To be honest, there was no good answer, but there was no bad answer, either.
When it came to picking the four teams that would participate in the CFB Playoffs, 2017 version, any amalgam of Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Ohio State, and/or Penn State was going to be justifiable.
But to wit, any combination of those teams was also going to set some sort of precedent. And the committee set a sketchy one.
While true, all years are created differently, the cold, hard reality is that the committee has set the standard that a conference championship and head to head victory aren’t enough if you have one more loss that happened out of conference. To a rival.
This might not be applicable next year, and overall, yeah, Ohio State’s resume is better than that of Penn State, but the optics of it have a feel of the arbitrary “eye test” being the most important characteristic a team can have, even in the face of actual results.
Had they chosen Penn State, the optics would still be a bit sketchy. It would dismiss a better resume with a more appealing out of conference schedule, plus a season of results where the Buckeyes weren’t outclassed at any point like PSU was in getting drummed by 39 by Michigan.
The reality is that PSU was an improving but imperfect product early in the season, which resulted in a loss to Pitt and a flogging by the Wolverines. They got better, but did they get 39 points against UM better? Who knows. The “property of transitive losses” is a pretty stupid way to decide anything, to be honest.
That’s not to say the committee did that, but the committee will forever be asked about comparing future years to this one (even though it’s not an apples to apples product) as the standard was finally set as to what will get a non conference … heck, non division champ into the playoffs.
PSU fans have a right to be annoyed, just like OSU fans would have had the same right had the roles been flipped. I’m going to dismiss anyone jumping Washington, because the committee should in all reasonable cases, avoid potential rematches. That would render the regular season as a little more insignificant, which college football wants to avoid at all costs no matter the blood loss involved.
The problem the committee has created for future years in doing this is that they essentially devalued two things that seem to be the ultimate trump cards when it comes to deciding “better” teams for the sake of continually trying to politick the out of conference wins as more important than anything else.
They’ve staked the flag in the ground that the conference championship and the head to head win are not as important as getting a head to head victory over another conference’s champ (Oklahoma) versus an extra loss. It’s an odd standard to set this year, especially considering Washington had the 127th ranked OOC schedule (however the hell such a thing is calculated) in the nation.
So out of conference games matter … until they don’t … and the CFB Playoff committee gets the be the arbitrators deciding which matters and which doesn’t in some smoke filled room after the discussions about alien invasion are off the meeting agenda.
The point isn’t about OSU or PSU or the Big Ten or really, anything individual.
It’s the point that a standard was set, and whether next year produces something different but similar or not, this will be what people and teams begin to look to when figuring out how to schedule and get in this playoff thing.
It wasn’t going to be bad no matter how they sliced it, but it wasn’t going to be good, either. The shrapnel of this will cascade through the college football atmosphere for years to come.