College football’s championship week is over. It went as anticipated. Alabama, already a lock, took care of business against Florida to finish 13-0. Clemson and Washington won their conferences respectively to finish 12-1. Ohio State, entering the weekend at No. 2, has a strong résumé at 11-1. That, barring unforeseen circumstances, is your college football playoff.
Debate merchants will trumpet Penn State. Yes, the Nittany Lions won a “conference championship.” Yes, they narrowly beat Ohio State head-to-head. Those are the same thing. That is doubling down on the same fluky special teams play.
Ohio State has one fewer loss and a better résumé. The Buckeyes beat Michigan while PSU lost by 39. The Buckeyes beat Big 12 champ Oklahoma by three touchdowns in Norman, while PSU lost to Pitt. “Conference champion” would be a decider among equals. It’s hard to argue convincingly Ohio State and Penn State have equal résumés.
The Power 5 conferences had the chance to mandate four conference champions. They did not do so. The committee MO has been to take the least controversial decision. The least controversial decision would be to go with the better team, which is Ohio State. The less troubling precedent would be to err on the side of the better team.
Penn State may have had a better case against Washington. Though, the Huskies’ winning their title game over No. 8 Colorado by 31 and Stanford sidling back into the Top 20 (not to mention a narrow PSU win over Wisconsin) deflates that argument.
The Nittany Lions will head to the Rose Bowl. Wisconsin probably plays Western Michigan in the Cotton. Michigan probably plays Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
The real question will be whether the committee penalizes Ohio State for not having a conference championship by dropping the Buckeyes to No. 4. Doing so would be better for the bowls. Ohio State would not be playing in the Fiesta a second-straight year. The Fiesta would get a regional team with Washington. That move would guarantee the ratings from Ohio State vs. Alabama in the first round.