We’ve all had some time to digest the final four contenders for the College Football Playoff, but there are still so many questions. Here are a few things we seemed to learn after the announcement that Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia and Alabama earned those coveted four slots.
Strength of schedule doesn’t really matter: Clemson heads into the playoff ranked number one, despite having a bad loss to Syracuse on their resume. Alabama, who snuck in over Ohio State, played Mercer, an FCS team, in the last week of the regular season. Ohio State, meanwhile, finished the regular season with wins over two teams ranked in the final top-10. And yes, we fully acknowledge the blowout loss to Iowa.
Winning your conference championship doesn’t really matter: Ohio State won theirs but Alabama didn’t. Alabama actually lost to the team that lost the SEC championship. We have two SEC teams in the mix, despite having 5 major conferences. The Big Ten and Pac 12 were left out.
Would we solve the problem by expanding the field to eight teams, allowing all five conference champions to have a spot and giving the next three at large a bid? Maybe, but it doesn’t look like we’ll find out anytime soon.
But history does matter: Clemson, last year’s national champ, is ranked No. 1. Oklahoma’s only loss was to Iowa State, who also beat TCU. Doesn’t seem as bad as a loss to Syracuse, but the reigning champs seem to get the benefit of the doubt. So Oklahoma sits at No. 2. Alabama made it in seemingly because they’re, well, Alabama. The Crimson Tide spent most of this season sitting at No. 1, making it pretty hard to knock them out for a loss to a top-10 team.
Also, poor UCF. They finished the season undefeated, captured a conference championship, and beat most opponents by a convincing margin. But they never had a shot. Instead of making it to the final four, they have a date with No. 7 Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
So really, the biggest factor is the eye test. The four teams that the committee truly believes are the best are the four that will make it in. There doesn’t seem to be a clear favorite in this playoff field, which might make it more fun? Let’s hope.