With the college football playoff being held tomorrow, I decided to look back at the biggest controversy of this year’s playoff, and how this isn’t the first time Alabama has been given preferential treatment. By now everyone knows that 13-0 Florida State was left out for a 12-1 Alabama team, with the committee using the injury to quarterback Jordan Travis as their reasoning. I’m here to show that this was simply an excuse to put an SEC team in, when they didn’t really have any solid reason.
During my weekly breakdown of the playoff chase, I mentioned how there was precedent for selecting a team despite losing their quarterback, when the committee selected Ohio State in 2014 despite being on their 3rd quarterback, Cardale Jones. The starter Braxton Miller was lost for the year in training camp, and the backup JT Barrett broke his ankle against Michigan. Seeing how things have unfolded since the committee selected Ohio State in 2014, and they won the national championship, the committee has been bent on making sure that that doesn’t happen again.
Ohio State made the playoff in 2014 thanks to their 59-0 beatdown of Wisconsin, while 11-1 Baylor and TCU were left out due to the Big 12 not having a conference championship game and the opportunity for that 13th game. I’ve said many times that the committee values having that additional data point, and it showed in 2014. I’m convinced that had the Big 12 had a conference championship game, the winner would have made the playoff over Ohio State.
This year, there was zero justification for putting Alabama in. Florida State, Michigan, and Washington all ended the season 13-0. The last spot should have come down to 3 12-1 teams, Georgia, Alabama, and Texas. The committee says that they value conference championships, which would eliminate Georgia due to not winning the SEC, and they value head-to-head, which would eliminate Alabama due to their loss to Texas. Had this been the playoff, it would have been the first time the SEC was left out.
I highly doubt if the last spot was between a 13-0 Alabama team that lost their quarterback vs. a 12-1 Florida State team that had their quarterback that Florida State would get in over Alabama. The committee said Florida State’s lackluster performance in the ACC Championship Game is why they didn’t select them. Never mind that Florida State was playing a true freshman in his first career start, and the backup would have been available for a playoff game. The quarterback is not the only player, and he doesn’t play defense or special teams. Football is a team sport. Somehow I doubt they’d snub someone if they lost their star running back or linebacker. Why should it be any different without the quarterback? Before you say Florida State got destroyed 63-3 by Georgia in the Orange Bowl, note that between transfers, injuries, and opt-outs, Florida State was without 29 scholarship players. They would have taken part if they had been selected for the playoff.
The real reason they did this is because the SEC has a massive TV contract with ESPN, and ESPN has the playoff. This whole myth of the SEC’s superiority began when they signed a big contract with ESPN and ESPN got the marquee college football games. You can’t win the national championship unless you’re given the chance to play for it. Several of the championships Nick Saban has won at Alabama, you could make an argument that they were gift wrapped to them.
In 2009, they may very well have won even if Colt McCoy played the entire game, but they certainly were given a much easier path to win when he was knocked out early in the game with an injury. In 2011, they didn’t even win their division, yet they were selected for the national championship game over Big 12 champion Oklahoma State. In 2012, they only made the national championship game because 12-0 Ohio State was banned from post-season play. After the committee saw what Ohio State did in 2014, they were determined to make sure it didn’t happen again. They said they wanted to select the best 4 teams every year. In 2015, despite losing to Michigan State and not winning the Big 10 as a result, Ohio State was still considered one of the 4 best teams, but were left out of the playoff. There is a very good chance Ohio State would have defeated Alabama again.
The committee regularly said they value conference championship and tough schedules. When the last spot in 2017 came down to 11-2 Big 10 champion Ohio State and an 11-1 Alabama team that didn’t win their division, who did the committee take? Of course, they took Alabama. If Ohio State had played Mercer in non-conference like Alabama did instead of losing to Oklahoma, they would have been in despite their loss to Iowa.
Call the playoff for what it really is: The SEC Invitational, featuring Alabama. Thank goodness the playoff is expanding to 12 teams next year.