Alabama was awarded the fourth College Football Playoff spot over Ohio State. It was a controversial decision but not an injustice. Reasonable minds can argue that it should be the Buckeyes, not the Crimson Tide, still hanging to national title dreams.
It’s not a shame that either Alabama or Ohio State were going to be left on the outside looking in. It’s a shame that one was guaranteed a bailout. Neither did what three other teams — Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia — were able to do: take care of business.
Mystique and intrigue work hand in glove to sell the drama leading up to Selection Sunday. But the truth of the matter is that, through four years, there’s a clearly defined formula for making the playoff. This applies to all members of the Power Five, including Alabama and Ohio State, the two biggest brand names in college football.
- Play someone with a pulse in the non-conference
- Win your conference championship game
- Lose no more than once
That’s it. Failure to do one or more of these things results in serious vulnerabilities. Doing all three has guaranteed inclusion into the playoff. It’s not rocket science nor are the three qualifiers unreasonable expectations for a playoff team. Teams that can’t meet those expectations have no one to blame but themselves.
And that’s really the part of the whole overwrought Alabama-or-Ohio State debate that was hard to stomach. Passionate people on both sides are going to argue Team A is better or more deserving than Team B. But the lack of perspective was astounding. The answer to the fourth-spot question was not clear-cut or black and white.
It’s okay to admit that the committee had a tough call. It’s okay to concede both teams had significant flaws. Instead, people treated it as if a gross injustice was looming and someone’s core rights were about to be violated.
While it’s not productive to wait on sanity governing college football, I’ll make this plea. Can we stop treating college football teams as if they’re slave to some sort of destiny, as unwitting participants in a play in which things happen to them without their input? Stuff doesn’t happen to teams. They do stuff. They are the masters or their fate, the captains of their soul.
Alabama controlled its destiny until it went into Auburn and played poorly. Ohio State — even after an early season loss to Oklahoma — controlled its destiny until Iowa hung 55 points on them. Both of these teams ceded control of their ultimate fate by failing to do the work.
Proponents of the eight-team playoff can look at what happened on Sunday and say it’s evidence the field needs to be expanded. In their mind, it’s a shame that Ohio State had to be left out.
In my mind, it’s a shame Alabama was allowed to crawl in. Perhaps before bemoaning the notion of deserving teams being left out and jumping to eight teams, we should address reality. And that reality is this: only three teams were truly deserving this year.
The strait gate need not be widened.
Quibble with the selection committee’s choice if you wish. Feign outrage for clicks or out of pure tribalism. But when you come up for air, take a good hard look at your stance. I’d wager that the martyr you’re so desperately defending isn’t all that worthy. At the very least, that team put itself in the unenviable position of uncertainty.