INDIANAPOLIS — If you are a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee member reading this for whatever reason, I have some simple, timely advice.
Run as fast as you possibly can and don’t look back. Don’t attend any more meetings and don’t worry about packing your clothes. Shut off your phone. Grab enough canned goods to last at least a few weeks and don’t forget the boxed wine.
You are going to need it.
There is no possible way you, card-carrying selection committee member, can reach a verdict that will be greeted with open arms come Sunday. Not after Ohio State dominated Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten Championship, proving its playoff worth with a third-string quarterback. You couldn’t have pictured this, not even with the great quarterback whisperer Urban Meyer seemingly ripe for the challenge.
Boasting the nation’s most prolific running back, it was assumed Wisconsin—which was favored—would at least make this interesting. But then the first whistle came and the carnage unfolded before you knew what was going on. It didn't stop.
Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones was brilliant, throwing for 257 yards and three touchdowns. He looked more like a seasoned veteran than an inexperienced reserve thrown into action.
Joey Bosa, the team’s rock on the defensive line, picked up a Melvin Gordon fumble and ran it in for a touchdown just before half, putting an exclamation point on his fabulous sophomore season. Running back Ezekiel Elliott eclipsed the 200-yard mark, breaking off one final big run in the fourth quarter with only one shoe.
It was that kind of night for the Buckeyes. They delivered one final resounding impression with the whole football world tuning in.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt we’re one of the top four teams in America,” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said as he accepted the Big Ten Championship trophy following the game, campaigning accordingly.
He’s not wrong.
Ohio State deserves to be in the playoff. But so does TCU. And so does Baylor.
There are strong, unique cases to be made for all three, but there is only one vacancy to fill. That’s the scenario we’re left with after other teams involved handled their business.
Oregon, Alabama and Florida State all won their conference championship games, and they will all be rewarded with a playoff spot as a result. Although the Seminoles have been plummeting in recent polls, the committee cannot (and should not) leave an undefeated conference champion out of the playoff. Strike that off your chaos checklist.
This means there’s one spot—the much discussed No. 4 spot—and three one-loss teams worthy of consideration to fill it.
All three took care of business on Saturday, beating their opponents in a variety of ways. No. 3 Baylor likely came away with the best win in terms of quality, beating Kansas State—the No. 9 team in the latest poll—by double digits.
After a sluggish first half, No. 3 TCU exploded against Iowa State, beating the Cyclones 55-3. The Horned Frogs needed a performance like this, and they got it.
And then there’s Ohio State, the No. 5 team in the latest poll. Having gone through two quarterbacks this season, expectations for the Buckeyes coming into this Saturday were relatively low. My how the outlook changed over 60 minutes.
The committee now has to figure this thing out, which is an impossible task. And yet, committee chairman Jeff Long has been bracing for this kind of situation since the committee's very first meeting.
“The craziest thing that can happen, will happen,” Long told Bleacher Report in November. “Everybody being undefeated or nobody being undefeated, we should expect everything in between. We were mentally prepared for that going into the season.”
It’s not the ultimate doomsday scenario, although it’s pretty darn close.
If momentum and final impressions are what you’re seeking, then the Buckeyes are your likely pick. If you’re into the most impressive-looking team and resume from start to finish, then TCU’s likely going to be the team you write down. And if you’re all about results and the critical head-to-head matchups, then Baylor will likely secure your vote with its victory over TCU.
There is not one correct answer. There are quality points to be made about all three teams, which is precisely why the decision—regardless of what it is eventually announced—will be greeted with pronounced and warranted outrage.
Conspiracy theories and claims of committee bias are about to become quite popular. It doesn't matter how much time the committee invests in determining the most deserving team. The storm is coming. There was already great debate to be had with TCU and Baylor, but Ohio State’s historic shutout threw a massive wrench in the playoff machine.
Are you still with me, committee member? If so, why?
Forget about the impossible task you have in front of you. Leave your Dallas headquarters as quickly as you possibly can and go underground. Don't just shut off your phone; break it and toss it away. And don’t even fret about your clothes; there’s no time for that now.
You’re going to want to grab that boxed wine, though.