They’re the first three words in on the page justifying and explaining the existence of the College Football Playoff, and also used in its promotions.
“Every game counts.”
Apparently every game does.
Sunday, the selection committee had its toughest test to date, whether to choose Alabama or Ohio State as the final team in the field this year. Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia were essentially locks as they all had just one loss and captured their conference titles, leaving the last spot to go to one of the two biggest names in college coaching.
The committee opted for the Crimson Tide, the only team to make the playoff all four years of its existence.
— College Football Playoff (@CFBPlayoff) December 3, 2017
While the debate will continue to rage up until kickoff against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, the game that sealed the Buckeyes’ fate came in November. The committee couldn’t look past Ohio State’s 55-24 loss at Iowa on Nov. 4.
Consequently, it’s not so much about whether the committee got it right or wrong, it’s that the committee really couldn’t give Ohio State the nod (for the third time in four years).
“Best four teams” is the other slogan that the playoff prides itself on, and it’s backed up with this selection.
One thing that appeared to help Alabama was who was on the committee — not specifically by person — but in terms of experience.
The committee headed by Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt was made up of 13 people, including a number of people who one would think would be able to look at game film and make a solid assessment about which is the better team. Frank Beamer, Jeff Bower, Herb Deromedi, Bobby Johnson and Tyrone Willingham are all former head coaches.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith was on the committee as well, but has to recuse himself for anything related to the Buckeyes. So is Clemson AD Dan Radakovich, who will likely also have to leave the room because he can’t be involved in any discussions about Clemson’s opponent.
So the coaches alone were just shy of a majority. The committee also includes former Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long, the former committee chairman (2014-15). One would think precedent is important to him, which would also favor Alabama as last year Ohio State was selected over Big Ten champion Penn State.
The committee’s reason for doing so boiled down to just one thing: It thought the Buckeyes were a better team. Nittany Lions fans have been squirming with all the talk from Ohio State that winning the league championship should clinch a spot for the Buckeyes.
“Alabama was clearly the No. 4-ranked team as a national champion,” Hocutt said during the selection broadcast.
The word “clearly,” stands out, and the committee wasn’t alone with that assessment.
Wondering how motivated @AlabamaFTBL is in 2017? Jalen Hurts phone screensaver is a pic of Clemson hoisting the National Championship trophy
— Laura Rutledge (@LauraMRutledge) April 21, 2017
Sunday morning, the non-CFP entities submitted their votes.
The Football Writers Association of America was first with its Super 16: 1. Clemson, 2. Oklahoma, 3. Georgia and 4. Alabama.
The AP Top 25 was next: No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 Georgia, 4. Alabama.
The Amway Coaches Poll: 1. Clemson, Oklahoma, 3. Georgia, No. 4 Alabama.
As for the computer rankings that were used during the BCS era, they were more split. Three had neither Alabama nor Ohio State in the top four, preferring undefeated UCF. However, if you averaged them out, Alabama had a slight edge.
|Computer||No. 1||No. 2||No. 3||No. 4|
* Alabama fifth
** Ohio State fifth
*** Ohio State sixth
Even Alabama’s biggest rival, Auburn, the team that beat it, believed Alabama should get in. Gus Malzahn had the Crimson Tide third on his coaches’ poll ballot (with Auburn fifth and Ohio State sixth), and former coach Gene Chizik chimed in on social media on Saturday night that it should be a “no brainer.”
Funny thing is the 4 metrics are used in the CFB playoff when 2 teams are comparable. Watch film…. there’s no comparison. Alabama should be a no brainer over OSU and every former coach on the committee should concur if they’ve watched film. Sorry folks…#filmdontlie #CFP
— Gene Chizik (@CoachGeneChizik) December 3, 2017
ESPN’s power index had Alabama at No. 1. History was on the Crimson Tide’s side as a two-loss team had never been selected for the semifinals. Even Las Vegas had Alabama over Ohio State.
“I can’t say with a clear conscience that Ohio State is one of the best four teams,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said just before the top four teams were released during the selection show. However, he also said he’d be “shocked” to see Alabama selected due to politics.
He was shocked.
He shouldn’t have been.
Instead of a lousy Clemson-Ohio State rematch from a year ago (31-0 Tigers), fans will get to see a rubber game between Alabama and Clemson. It’s the only matchup the committee could really choose.