The College Football Playoff committee got it right. Alabama ought to be in the playoff. Ohio State should not be. You didn't need a 13-person committee to come to that conclusion. Just common sense. Alabama is a better football team than Ohio State, whether it made it to the SEC championship game or not. The committee wasn't looking to balance out conferences here. They were looking to get the four best teams. And did. Good for them.
When Kirby Hocutt, the chairman of the committee, got on ESPN on Sunday afternoon, the first thing he talked about was looking at Alabama's only loss -- to Auburn, Iron Bowl -- against two losses for Ohio State. And he was absolutely right.
A year ago, Ohio State didn't make it to the Big Ten championship game the way Alabama sure didn't make it to the SEC championship game this year, and it still made it into the playoff, jumping over the team -- Penn State -- that did win the conference championship and rode a nine-game winning streak right through that championship game, a winning streak that, oh by the way, included a win over Ohio State.
So Ohio State ended up in the playoff. Penn State did not. I didn't think Penn State deserved to go last year over Ohio State. A year later, I don't believe Ohio State deserved to go with two losses, even after it beat Wisconsin on Saturday night in Indianapolis.
Ohio State didn't miss by a lot. Just enough. Alabama is better. Alabama, in fact, despite losing to Auburn, might still be the best of anybody, despite the fact that Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma look like the hottest team in the world right now.
Oklahoma lost to Iowa State at home. That is a far worse loss than Alabama losing to Auburn, at Auburn, when the Tigers looked like the hottest team in the world. Clemson is going to the playoff as the top seed. Its one loss came against Syracuse, which never won another game after that. And, of course, one of Ohio State's two losses was 55-24 against Iowa. A year ago, one of the reasons used against Penn State was that earlier in its season, the Nittany Lions had lost 49-10 to Michigan. It was no worse a loss than Ohio State had this season against Iowa, when the Buckeyes were supposed to be getting on a big roll after an amazing comeback win against Penn State.
"If we lost to a team in our conference by 30 points, we wouldn't be having this conversation," Alabama's Nick Saban said, stumping for his team Saturday night after a conference championship Saturday when Saban and his players could only sit and watch. "You wouldn't even be talking to me."
And when Urban Meyer learned about what Saban had said after the Big Ten championship game, this is what Urban said:
"Everybody's got to stick up for their team and I'm going to stick up with mine. With quality wins, I think we've got a shot."
Those quality wins were supposed to be such big, important factors in Ohio State's favor, when measuring its season against Alabama's. Ohio State had two wins against top-10 teams and the best Alabama had were victories against Mississippi State and LSU. Except: Except that when Saban's guys played Florida State in its opener, when we still thought Florida State would be a national championship contender and before FSU's quarterback Deondre Francois didn't make it out of that opener, that was viewed as a huge win as a time. Doesn't change because it was in September. That game mattered mightily at the time.
In the end, we use pretty much the same arguments for elevating Ohio State over Penn State a year ago as elevating Alabama over Ohio State this time. Oh, and there is one other fundamental reason: This Alabama team is a lot better than last year's Ohio State team was. I don't even think Ohio State's two-loss season is better than USC's.
Somehow on Saturday night on television J.T. Barrett, the Ohio State quarterback, was breathlessly treated like the second coming of Deshaun Watson every time he got his team another first down. But had Barrett made the playoff, he would have been the fourth-best quarterback in the semis.
Once, in the past, when we had wire-service polls and coaches' polls, we'd end up with more than one national champion when the bowl games were over, and the heated and endless debate would be about all that. Now, especially last year and this, it is about the team that gets left on the outside looking in. A fifth player with only four seats at the table. It is a perfectly imperfect system, and I hope they never change it to eight teams, despite all the hand-wringing today in Columbus, and in the Big Ten.
At the end of the day, and despite all the numbers and analysis and quality of opponents and strength of schedule, you have to apply the eye test, not just to what you have seen over the past few weeks, but the past few months. There was not a single Saturday when you walked away thinking Ohio State was the best college football team in the country. But there were plenty of times when you thought that about Alabama, even when Georgia was No. 1. Doesn't change now that Georgia beat the team that beat the Crimson Tide in the Iron Bowl on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Here is what Gene Chizik, the former Auburn coach whose 2010 team was 14-0 and won the national championship, said on Twitter early Sunday morning:
"Funny thing is the 4 metrics are used in the CFB playoff when 2 teams are comparable. Watch film.... there's no comparison. Alabama should be a no brainer over OSU and every former coach on the committee should concur if they've watched film. Sorry folks..."
Nothing for which he should have been sorry. He was right. So is the committee. There is always going to be somebody thinking that the system screwed them. This time it's Ohio State. They're one of the best five college football teams in the country. Just not one of the best four.