the coin, Penn State had two blemishes that couldn’t be overlooked and needed extra care to be removed.
A three point loss to an early season University of Pittsburgh team who also struggled out the gate didn’t do them any favors, however, it was that Michigan loss that ultimate burned them in the end.
On September 24, Penn State lost to Michigan 49-10 and one of the most dominating games we saw this season. Granted this came at a point where Penn State was struggling, but the numbers don’t lie and that loss was as bad as it could get for any team besides Rutgers. This loss also hurt them because of the fact that michigan was also in contention for the college football playoff and there was no way that the Committee could put Penn State into the top four without putting Michigan in their as well because of how much they dominated them.
Although Ohio State was already in there and they beat Ohio State, it was at home and Ohio State had honestly should have won that game as they also dominated Penn State for most of that game. So that turned out to be one of those good losses for Ohio State much like Washington had to USC, thus, keeping Ohio State in and Penn State out.
Say what you want, the committee got it right this year.
You could make the argument that Michigan or Penn State could’ve gotten in for Washington but the committee has had Washington in the top four since the rankings were released and wouldn’t have a justified reason to take them out now, especially after dominating a top ten Colorado team in the championship and only having one loss while Michigan and Penn State have two each.
Do you think Michigan or Penn state should be in the College Football Playoff? Let’s talk about it here or find me on Twitter @Phenombc3.