Alabama and Clemson Domination Creates Ugly Day for CFB Playoff Committee

Matt Hayes@matthayescfbSenior National College Football WriterDecember 30, 2018

Alabama head coach Nick Saban, left, and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney talk before the Sugar Bowl semi-final playoff game for the NCAA college football national championship, in New Orleans, Monday, Jan. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — You want to blame someone for this mess? Blame those who mucked it up in the first place.

You want to complain about a truly awful day of college football? Take a long, hard look at a College Football Playoff committee that was supposed to make the postseason a unique spectacle and instead turned it into an unsightly scene.

Clemson beat Notre Dame by 27, and Alabama beat Oklahoma by who cares.

And the CFP committee got dragged in shame through the streets of public opinion.

"We don't look at who we're playing; it's not about them, it's about us," Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams said, in his best Nick Saban imitation.

But it is all about who plays in the CFP, now more than ever.

Because this is what happens when a committee full of coaches and athletic directors embrace age-old values instead of actually, you know, watching games:

  • Notre Dame didn't score a touchdown and couldn't even hit 250 total yards in a 30-3 loss.
  • Oklahoma and its point-a-minute offense went down 28-0 early in the second quarter, and Alabama played keep-away the remainder of the game in a 45-34 victory.

The result is an unmitigated disaster of a day.

The worst part of it all is it didn't have to be this way. We didn't have to be force-fed Spam when there was filet mignon waiting to be devoured.

Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

Take any Joe Sixpack in early December and tell him his life depends on choosing the four best teams in college football. Not deserving, not conference champions, not even the unbeaten.

The four best teams.

Those four, in order, would've been Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State.

But who wants to watch Clemson and Georgia play? They're only bitter rivals, and Georgia only had mighty Alabama on the brink of defeat twice—twice!—in the last 11 months and couldn't finish the deal.

And really, who in their right mind wants to watch Alabama play Ohio State and the hottest quarterback in the game in Dwayne Haskins? The same Ohio State that, four years ago in the CFP semifinals, beat favored Alabama on the way to winning it all.

Instead we get a committee of 13, a group with the undeniable mandate to protect Power Five teams—plus Notre Dame—at all costs (see: fox, meet henhouse), delivering two dud matchups.

When asked Saturday night after Alabama advanced to yet another CFP national title game (its fourth in five CFP years), SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said, "Georgia was a very [playoff] worthy team."

When asked to elaborate, Sankey said, "The committee does a fine job. I don't want to get into publicly calling out anyone."

So I will. The committee blew it.

Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

Not just by ignoring the reality that Georgia was one of the four best teams in the nation, but by passing on Ohio State, too. Frankly, UCF would've put up a better fight than Notre Dame.

This nonsense has to stop, and it's not about adding more teams to the mix (what, you want more blowouts?) or guaranteeing spots to conference champions or giving an automatic bid to the best Group of Five team. It's about choosing the four best teams.

How does it happen, you ask? The committee makeup has to change.

We can no longer allow those who have the greatest vested interest in who makes the playoff to decide who makes the playoff. At least with the dreaded BCS, there was equal weight given to a coaches poll, a media poll and six computer polls—even if none of us could figure out the damn thing.

How do we do that? Eliminate former coaches and current administrators from the committee and fill it with former NFL scouts and personnel folks and allow them to objectively decide the best four teams.

A committee of NFL scouts and personnel people and former NFL and college players would never care if the SEC has two teams in the playoff again, and it wouldn't give a flip about an unbeaten team if its resume didn't back up the record.

We wound up with these four teams, and these two clunker national semifinals, because the committee was absolutely, positively not giving the SEC two teams again. And it wasn't overlooking unbeaten Notre Dame because, well, the Fighting Irish were unbeaten—and in college football, being unbeaten is and always has been a big deal.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 29: K'Von Wallace #12 of the Clemson Tigers tackles Ian Book #12 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the first half during the College Football Playoff Semifinal Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium on December 29, 2018
Tim Warner/Getty Images

Unless you're UCF.

"I don't know how they pick who gets in, and I really don't care," said Alabama tailback Damien Harris. "All we know is we have to win. If you don't win, you leave it up to someone else."

The same someone else that isn't about the four best teams, but the four teams that come as close as possible to making everyone happy. The committee dynamic has gotten so ridiculous that a few conference commissioners recently told Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic that they were interested in talking about expanding the playoff for better access for more Power Five schools and one team "like UCF" that currently gets shut out from the process.

That's right: The very men and women, the commissioners and university presidents, who have done everything they can to keep UCF and the Group of Five out of their playoff are now using UCF as a rallying point.

Meanwhile, their committee blew the most important decision of the season and left what should've been the best day on the college football calendar grasping for relevancy with meaningless regular-season NBA games.

Look, I don't care about Ohio State's 29-point loss to Purdue or Georgia's 20-point loss to LSU. I care about the best teams translating to the best semifinals, no matter how we get there.

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 29:  Trey Sermon #4 of the Oklahoma Sooners is tackled by Xavier McKinney #15 and Anfernee Jennings #33 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium on D
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Rewarding a two-loss team doesn't mean losses have no impact. Losses have impact for teams that aren't worthy.

This isn't rocket science. Watch the games and make an informed decision, not one that protects your product and reinforces the tired ways of the past.

If the committee makeup changes, you've got a pretty strong chance of not ending up with games where one team loses by 27 and another team spends the entire game trying to convert fourth downs to not get blown out, then talks about not giving up.

"That's what our team is built around—fighting to the end," said OU wideout Marquise Brown.

So we've got that going for us.

The sport deserves better than this, and the simple fix isn't as drastic as adding more teams or implementing more metrics.

It's just the best four teams, no matter the record, no matter the conference.

And it's needed now more than ever.

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