Tomorrow, the four playoff teams will be named. It looks quite likely that Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, and Washington will be those four teams.
Alas there are many who think that Ohio State is unworthy because they did not win the Big Ten. The college football playoff is in just its third year. And because there’s such a small sample size, people don’t seem to understand basic things about this process.
Firstly, 2016 is not 2015. Last year, Ohio State was in the exact same position, having 1 loss to a team who won the Big Ten East. Last year, Michigan State. This year, Penn State. People argue, “it’s the exact same thing, why would Ohio State get in this time.”
Because it’s not the same thing! Ohio State clearly was not going to get in last year when they lost to another 1 loss team who won the conference. But this year, Ohio State lost to a 2 loss team.
And I again return to the absurd argument that a team must win their conference.
First of all, no they don’t. That’s not part of the rules. Even in the BCS era, teams made it to the top two in the national championship game without winning their conference 3 different times. One thing that did not happen in the BCS era? Teams getting into the game with worse overall records than comparable teams. In major conferences, one loss teams didn’t go over unbeaten teams. 2 loss conference champions didn’t go over 1 loss teams who didn’t win their conference.
And the fault of the reasoning for the “you have to win your conference” crowd is this. In the regular season, Big Ten teams play 12 games. Nine of them are conference games.
Can someone please tell me another sport where we determine who the best team is by a portion of their regular season? No one says “well if you didn’t have the leading record in your division, then you can’t go to the NFL playoffs.” Because that’s only a portion of the overall body of work. Every other sport, you look at overall records. Because college football has such of a joke of a system for determining champions, we resort to arbitrary metrics.
Yes, Penn State won the division within the conference because that only looks at what you did IN the conference.
But in determining who the best teams are, you have to look at 100% of the body of work, not just 75% of it. Because the overall resume of Ohio State is clearly better than Penn State. The only thing Penn State has accomplished this season is beating Ohio State.
The two teams playing tonight in the Big Ten Championship, Ohio State had to play both those teams in back to back weeks, at night, with each of those teams coming off of a bye week. Against Penn State, Ohio State gave up the game winning touchdown when a long field goal was blocked. It was a fluke. Alas, Penn State won fair and square that night.
But Ohio State has the same record within the conference, and a better overall record. They played a tougher schedule. Ohio State won road games against Wisconsin (6th) and dominated Oklahoma (9th), who are both in the top ten. At home, Ohio State beat Nebraska by 59 points and beat their rivals, who were ranked third at the time in a thrilling double overtime game.
Penn State: their best non-conference opponent was an 8-4 Pittsburgh team who beat them, and they were trounced by U of M by 39 points. As a general rule, best teams in the country don’t lose games by 39 points.
Wisconsin has looked impressive but the two best teams they played (Ohio State and U of M) both beat them.
Ohio State lost to Penn State, but they have the more impressive body of work. So to make a conference championship ultimate, when conferences don’t weigh the entire season, makes no sense in determining who the best team is.
Regardless of who wins the Big Ten Championship tonight, one thing is indisputable: it will not be the best team in the conference. Really, it won’t even be the second best team. Considering U of M beat both of them, and that Ohio State has the more impressive overall performance season, those are the actual two best teams in the conference.
I return to my earlier question: in what other sport do we make winning your conference everything? Cinderella teams dazzle us in the NCAA tournament. Wild card teams win Super Bowls. It’s not just about what you do in a percentage of your games that matters. And what you do in your conference clearly doesn’t show who the BEST team is. Because when the conference championship is solely determined by your conference record, it’s not necessarily true that you’re NOT the best team in the conference even if you didn’t win the conference.
People also overlook that there are five major conferences. The playoff is trying to find the four best teams. Well what if two of the four best teams happen to play in the same conference? That isn’t such a difficult scenario to imagine. So again, why do we place so much value in a conference championship? What are the odds that the four best teams would always be conference champions?
Some people like to argue “well in 2014, Ohio State fans were arguing it was all about the conference championship when they beat Wisconsin.” Just like how 2015 isn’t 2016, 2014 also isn’t 2016. In 2014, you had 5 teams with 1 loss. All things being relatively equal, conference championships mattered (and they do matter!)
To borrow an idea from Colin Cowherd this week. If Ohio State gets into the playoff, you’re not saying that conference championships don’t mean anything. You’re saying that conference championships don’t mean EVERYTHING.
And clearly a conference championship, by itself, doesn’t make you worthy when there are 4 spots and 5 conferences.
Why even play non conference games if it’s all about winning the conference? If Penn State were a 1 loss team, and won tonight, they would be in the playoff.
Which again, they don’t, it’s not part of the rules. Conference championships in 2014 mattered with all things being equal. But this year, all things are not equal. Ohio State has fewer losses with a harder schedule! Ohio State has looked more impressive throughout the season.
Ultimately, it is the job of the committee to select the four best teams in the country. And that is why Ohio State is deserving.
I have a theory that there are three kinds of people who don’t want Ohio State to make it into the playoff
1. People who hate Ohio State. And there are may. Ohio State is one of the teams who a person loves or hates. For some, any reason to knock Ohio State, they’re eager to take.
2. People who are fans of teams like Alabama, Clemson, and Washington who would rather have a chance to play a weaker team like Penn State or Wisconsin than Ohio State. Because Ohio State is clearly the best team in the Big Ten.
3. People who are fans of whichever team wins the Big Ten Championship
4. Ok, maybe four, spiteful U of M fans who can’t get over the loss last week.
For the record, my actual top four if it were up to me:
2. Ohio State
4. Ohio State’s Rivals