Another year, another down-to-the-wire decision by the College Football Playoff Selection Committee (CFP), which came out yesterday with its picks of the top four teams to compete for a national title. This season, the combatants for the final slot in the CFP were Oklahoma, Ohio State and Georgia. In choosing Oklahoma (12-1), the committee made the correct decision and upheld the very fabric of the system under which teams are chosen.
Heading into championship week, the chatter among college football enthusiasts focused on whether the Alabama Crimson Tide would advance to the CFP if it fell to Georgia (11-2) in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. Nobody even considered that Georgia could still be alive with a loss in that game; the consensus was that if Georgia lost, it was unequivocally out of the conversation.
Then the game was actually played on Saturday. After Georgia once again failed to maintain a substantial halftime lead and dropped a close game to Alabama (13-0), some prominent commentators, flavored with SEC bias, suggested that Georgia’s performance, despite the loss, earned the Bulldogs a spot in the playoff. “It’s about picking the best four teams,” many of them claimed, and, without offering any substantial evidence, claimed that Georgia was among the four best teams.
Such chatter was ridiculous, and the committee did a commendable job in drowning it out and sticking to its criteria for choosing the teams. The strengths of record were almost equal between Georgia and Oklahoma, and Oklahoma earned a conference championship to boot, a very important distinction in the committee’s eyes. Most of all, Georgia is a two-loss team, while Oklahoma only lost once. To forsake that fact and put Georgia in because it “just is one of the best four teams” is absurd.
Yes, there is a clause that posits that these criteria can be forsaken if the committee determines that one team is “incomparably” better than another. The committee used this function to select Alabama over Ohio State last season, a decision that I supported. Ohio State, however, was a two-loss team back then, and Alabama had just one defeat. There were no conference champions with fewer than two losses (barring UCF), so the committee was justified in putting in Alabama.
This year, not only are there two major conference champions with one loss, but Georgia itself has two losses. To claim that a two-loss Georgia team is incomparably better than either Oklahoma or Ohio State (12-1) makes no sense. Perhaps Georgia is slightly better, but that judgment is questionable at best. No one can reasonably say that Georgia is unequivocally better than the Sooners or the Buckeyes to the point that they are incomparable.
Had the committee selected the Buckeyes over the Sooners, I would have disagreed, but the decision would have at least been defensible as the committee would have still been acting within its standards. Had the Bulldogs been chosen, however, the committee would have been throwing away any semblance of a standard for selecting teams, opting instead for a subjective, feelings-based decision that is exactly what drives fans crazy. Fans want as structured a system as possible, which is exactly what the objective criteria of the committee provides, and is exactly what the committee decided to go with in the end.
Georgia did not deserve to receive a spot in the national semifinals. The Bulldogs had their shot when they had a 14-point lead over the Crimson Tide in the third quarter on Saturday, but they blew it. Championship teams hold the leads they need to hold and win the games they need to win. That is exactly what Georgia failed to do, and the Bulldogs have rightly gone home as a result.