Sapakoff: College Football Playoff committee sends the right message on scheduling
The College Football Playoff selection process is missing the kind of transparency we find in things like super-secret, high-level government investigations and “The Voice.” Please, next season in Year 4 of our months-long national angst, let us see the ballots turned in by chairman Kirby Hocutt, Clemson Athletic Director Dan Radakovich, Isle of Palms resident Bobby Johnson, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the rest of the committee.
But overall they got it right, again.
They proved there is proof in College Football Playoff advertising.
“ Every Game Counts ” are the first words on the web site overview page, above such official criteria as conference championships, strength of schedule and head-to-head matchups.
Picking Ohio State to go with conference champions Alabama, Clemson and Washington was the logical, surprisingly easy thing to do. Better yet, it sent a strong message: Schedule hard, win, get rewarded with at least a month of lavish praise plus gift packages.
Sure, Washington’s non-conference schedule was a lightweight three-game homestand against Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State. But the Huskies were a one-loss conference champ.
Ohio State’s 21-point victory at Oklahoma is almost certainly what vaulted the Buckeyes from left out to No. 2. It’s what separated an 11-1 Ohio State team that didn’t play in the Big Ten Championship Game from an 11-2 Penn State team that won a Big Ten title but lost at No. 23 Pittsburgh.
NFL-style logic rules.
Cowboys and Condi
If the Packers go 10-6 but lose twice to the 9-7 Vikings, no one gets too upset when Green Bay is given a division title banner.
Because every game actually, technically, really counts in the NFL.
Or how about asking a 12-person group made up of former NFL coaches and general managers (plus Condi) to rank four teams for the AFC and NFC championship games? No doubt, the debate will get testy.
The Cowboys, Patriots and Raiders are in. It’s always about that No. 4 seed, isn’t it?
How about those red-hot Lions?
There would be whining in East Rutherford. Those several Falcons fans would complain over drinks in Buckhead. But an NFL committee, in midseason or final rankings, would have an easier time than the College Football Playoff people.
No need to worry about division records when all games are created equal for the purpose of things like, you know, standings.
USC, Clemson future
At Pittsburgh, they should mass produce T-shirts and bumper stickers: “We beat the 2016 ACC and Big Ten champions” in bold blue and gold.
Pitt’s 43-42 victory at Clemson didn’t hurt the Tigers because Clemson didn’t lose any other games and won the ACC title.
But little did anyone know on Sept. 10 how Pitt’s 42-39 home win over Penn State would alter College Football Playoff final foursome thinking. The Nittany Lions’ 34-27 home victory over No. 24 Temple wasn’t enough to sway thinking.
But it should make all teams think about how they schedule in the College Football Playoff era.
South Carolina thinks the SEC is strong enough not to force a search for real tough games beyond Clemson. But while the SEC East isn’t always going to be as mediocre as it is now, maybe the Gamecocks should try to do better than neutral site games against N.C. State (2017) and North Carolina (2019) and a 2018 home game against Marshall (2018) down the line.
Clemson has the right idea with Auburn at home in 2017, home and home with Texas A&M in 2018 and 2019 and at Notre Dame in 2020. Most years, any SEC West foe is a rugged test. Notre Dame, in theory, will have another winning season before 2020.
We can’t watch the committee; too bad about that lack of transparency. We’re missing a great reality show.
But the committee is carefully watching schedules, a service to college football fans who want as many interesting games as possible.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff