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How SHOULD We Interpret What the College Football Playoff Is

Dec 1, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Deandre Baker (18) reacts on the bench with teammates after being defeating by the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Disclaimer: I apologize for my inability to update all last week.  Life happens sometimes and while I love sports and it has been a nice break from life a bit, things happen.  

Last week, we somewhat all agreed that the College Football Playoff teams would be pretty much an open and shut case in the sense with Clemson winning, Notre Dame being in, and if Alabama won, they were in and either Oklahoma or Ohio State (assuming both would win) would take the 4th spot.  IF Alabama had lost to Georgia, then Georgia and Alabama would both represent the SEC again.  

Well, Clemson won.  Oklahoma won.  Ohio State won.  Alabama beat Georgia….barely.

Open and shut, yes? 

Nope.  

After 12 games of blowing out every team they faced on their schedule, Alabama had gone up against adversity in facing Georgia, who had pretty much been one of the top teams all season despite a 36-16 loss to LSU in Baton Rouge.  

Did Georgia take it to Alabama?  Yes.  The first half, the Bulldogs did anything they wanted against the Tide and practically played a flawless half.  As for Alabama, dropped passes, stupid penalties, dumb mistakes, and a lack of adjustments from the coaching staff.  It was everything they had not done all year.   When the second half came, the walls started to crumble for the Bulldogs and Alabama cut down on everything else.  By the fourth quarter, and for the second time in 11 months in the same venue, Georgia collapsed pretty much in the same way.  

After the game however, the argument went “well, Georgia showed they can play Alabama tough and took them to the wire, therefore they MUST BE one of the four best teams in the nation.”  And it led to ESPN famed commentator Kirk Herbstreit to say that Georgia should move UP in the polls after their showing.  

To be fair, I like Herbstreit a lot when he calls games, but his views over the past I do not agree.  And this one, I do not agree with on his whole aspect of why the Committee chose Oklahoma over Georgia for the final playoff spot.

“And now we’re supposed to say Georgia, for that performance, you went from No. 4, you’re going backwards? To me, if anything, they should have gone up to No. 3, not backwards to No. 5. It’s the first time the committee let the politics of the conferences, the Power 5 conferences and their commissioners, and having to face them, they finally let them affect doing the right thing..Who had the toughest strength of schedule? Georgia. Who had the best offensive efficiency? Georgia. Best defensive efficiency? Georgia. Game control? Georgia. Eyeball test? Georgia. What’s left? So politics for the first time in five years got the best of the committee.”

So let’s hammer this out a bit.

So the whole idea of the Playoff has been to get the four best teams in there.  So is Georgia one of those best teams?  Maybe…maybe not.  Would they beat Notre Dame, and Oklahoma on neutral ground?  Yes, but I am not fully convinced they would.  And that’s where you go into the whole cloud of looking at everything else.

One thing I remember Herbstreit complaining about was that they were going on the resumes of the teams and looked at the conference championship being the ultimate decider and that how Georgia has two losses as opposed to one loss that Oklahoma had (which was somewhat negated as they beat Texas).  It kind of took me aback when Herbstreit griped that the Committee factored in Georgia’s two losses and how that losing to Alabama the way they did and that “everybody loses to LSU in Baton Rouge.” 

Yes, Kirk, I get it.  Alabama is the benchmark of greatness in college football.  But they are still a college football team that can lose at any point to any team in any week.  And that in mind, two weeks prior to the SEC Championship, THE CITADEL had gone into halftime tied with the #1 team in the nation and could have had taken an early 3rd quarter lead on Alabama as well.  Would The Citadel be one of the 4 best teams if they kept it close for four quarters?   As for the LSU comment, Troy, Alabama, and Florida all have won games over the years down in Tiger Stadium.  Yes, Baton Rouge is a tough place, but also a place where teams have won there.  Alabama has won 5 of their last 6 there and 4 of those 5 wins Kirby Smart was on the Tide sideline so if anything he definitely should know how to win there.

The two losses thing sticks out for me on a couple of reasons.  The first reason is that both times Georgia lost, it was poor play-calling/decision-making by Kirby Smart (fake FG against LSU? fake punt against Bama?)  Secondly have we continued the whole “there are no losers” mindset in society and now it’s creeping over to football?  If we just pinpoint the teams every year that would be the most talented and go “well, they are the best 4 in the nation therefore pencil them in for the Playoff and forget how they do the rest of the way.”  You still have to play your schedule and win all but probably one to have a shot.  If you lose twice, you’re really done. Even if your schedule is tough as nails or you lose to two top ten teams such as Georgia did (which was their top games this year), losing two games puts you out (unless you sneak in beating two #1 ranked teams in three weeks like Auburn did last year).    

Some have made an argument that comparing college football to other sports was apples and oranges.  I agree and disagree at the same time.  I think the entire season of college football is really a large playoff.  If you win,you keep increasing your chances to hold a championship trophy at the end.  If you lose once, it may not kill you.  But if you lose twice you’re out.   Yeah, in college basketball, you can lose up to ten times in a season if you’re one of the power conferences and still get in the tournament and  have to win six times to cut the nets.  But let’s say this: we know every year that the best four teams in basketball are Duke, Kansas , Kentucky, and North Carolina (or close to that).  Do we play the tournament games until the Final Four and then go “well, even though North Carolina lost to Villanova in the Elite Eight, they are still one of the best four teams according to all the stats around and the eye test shows it therefore they NEED to be in the Final Four!”

You still have to play the games and win your most important games while not try to lose to teams you shouldn’t lose to either.  Georgia’s two important games were ultimately losses.  Ohio State’s blowout loss at Purdue was a loss that shouldn’t have happened.  And that’s why they are out of the Playoff and not in.

Nobody ever said the Playoff was a perfect formula.  It still has created controversy since it started in 2014.  I haven’t agreed most years on the Committee’s selections, but in the end they have gotten it right to this point for the most part.  With that in mind, I believe there should be an 8-team playoff.  Get the conference champions, the two best at-large teams (which would be Notre Dame and Georgia), and the best Group Of team (which would be UCF in this case) and the debates would be settled. 

But that would make too much sense.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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