by William Evan Sams, ESPN Tri-Cities Guest Editorposted Dec 7 2016 10:07PM
Johnson City, TN - After months of speculation, arguments, and heartbreak the College Football Playoff is finally set. We will see the top seeded Alabama Crimson Tide play the fourth ranked Washington Huskies in the Peach Bowl, and the second ranked Clemson Tigers against the Ohio St. Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl. Most people agree that the selection committee got this one right. All four of the previously mentioned teams pass the eyeball test. Michigan and Oklahoma, along with practically everyone else in the top 10, would probably disagree, but their resumes just don’t quite stack up with the top 4.
And then there are the Penn State Nittany Lions. Frankly they’re not an overly impressive team, but they did win their conference championship and beat playoff bound Ohio St.
It’s an interesting conversation and a reasonable person may be able to see some level of merit to it. The Penn St. arguement is that they earned it on the field. It’s the same Dilemma that Boise St. found themselves in back in the early days of the BCS. They had a fair argument to play for the title, but it wasn’t realistic to put them in over a powerhouse like Florida St., Southern Cal, Oklahoma, etc... There’s no denying they have every right to feel rotten about it, but are they really more deserving than the four teams who did get in?
Alabama is a no brainer. They are undefeated, won a major conference championship, and did so in an actual title game. Their resume speaks for itself, and nobody, other than Penn St coach James Franklin, thinks they should be in over the Crimson Tide.
Clemson and Washington deserve to be in as well. Both are one loss teams, Both are conference champions who won the championship on the field (Yes, I'm looking at you Big 12), and both pass the all important eyeball test. Their cases may not be as strong as with Alabama, but they deserve to be in the position that they are. Sorry Penn St.
The one team that possibly could have been left out is Ohio St. Nittany Lion fans and their supporters point to the fact that they beat Ohio St head to head in October. That win allowed them to jump the Buckeyes and sneak into the Big 10 Title game, where they beat Wisconsin in rather underwhelming fashion.
What it comes down to is how valuable is a conference title. The one and only case for Penn St. is that a title means everything and nothing else matters. That's a pretty tough sell for several reasons, other than the fact that Ohio St. has a better record and is obviously the superior team.
For starters Penn St has two losses, which is twice as many as any of the playoff teams. On top of that, they are bad losses. Michigan blew their doors off, and they lost to a mediocre Pitt team. The blowout loss to Michigan means that the two teams had identical records with Michigan winning the head to head match up. Granted, the Wolverines second loss came inside the Big 10, but it was also against Iowa, a much stronger opponent than Pittsburgh. Based on that, it's not a stretch to say that Michigan should be ahead of Penn St.
The committee is far from perfect, and they do seem to grade on a sliding scale, but they got this one right. Penn St. benefited from a very specific and unusual set of circumstances. The committee does not and should not look at the bottom line and throw out everything else. Penn St. is the third best team in their own conference and possibly the seventh or eighth best team in the nation.
Most of the time the world, and especially college football, is not fair. This is not one of those times. Penn St. is in the Rose Bowl against USC, and all things considered that's where they need to be. If anybody got hosed, it's the fans. Michigan and USC would be a far better game.