The expansion of the College Football Playoff to six or eight teams will eventually come. It certainly won’t come soon enough for Ohio State fans.
Last season, I honestly did feel the best four teams got in, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have some empathy for TCU fans. The Horned Frogs were in position and did nothing wrong except belong to a conference that didn’t hold a championship game. That was beyond their control and it sucked for them, and we reaped the benefits all the way to a national championship.
Let’s face it, if the shoe were on the other foot, we’d have all been pretty miffed about missing out on the playoff because we sat at home with our top four spot and another team mauled somebody on national television to jump over us.
This year, we had to deal with “Ohio State fatigue” from the national pollsters and then the Buckeyes laid an egg on national television in the first of its two toughest games of the year. It doesn’t matter to the voters that it took place on a night of blustery weather, when arguably the best player of the team may have been lucky to have been upright at all.
Sure, Connor Cook didn’t play, but it sure seemed like Ohio State game planned as if it had to win without Ezekiel Elliott or any actual running back. That eventually wore out the defense and allowed Michigan State to control the clock and kick the game-winning field goal.
This season, the four best teams in the country may not be the last four standing, but the system is what it is. There is no dominant team. Everyone appears to have multiple weaknesses.
The only team that wasn’t penalized for winning ugly was Iowa, which was actually celebrated for it, for some reason, despite an apparent lack of quality opponents. The Hawkeyes missed Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State on their 2015 schedule, playing only Maryland and Indiana from the B1G East.
Alabama struggled against a team with absolutely zero offense yesterday. The Crimson Tide had already lost against what turned out to be a decent Ole Miss squad and looked less than impressive against a number of other opponents, like Arkansas, Tennessee, and even allowed Auburn to hang around.
Oklahoma lost to a bad Texas team. Aside from that, naturally the Sooners’ toughest games came against TCU and Baylor. But neither of those teams turned out to be nearly as good as last year. Oklahoma also had to scuffle against Tennessee, back when people were still under the impression the Vols were good. They weren’t.
Michigan State lost to a bad Nebraska team, needed a miracle to win at Michigan and had to sweat and bleed to put away Western Michigan, Purdue, and Rutgers.
Only Clemson made it through unblemished. The Tigers had their near stumbles, but managed to avoid stepping on any land mines. Louisville (20-17) and good Notre Dame (24-22) and Florida State (23-13) teams were near-misses, and there were closer-than-expected games down the stretch against Syracuse and South Carolina, but Clemson managed not to…well, Clemson, although the Tigers might have gotten a little help holding off North Carolina.
This season, the four best teams in the country may not be the last four standing, but the system is what it is.
So nobody was clearly better than the others. Parity is a good thing. It keeps people interested and makes every game count even more. Who wouldn’t tune in to a final eight tournament made up of Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma, Michigan State, Iowa, Stanford, Ohio State and Notre Dame? It would be a colossal spectacle and earn millions and millions of dollars for the schools and the NCAA.
Ohio State will be on the outside, looking in, when the final CFP poll is released later today. They may move up to No. 5 or they may fall to No. 7. It really doesn’t matter. The Buckeyes will be in an outstanding bowl game against a good team that would probably qualify for that eight-game playoff, if it existed.
One day there will be a playoff expansion to six or eight teams and we’ll look back on 2015 and wonder what might have been. That day is not today.
Enjoy the bowl season for what it is and know that one day this type of thing will not likely happen to a Power Five one-loss team.