B1G Debate: Has the College Football Playoff Selection Committee treated the Big Ten fairly?
Editor’s note: Ryan O’Gara and Connor O’Gara grew up following sports in suburban Chicago. The brothers, separated by 20 months, debated about their favorite teams and players so often that their father would often have to remind them, “This isn’t PTI.” Each Friday, they’re bringing that debate to you, centered around the Big Ten and college football as a whole.
This week’s topic: Has the College Football Playoff Selection Committee treated the Big Ten fairly?
RYAN: We are getting down to crunch time in terms of the College Football Playoff. The final rankings come out Dec. 20, which means there is only one more Tuesday night rankings show to argue over. The Big Ten currently has 4 teams in the Top 25: No. 4 Ohio State (5-0), No. 12 Indiana (6-1), No. 14 Northwestern (5-1) and No. 16 Iowa (5-2).
At this point, those are the only 4 B1G teams with a case of being ranked. As far as where those teams fall, though, I have some bones to pick. The only team that I know is better than Ohio State right now is Alabama, though I understand why the Buckeyes are down at 4.
My biggest gripe is with Indiana and that it makes no sense that the Hoosiers are stuck at No. 12. There are 4 SEC teams that are ahead of the Big Ten’s No. 2 team. While I certainly understand the total games argument that is working against the Big Ten, the Committee still has Ohio State (5-0) at No. 4, so it can’t be too big of a deal. Indiana (6-1) doesn’t have that problem. This is what confuses me:
- Why are the Hoosiers ranked 3 spots behind a Georgia team that has 2 losses and no quality wins?
- Why is there a 7-spot difference between Indiana and a Texas A&M team that has a 28-point loss on its ledger?
- Why does Indiana beat the No. 16 team in last week’s rankings, Wisconsin, and get no credit for it?
- And at the same time, why does an Iowa State team with 2 losses (including a 17-point loss at home to a Sun Belt team) rise up to No. 7 (5 spots ahead of Indiana) after beating an average West Virginia squad?
- If Ohio State is so good, why doesn’t Indiana get credit for having the ball with a chance to tie on the final possession?
I know that Alabama (9-0) and Florida (8-1) are better than Indiana; I’m not so sure that Texas A&M (7-1), a team that beat winless Vanderbilt by just 5 points and has just 2 quality wins, and Georgia (6-2) are better than Indiana.
I am preemptively objecting to Iowa’s ranking in next week’s poll, too. Even after the Hawkeyes beat Wisconsin this weekend, they will probably be stuck at 16 and not inching closer to the top 10, all because the Committee is overly concerned about head-to-head matchups decided by a few points. (That’s right, Florida should not be ranked below Texas A&M, either. The Gators win that matchup 7 out of 10 times, if not more.)
That said, I think Northwestern is ranked too high, but the Committee can’t possibly move the Wildcats below Iowa since it overvalues head-to-head, as mentioned above.
And my last take: If Iowa and Iowa State played this weekend, the Hawkeyes would win.
Where am I wrong?
CONNOR: I think for the most part, you’re right. We both agreed that when the first rankings came out, it was extremely favorable to the B1G. I thought Ohio State getting a top-4 spot to start was monumental because the biggest question was about games played. If the Buckeyes were past the most daunting part of the schedule — other Power 5 conferences playing games while they weren’t — then that told me they were in favorable position to hold onto one of those top-4 spots. That’s proven to be true, despite the fact that Ohio State’s defense is a shell of its former self. The selection committee has now set this up for Ohio State to make the field, barring some sort of 2-team ACC AND 2-team SEC bid. Those odds aren’t great.
I agree with you that Indiana’s ranking this past weekend was a joke. I couldn’t believe that the Hoosiers didn’t move an inch while Iowa State got bumped all the way ahead to No. 7 ahead of Cincinnati. Like, does the selection committee think that the blowout home loss to Louisiana was just a preseason game? The selection committee had given Wisconsin the benefit of the doubt for its 2-1 start at that No. 16 spot, but then it was almost like Indiana handing the Badgers their second loss was a catch-22. Everyone is screwing over Indiana these days, so I suppose we should just expect that.
Where I’ll push back is on A&M. You’re right that Iowa would beat Iowa State if they played tomorrow, but if you’re gonna use the same logic of a streaking team for that argument, you have to do the same with the Aggies. Don’t forget they beat Florida — a win that aged extremely well — and they’ve won 6 SEC games in a row, 5 of which were by double digits.
