Why play the games?
If championship contenders are to be decided in a hotel ballroom, why go through the charade of tailgates and rivalry games? Why worry about scheduling attractive opponents and selling season tickets? In fact, why in the world would you watch ESPN instead of HBO on Saturday night?
That’s the message college football’s elite sent on Sunday.
By snubbing undefeated Florida State in favor of a pair of one-loss teams for the four-team College Football Playoff, a group of faceless administrators just spit on the very notion that teams control their own destiny on the field.
Oh, they’ll hide behind the excuse that committee members are tasked with choosing the “best” teams for the postseason. That might be how they do it for Olympic figure skating, but it’s not necessary in football. We actually have scoreboards and results and won-loss records.
What they did Sunday was less about competition and more akin to a popularity contest. It was conjecture. It was opinion. It was if oddsmakers were being allowed to determine the playoff field.
So if that’s the process, how good are these committee members at actually picking winners?
Well, after watching, studying, dissecting the first two months of the season, the committee’s first ranking was released on Oct. 31.
Ohio State was No. 1 and Georgia was No. 2.
Turns out, the committee wasn’t so prescient. The two teams committee members thought were the best in the nation weren’t even the best in their conferences. And now we’re supposed to trust that the experts have miraculously gotten smarter?
Okay, maybe that sounds harsh. And, I’ll admit, it’s probably unfair.
This was destined to be a tough decision, no doubt about that. Someone would inevitably be disappointed.
But here’s the thing:
If it was Alabama that was shunned, at least there was a justification.
You shouldn’t have lost to Texas.
If it was Texas that was shunned, there was also a justification.
You shouldn’t have lost to Oklahoma.
What do you say to Florida State? The Seminoles survived every test put before them. They won their conference. They went outside the conference and beat two SEC teams with national championships in their recent history. They did exactly what a dozen Power Five teams had done in the CFP era, and every one of them made the playoffs.
“Florida State (had a) great year. Really hard for everyone down there,” said committee chairman Boo Corrigan. “But the injury to Jordan Travis is something that, in the eyes of the committee, changed them as a team.”
This idea that the Seminoles deserved to have the door slammed in their faces because their quarterback suffered a season-ending injury should be an outrage to any team that has overcome hardship. Or any fan who has ever cheered on behalf of an underdog.
Maybe you remember Jeff Hostetler winning a Super Bowl with the Giants after Phil Simms was hurt. Or Nick Foles winning a Super Bowl when Carson Wentz was hurt late in the season in Philadelphia.
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Who would have thought the Texas Rangers would win the World Series after limping into the postseason with four losses in their final six games with two of the highest-paid pitchers in the sport nursing injuries?
The point is, we never know who is going to win. That’s why we watch. That’s why we’re still talking about Kirk Gibson limping around the bases after hitting an improbable home run off Dennis Eckersley in his only at-bat of the 1988 World Series. That’s the glory of sports.
“I am disgusted and infuriated with the committee’s decision today to have what was earned on the field taken away because a small group of people decided they knew better than the results of the games,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said in a statement.
And let’s not kid ourselves. This decision involved more than just rankings and strength of schedules.
This smacks of influence from TV networks that want the most attractive matchups imaginable. It has the stink of college football poohbahs unhappy that the SEC was in danger of being shut out of the playoffs. It is, in some ways, a preview of the influence the Big 10 and SEC will have in the wake of conference realignment.
So are Alabama and Texas better than FSU?
But that’s just my opinion. And my opinion shouldn’t matter more than the results on the field.
Neither should the opinions of a bunch of people hiding behind closed doors the morning after FSU finished the season as one of three Power Five teams to finish the season undefeated.
John Romano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @romano_tbtimes.
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