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Trying to predict exactly what the College Football Playoff committee will do on a weekly basis is an exercise in futility. There have been some misfires here and there, but for the most part the rankings have been strong week after week. But now, with the big mess of TCU, Florida State, Ohio State and Baylor all deserving of one of the two spots – assuming Alabama and Oregon occupy the top two spots in some form – now what?
A case could be made for and against all four teams, and, unfortunately, there’s no definite right or wrong answer for the two teams left out of the fun. So here we go as I try to put myself into the collective 12 minds in the conference room in Grapevine, Texas.
The Case For: The Bears actually beat TCU. No matter how you want to play it out, according to Big 12 tie-breaker rules, the head-to-head winner gets the spoils – Baylor would’ve gone to the Fiesta Bowl back in the BCS era. The offense didn’t just show up when needed against Kansas State; it was fantastic, doing everything it had to do against the No. 9 team in the country.
The Case Against: Buffalo. You just can’t play a non-conference schedule of SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo. West Virginia was a tough, feisty team, but it also struggled down the stretch after beating Baylor by 14, and as of the second-to-last ranking, it was a double-digit loss to an unranked team.
What Will Happen: Baylor will be fourth out of the four teams looking for the two spots. It’s hard to argue against actually beating TCU, but the overall body of scheduling work is a killer. The horrendous non-conference slate is impossible to overcome when combined with a blowout loss to an unranked team.
The Case For: Last year doesn’t matter in any way, shape or form when it comes to the 2014 playoff rankings, but c’mon – this is the unbeaten defending national champion. It’s not just the only unbeaten Power 5 team, it’s the only unbeaten team in all of college football, and no matter how the sausage was made, and no matter how it got to 13-0, 13-0 is 13-0. Yes, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame and Florida turned out to be mediocre, but those are three restaurant-quality programs and wins over three bowl teams with speed and talent – the Seminoles didn’t duck anyone.
The Case Against: A win is a win, but Florida State loses to Clemson without a semi-miraculous fumble, and it loses to Notre Dame if the Irish executed its key late touchdown play better and doesn’t get flagged for a pick. The Seminoles made a habit of underwhelming, and in terms of style points, there weren’t any. In just about every big game, in some way, the team struggled in the first half and didn’t seem to turn it on until it absolutely had to.
What Will Happen: In. There might be a backlash against the committee for something, but it has the unenviable task of having to leave two teams out. The screaming will be the loudest, though, if the one unbeaten team and preseason No. 1 in the other polls isn’t in.
The Case For: Here’s the crazy part – you could actually make a case that Ohio State might be worthy of a top two spot. Why? How? Ten wins over bowl bound teams, a dominant performance at Michigan State – technically, according to MSU’s ranking, one of the best wins by anyone all year considering it was on the road – and with everything on the line, and with a third-string quarterback, a complete and utter annihilation of a red-hot Wisconsin team in the Big Ten championship.
The Case Against: Virginia Tech 35, Ohio State 21 in Columbus. The Baylor loss to West Virginia wasn’t great, but at least that was on the road – and it’s probably going to be cost the team a playoff spot. Of course a team can improve as the season goes on, and of course Ohio State came through when it had to, but when comparing and contrasting, the one big loss stands out. Also, remember, the Big Ten all but lost September – it could be argued that it’s the weakest of the Power 5.
What Will Happen: The Big Ten championship was fun, but yeah, THE Ohio State University with Urban Meyer as its head coach will be out of the playoff. Why? No. 5 coming into the weekend, and the top four didn’t falter. The Buckeye nation is going to explode, but it all comes down to one thing – Virginia Tech 35, Ohio State 21.
The Case For: The lone loss turned out to be in a weird and wild fourth quarter shootout at Baylor. Bryce Petty got into an all-timer of a zone, and even so, it was a crazy shootout with several twists and turns. Out of all five main playoff contenders with a loss, losing to No. 6 Baylor is the most acceptable. Throw in a decisive win over Kansas State, and with the pressure on and America watching, a 48-10 win over Texas, and the team did what it had to do. Also, don’t dismiss a 30-7 blowout over a Minnesota team that had a shot at the West title in the final Big Ten regular season weekend. Despite the screaming and yelling from all sides, TCU does get to print 2014 Big 12 Champion t-shirts.
The Case Against: Baylor 61, TCU 58. TCU and Baylor might be co-champions, but the Horned Frogs lose the tie-breaker. Overall, the resume just isn’t that strong with only four wins over teams with winning records – Minnesota, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Kansas State. The 34-30 struggle against Kansas was never really a factor in the committee’s rankings, but it should’ve.
What Will Happen: In. Ranked No. 3 before the final rankings, the Horned Frogs didn’t give the committee any reason to change its opinion as it did exactly what it needed to do with a 55-3 win over lowly Iowa State.
So what’s going to happen? Alabama No. 1, Oregon No. 2, TCU No. 3, Florida State No. 4. The top four didn’t do anything to lose its place in line, and while it might not seem fair, and it might not seem right, the Ohio State’s loss to Virginia Tech and Baylor’s loss to Virginia Tech will be the differentiating factors.
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