As for the Georgia thing, yeah, that’s a mess. Other than recruiting rankings, I can’t give you a legitimate explanation for why Georgia is still ranked ahead of Indiana. I mean, the Dawgs got smacked in both of their losses. Go figure that their best win was at home against Auburn, AKA the team who A&M just beat by double digits on the road, yet the Aggies didn’t get the benefit of the doubt for that win.
Let’s be honest, though. Go back to September when we found out the B1G was actually having a season. If you told the league that it would’ve had a team in the top 4 in mid-December having played only 5 games, it would’ve been thrilled. That’s what this is all about. If you’re the B1G, I don’t think you can really ask for much more than that.
What’s a scenario that would make you say after Selection Sunday that the committee treated the B1G unfairly?
RYAN: I think Ohio State should be in the No. 3 spot, which is what will happen in all likelihood. Assuming Alabama and Clemson win their conference championship games, Ohio State should jump Notre Dame. Selection Chair Gary Barta wouldn’t speculate on rematches in the CFP, but there’s no way it wants to have Clemson and Notre Dame play in that 2 vs. 3 game and meet for a third time.
Additionally, the Big Ten deserves to get a second team, whether it be Indiana, Northwestern or Iowa, in a New Year’s Six bowl game. There have only been 8 teams outside of the top 12 that have made it, so 1 of those 3 should be in the top 12. Right now, Indiana is hanging on the edge. Northwestern seems unlikely to make that jump into the top 12, considering it will probably get blown out by Ohio State. Iowa, though its 2 losses were by a combined 5 points and came in the first 2 games of the season, may never leap Northwestern.
That leaves Indiana, which can’t afford to slip any more in the rankings. My concern is that the Hoosiers, by virtue of getting their game against Purdue canceled this week, won’t get a chance at another quality opponent, like Iowa or Wisconsin, in the crossover because the Hoosiers will have to make up the Old Oaken Bucket game. And it would be great to get that game in, but it would also be great to play Iowa for a spot in a NY6. It will likely come down to the Big 12. Will the loser of Iowa State and Oklahoma (which is guaranteed to have 3 losses) fall all the way behind Indiana? It should. It would really help if North Carolina is able to beat Miami this weekend.
The Big Ten has had at least 2 teams in NY6 every year since it started in 2014. In 4 of those years, the B1G has had 3 teams. If Penn State or Michigan had the same resume as Indiana, this wouldn’t even be a question.
What will you be watching in those final rankings?
CONNOR: Yep. Ohio State would definitely move into the No. 3 spot in that scenario. Nobody complains about seeding once they make the field, anyways. I think we need to mentally prepare for either the “they didn’t deserve to make it” crowd if they win, and the “this is why they shouldn’t have gotten the benefit of the doubt” crowd. It’s coming.
The New Year’s 6 thing does matter. And no, it’s not always fair. Go back to 2018 when Kentucky beat Florida, yet the Gators got into the New Year’s 6 with the same record. The selection committee values head-to-head until it doesn’t. That could be a New Year’s 6 play-in game between Indiana and Iowa, though. It would be dependent on the Hawkeyes taking care of Wisconsin, of course. I thought the selection committee ranking a 3-2 Iowa team a couple weeks ago was promising. I think Iowa could still leapfrog Northwestern with 2 more wins and earn the New Year’s 6 bid with the same record, despite the head-to-head, just as Florida did to Kentucky.
I think what I want to see is how the selection committee reacts to any sort of legitimate chaos. That hasn’t happened yet. We have yet to see the top 6 change because nobody in the top 6 has lost a game yet. That’s never happened in the first 3 polls. With Clemson and Notre Dame, it’s all but impossible that it’ll stay unchanged through the final poll. I’d love to see how the selection committee handled a 14-point Clemson win against Notre Dame. If I’m guessing, the Irish would still make the field and we’re back to discussing Ohio State vs. Texas A&M for that final spot, which I think would go to the Buckeyes.
Watch Notre Dame demolish Clemson and give us both Ohio State AND Texas A&M a spot in the Playoff. In that scenario, the selection committee would find a way to move the Aggies to the No. 3 spot to avoid the rematch with Alabama. There’s a reason why we have yet to have a rematch in the Playoff. Plus, I’m not sure why anyone would sign up for Part 2 when Part 1 was decided by 4 scores.
We need drama. And I’m not talking about some entertaining Big 12 Championship. No matter how much the selection committee tries to tell us, the Big 12 is no longer relevant when it comes to the Playoff.
I feel like with all we’ve had to deal with in 2020, we’re owed a little Selection Sunday fun.