Leading up to the Big 10 Championship Game, I listened to people tell me “If Penn State wins the conference and doesn’t get into the playoffs, college football is broken.” Ever since Penn State actually won the Big 10, I’ve heard much of the same. Now the College Football Playoffs are set and Penn State is not in them. Instead, Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Washington got the nod over the Nittany Lions. The CFP committee made the right decision.
Even the media is getting in on the Penn State pity-party. After the selections were announced, USA Today published an article about how the Nittany Lions got snubbed by the selection committee. Sure, Penn State had an argument to be included in the CFP but theirs isn’t nearly as strong as the other four teams’.
The thesis of the article is that Penn State should’ve gotten in over Ohio State. The writer states:
What’s frustrating about Sunday’s Playoff semifinal pairings is that the Buckeyes’ résumé — which had holes in it worth poking at and having a robust discussion about — did get compared head-to-head to that of Penn State, the team that beat them and finished just outside the top four at No. 5, but not as much as it should have.
This logic is incredibly flawed. Should we make head-to-head matchups the number one deciding factor? By this logic Pitt, who beat second-ranked Clemson, should’ve been considered. Not only that, but Pitt handed a loss to the lauded Nittany Lions! However, this fails to consider the rest of Pitt’s season, in which they accrued 4 losses. The problem with putting too much stock in head-to-head matchups is that any good team can have a bad day and every bad team can have a good day. It fails to look at the team holistically.
But what other arguments does the writer make?
Still, it’s a hard pill to swallow for both Nittany Lions fans and also those who believe in the value of conference championships. Penn State finished the season by reeling off nine consecutive wins and winning the Big Ten championship by beating Wisconsin in a thrilling come-from-behind win on Saturday night.
I totally get that it’s a hard pill to swallow for Penn State fans. I’ve been there. When you’re a homer, you can always find a way to justify your team. It’s these believers in the “value of conference championships” that puzzle me. Yes, Penn State won the Big 10. But there is no way they are the best team in the conference. Both Ohio State and Michigan are better than the Nittany Lions. Ohio State has less losses than Penn State and proves superior in every statistical measure. Michigan annihilated the Nittany Lions 49-10 (head-to-head matchups anyone?). And yes, Penn State won 9 in a row but only three of those victories came against an opponent that finished with a winning record.
The argument doesn’t get any better:
The committee consists of 12 people; the human aspect and the subjectivity that comes along with it is part of the process. Committee members inherently value different parts of the CFP criteria differently, but they should be taking into consideration a team’s growth through the season — even if a team suffered two September losses.
Alright Mrs. Smart-Reporter, you learned how to work the Google on the Internet Machine. The committee consists of 12 people. Correct. What you failed to acknowledge is the plethora of non-human criteria that the committee considered. Every statistical measure favors Ohio State. In ESPN’s Football Power Index Ohio State ranks 2nd. Penn State ranks 12th. In Strength of Schedule Ohio State ranks 1st. Penn State ranks 11th. In Offensive Efficiency Ohio State ranks 16th. Penn State Ranks 29th. In Defensive Efficiency Ohio State ranks 2nd. Penn State ranks 31st. Not to mention, Washington ranks above Penn State in all of those categories as well!
Penn State was not “snubbed” by the CFP selection committee. The College Football Playoffs are not broken. People complain about the NCAA every opportunity they get. And a lot of the times it’s justified. This is not one of those times. The committee has the job to select the four best teams in the country. Penn State has the conference title and they have the head-to-head win against Ohio State. But by every other measure, Ohio State is the better team.
Like what you read? Subscribe to the website to get Red Seat’s posts straight to your inbox!