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Fennelly: Penn State's win puts CFP committee in a pickle



Florida is still being dusted for fingerprints, but we think we know the names of the guys who did it. Be on the lookout for a short coach brandishing a dynasty.

It’s Alabama.

And everyone else.

But which everyones?

To me, it’s Clemson, Washington and … Penn State.

That’s right.

Ohio State can dot the “i” in indignant all it wants.

Per chance to dream …

Won’t happen.

The College Football Playoff selection committee is in a pickle. Its credibility is on the clock. And still will be after it chooses Ohio State over Penn State.

I’m sure committee members were on the tops of tables, singing “On Wisconsin” when Penn State was losing 28-7 Saturday night in the Big Ten championship game. A Wisconsin win would have today so easy.

Not now.

Penn State is sitting there.

It plays in the best conference in America this season.

It has won nine games in a row.

It came from behind to beat Wisconsin for the Big Ten title.

Oh, and it beat Ohio State.

And that is about to mean nothing.

Alabama. Clemson. Washington. Penn State.

Not a chance.

Urban Meyer and his Ohio State Buckeyes sat on their duffs Saturday. And they appear a lock for the CFP.

Why do they even bother with these conference title games?

Abolish them. Now.

Why did Penn State even bother beating Ohio State?

Yes, Penn State has twice as many losses as Ohio State.

Yes, Ohio State has three wins over top 10 CFP teams. It won two of those games in the road. Penn State has two wins over current CFP top 10 teams. Penn State was walloped 49-10 by Michigan.

But the Nittany Lions beat Ohio State.

Today is about adjusting to a different kind of world, the CFP world, where there is more to the picture than head-to-head.

CFP executive director Bill Hancock said as much when he was in town last month and was asked about the weight of conference titles and head-to-head

“When teams are comparable, then we apply those tiebreakers, like conference championships,” Hancock said. “Each committee member has to decide whether they think they’re comparable. When the one-loss team and two-loss team are viewed by the committee as comparable, then they begin to apply the tiebreaker.

He added, “The language in our protocol, which is on our web site, the key sentence for me is that the committee has the flexibility to make a non-champion one of the top four when they believe unequivocally that it’s one of the top four teams. There was talk when we created the playoff about just having it be four conference champions. There were commissioners who wanted that and some who said, no, it has to be purer, it has to be the best four teams.”

Yes, the CFP can make a real argument for Ohio State.

By the way, there is precedent for head-to-head not being a deciding factor.

You don’t even have to leave our state to find it.

In 1993, Florida State lost late in the season to Notre Dame, but after the Irish lost to Boston College, the Seminoles advanced to the national title game and won it. Made the wire polls look good.

In 2000, defending national champion FSU finished ahead of Miami in the BCS standings despite losing to the Hurricanes during the regular season. The Seminoles were stuffed by Oklahoma in the title game. Made the BCS look bad.

Now comes a real CFP controversy.

Ohio State better make the CFP decision look good.

The Buckeyes did just that two years ago, in the CFP’s inaugural season, when TCU yapped about being left out.

But Urban and Ohio State annihilated Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game to crack the CFP. The Buckeyes kept on trouncing all the way to the national title.

Ah, the days when winning your conference title mattered.

Wisconsin couldn’t make it easy for the CFP and beat Penn State.

Instead, we have a crackling good mess.

Forget Michigan. Yesterday’s news. The Wolverines lost two of their last three games. They’re out.

Include 12-1 Clemson and 12-1 Washington. Dabo Swinney and his Tigers, who have dodged chaos all season, held off Virginia Tech in a teeter-totter ACC title game Saturday night. Washington laid down convincing tracks by pounding Colorado in the Pac-12 title game.

If I’m the CFP committee, I throw a bone to the idea of conference champions by sliding Ohio State back behind Clemson, and maybe even Washington.

Sorry, Urban, you guys didn’t play Saturday.


I’d keep Ohio State right on sliding and go with Penn State.

But look for Penn State left out, unless it jumps over Washington, which would mean two Big Ten teams on no Pac-12 team in the playoffs.


I’d be stunned if Penn State isn’t the big loser today.

I’ve thought Ohio State and Michigan were two of the four best teams in the country most of the season.

But Penn State is playing the best football in the best conference at the moment.

The CFP has arrived at a test case.

We get our answer today.

My guess: Ohio State is in, Penn State is out.

Those fools up in Happy Valley.

Why did they even bother beating Ohio State?

Why did they even win that conference title?

Why do we even play all these games?

[Last modified: Sunday, December 4, 2016 10:24am]


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