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Bob Lutz: Looking for controversy? Nothing to see in the CFP selections

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Bob Lutz
December 04, 2017 - 3:35 pm
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There’s nothing better than a good sports controversy. I’d take one every day, twice on Sunday.

But Alabama getting into the College Football Playoff over Ohio State should not be a controversy. And we’re trying too hard when we make it one.

Ohio State, of course, won the Big Ten championship Saturday night with a 27-21 win over previously-undefeated Wisconsin. Kudos to the Buckeyes.

Meanwhile, Alabama was not part of the SEC championship game Saturday, having lost to rival Auburn in the previous week. The Tide stayed home while Georgia gained revenge on Auburn with a one-sided victory that catapulted the Bulldogs into the CFP with Oklahoma, Clemson and – Alabama

The Tide didn’t win the SEC, didn’t even get to the conference’s title game.

Ohio State did win its Power 5 conference.

But you know what? Ohio State also lost convincingly at home to Oklahoma in September. And the Buckeyes were beaten by Iowa, 55-24, in early November. That’s a 31-point loss to an unranked team, folks.

Do you really want that team in the College Football Playoff to face Clemson? Don’t you remember last year’s national semifinal, in which the Tigers beat Ohio State, 31-0?

Imagine if the Buckeyes had gotten in this season. Imagine if their fate against Clemson had been similar to last season. Imagine the fallout.

Alabama is not flawless, of course. The Tide owns no signature wins, even in the SEC. But Alabama started the season ranked No. 1 and held onto that spot for most of the season. In fact, of all the first-place votes handed out in the Associated Press college football poll this season, Alabama received 686. You know how many Ohio State received?

Four.

Ohio State did close ground on the Tide late, especially after Alabama’s loss to Auburn. But there was simply too much ground to close and it was too late in the season to do so.

The Buckeyes are out. The Tide is in.

With only four slots available in the CFP, winning a Power 5 conference title is, of course, no guarantee of getting in. And the committee has no problem with picking multiple teams from the same conference if it can strongly enough make the case those teams belong in the playoff.

There is, of course, a bias against Alabama. The Tide has a great coach, Nick Saban, who isn’t all that popular outside of his state. Or even some places in Alabama. Familiarity breeds contempt, they say, and there’s no team more familiar to college football fans than the Tide.

But as someone who consistently looking out for unfairness, slights and questionable tactics, I just can’t come up with justification to make Alabama vs. Ohio State fall into one of those categories.

The Tide made their case. And even by sitting out Saturday while Ohio State was winning a conference title and knocking off an unbeaten team, the case remains solid.

Now if you want to talk about growing the CFP to eight teams, you have my ear.

An eight-team playoff this season, using the CFP rankings, would look like this: No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 8 USC; No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 7 Auburn; No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 6 Wisconsin; No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 5 Ohio State.

Every Power 5 conference would be represented, although the SEC would still have three. Hey, even in a relatively ho-hum year, the SEC is still the best football conference in the country.

But there’s one problem with the CFP eight-team scenario. Where’s Central Florida?

I’ve heard a bunch of people throwing out Central Florida as a team that was ripped off by the CFP committee. I know we like longshots and Cinderella stories, but Central Florida’s schedule just doesn’t stack up to that of a Power 5.

Wins over Memphis and South Florida are nice, but does anyone really believe the Golden Knights should be among the last four teams standing?

This, of course, is unfair to all the FBS teams that play outside the Power Five conferences. Central Florida, which plays in the American Athletic Conference, can make a statement in its Peach Bowl game against Auburn on Jan. 1.

The CFP is a marked improvement from the BCS, no doubt about it. But there’s still room to make the college football postseason better and more meaningful to more fans.

Reducing the number of regular-season non-conference games and creating a 16-team playoff is an idea that has always interested me. It’s done at other levels of college football so why can’t it be done at the highest level?

Find a way for Central Florida to get a shot at a national title. Or Boise State. Or Memphis.

Here’s how a 16-team playoff would look using the CFP rankings:

No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 16 Michigan State; No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 15 TCU; No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 14 Notre Dame; No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 13 Stanford; No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 12 Central Florida; No. 6 Wisconsin vs. No. 11 Washington; No. 7 Auburn vs. No. 10 Miami (Fla.); No. 8 USC vs. No. 9 Penn State.

Intriguing, yes. Except for perhaps what would be a third meeting between OU and TCU. I think the Sooners have proved themselves better than the Frogs.

No system, I suppose, is perfect. But it feels like college football’s postseason has always been lacking, that there has to be something better.

Ohio State getting into a four-team playoff ahead of Alabama isn’t that something. There’s no controversy in the Tide going in over the Buckeyes. So point your outrage somewhere else.​

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