The 2022 College Football Playoffs penultimate standings to be announced Tuesday night likely look like this:
1. Georgia (12-0)
3. TCU (12-0)
5. Ohio State (11-1)
6. Alabama (10-2)
Maybe Georgia and Michigan will be traded — the Wolverines’ best wins are better than the Bulldogs’ best wins. Or maybe it’s Alabama, sitting at No. 5 based on two narrow road losses, above Ohio State, which lost big 45-23 at home to Michigan on Saturday.
Whatever, none of it really matters.
If the top four are Georgia, Michigan, TCU and USC, then committee chairman Boo Corrigan should make a simple statement.
The field is set. These are the four teams that will appear in the playoffs. This weekend’s conference championship games are seed-only.
Make no mistake, that is not said. (Now, never say never, but it’s highly unlikely.) Corrigan will almost certainly feed into all sorts of hypothetical scenarios. Nobody is so naïve as to think that what will happen and what should happen are the same.
However, there is an undeniable intellectual and logical argument that the top 4 should remain the top 4 regardless of whether they lose next weekend. Of course, it is extremely dangerous to try to apply logical or intellectual arguments to college football, which is much more crammed into the “football” part than the “college” part.
However, here it is.
At 12 weeks, the top four teams are the top four teams – Georgia, Michigan, TCU, and USC. While 22 teams play in “Championship Week,” only four have a point as a playoff team.
For playoff purposes, it doesn’t matter who wins the MAC or the Mountain West. Nor could I say that 8-4 Purdue is an argument for a playoff slot even if it upsets Michigan in Big Ten play, or 9-3 Kansas State if it beats TCU in the Big 12.
There are only six contenders and the two underdogs – Ohio State and Alabama – are no longer playing games. Their regular season ends after 12 games — or “data points,” as the committee puts it.
Nobody can play through it in this weekend, then nobody should be burdened with the opportunity to play their way out.
If, after 12 games, the committee believes that 11-1 USC did more to prove themselves worthy of a playoff spot than Ohio State and Alabama, then asking USC to then play a 13th game and Proving his worth further Buckeyes and Crimson Tide sit at home and take no chances.
This would mean penalizing USC for winning his division and playing for a conference title. It would impose an unreasonable and additional burden on the Trojans.
It’s actually giving the state of Ohio and/or Alabama a reunion they certainly don’t deserve. If anyone deserves the benefits, it’s the teams that qualified for their conference championship games.
If Ohio State or Alabama played a 13th game, it would all be fair. It would allow them to play their way in, and thus USC or TCU would also have to compete. But that is not the case.
Or it would be fair to consider a 13th game if either playoff team didn’t play a 12th game — that was a factor in the early playoff days for Big-12 teams forced to add a championship game , to avoid being penalized by the committee for playing only 12.
But that’s not the scenario here either.
The season is over for any team outside of the top 4 with a potential claim to top 4 status.
So this season is over.
If TCU loses its first game or USC loses its second after the other teams played a shorter season, then that shouldn’t be taken into account.
One of the problems with the college football playoffs is that the weekly ratings show has demonstrated a lack of consistency in team rankings, use of selective criteria, and apparent inversions of thinking. It undermined the committee’s credibility.
Fans should have zero confidence that the committee would follow — or perhaps even consider — the argument above.
Here is a chance for them to claim an intellectual height and do what is right and sane.
If you take out the 2020 COVID season, which was a mess (Ohio State, for example, went in 6-0), there were seven playoffs. A team that only played 12 games was selected four times.
Two (2015 Oklahoma and 2018 Notre Dame) had no game option for the conference title and thus no chance for a 13th game.
In 2016, Ohio State went 11-1 closer than Penn State’s 11-2, but both of the Nittany Lions’ losses came during the regular season. As such, after 12 games, the committee had OSU at No. 2 and Penn State at No. 7. PSU was not jumped because of the 13th game. It was after.
In 2017, however, the committee reversed precedent, moving Alabama 11-1 from 5th to 4th as former No. 4 Wisconsin entered the Big Ten title game 12-0 but lost. The Badgers were penalized for an extra game.
Regardless of the merits of Bama or Wisconsin – the Tide won the national title – this should have been far more controversial.
If doing what is philosophically sound, scientific, and thoughtful is important to the committee – and it should be – then it should not repeat such a mistake. (Also, neither OSU nor Bama are as strong a contender this year as Tide was in 2017).
This year, under those circumstances, the field should be set — Georgia, Michigan, TCU and USC. This week should only be used for seeding.