Enjoy reading this. It’s my perspective.
It seems like the teams in the “Power 5″ conferences, along with most of the others, aren’t really interested in lining up and falling in as far as the format for the new four-team playoff to determine a “mythical” national championship. There’s a lot of parity, which has been visible from the first of the season when Alabama struggled to beat unranked and unhailed West Virginia, when a Virginia Tech team that has more or less fallen apart took out Ohio State in Columbus, when unranked Arizona went into Eugene and knocked off Oregon, well, you get the picture.
There are still a few undefeated teams, but I think we’re down to three, now. Florida State remains unbeaten largely because it escaped a loss to Notre Dame on a bad call, and because it has played absolutely nobody else. Mississippi State actually has a good, contenting team, got one big win over Auburn, knocked off a moderately decent LSU team, and though they struggled against a fairly decent Kentucky team, they’ve earned their spot at the top. Marshall, in C-USA, has hired a PR firm to press their case, and while they do play outside the Power 5, I’m not as convinced as ESPN’s analysts, and College Game Day’s team, that they shouldn’t be eligible for one of those four spots if they win out.
I’m also not on board with the fascination of the SEC, especially all of the hype around the SEC West. With the exception of Alabama, who did pick up a game with a Big 12 opponent, though a carefully selected team that finished in the lower half last season, no one in that division has played anyone of significance outside the conference. Alabama is riding on reputation, and is certainly not the team it has been in the past. It picked on a much over-rated and overblown Texas A&M team, but other than that, it escaped lowly Fayetteville with a one point win, and lost in Oxford. I can see the Tide losing a couple more games, including the upcoming clash with Mississippi State, and maybe Auburn, before the season is over. The only legitimate contender for one of those four playoff spots out of that group now is Mississippi State, if they make it through unbeaten, or if, even with a single loss, manage to get into, and win, the SEC conference championship. On the other side, if Georgia wins out and wins the conference championship, are they good enough to be one of those top four?
The idea behind the committee is to get beyond the biases of the sports media, and the coaches, as far as polls go, and pick the “four best” teams to play in the “championship” while the bowls get the rest. How that will happen, without the prevalent biases and opinions about “strength of schedule” and the rankings will be interesting to watch. I’m sure my picks won’t match those of the committee, at least, not completely, but if I were going to pick the four best teams in the country as things have developed to this point, this would be what the bracket would look like:
Texas Christian University. TCU has one loss, to an at the time top ten Baylor team on their home field, after a scoring marathon. They lost late in the game, having to depend on an exhausted defense, on the road in a hostile environment. But their bounce back has been nothing less than spectacular, scoring more than 80 points against Texas Tech yesterday. They have another knock down, drag out game facing them Saturday in Morgantown, West Virginia, and if they can get past that, look out for the Horned Frogs.
Mississippi State University. It seems like we’re obligated to put an SEC team in place. Well, they’re the only unbeaten SEC team so far, and if the selection were made now, they’d be in. But they’re it, as far as I am concerned.
Florida State University. Based solely on their record, I would put the ‘Noles in the final four now. They’ve got some tough games ahead, by ACC standards, and I am hoping that someone knocks this over-rated team out of the picture.
Marshall University. “Prove it on the field.” That’s the mantra of SEC boosters who fail to recognize the flotsam of non-conference foes most SEC teams line up (and they get four of those, whereas most conferences only allow three) are the same teams that Marshall has been beating the stuffing out of for the past seven or eight weeks. Unbeaten, Division 1, at the end of the season, they deserve a shot. It’s not their fault that the money in NCAA football has left them out of the “Power Conferences” that have been built.
Four other possibilities:
West Virginia University. If the Mountaineers win out, that would mean they’ve won another game against a top 10 opponent, and at least one more ranked opponent. They have an advantage, now, in that they play the higher ranked teams in their conference at home. Can a team with two losses early on to top 5 teams show the kind of improvement necessary to be one of the best toward the end of the season? If they win out, they would be 10-2 against arguably the toughest schedule in the country, with only one “cream puff” opponent in the mix. They’d be the Big 12 champion. I would put them in.
Michigan State University. The Spartans will most likely win the Big 10 title, and while there’s been a lot of talk about how bad the conference is right now, there’s a lot of parity in this league. There’s really not a “break” week to week in the schedule, especially if you have to go on the road.
The Pac-12 Conference Champion. Whoever wins this conference deserves a spot, regardless of their record. This is arguably the toughest football conference in the country, top to bottom, and its champion deserves one of the playoff spots. Right now, this could be Oregon, Arizona State, Arizona or Utah, with UCLA having an outside shot.
Kansas State University. Winning out, the Wildcats would be the Big 12 Champion. The key will be their Thursday night clash with West Virginia in Morgantown, and their visit to Baylor in Waco. If their QB stays healthy, they could be one of the four best by the time the choice is made.
Maybe, by the time the dust has cleared, there will be a few others. At any rate, until there is a playoff, conference champion facing conference champion, with the Mountain West, CUSA and American conferences involved, there won’t be anything we can genuinely call a “National Championship.” What we have now is a farce. Championships are one on the field, not in the polls.