Big Ten teams have the CFP committee's respect, even if it isn't earned
The College Football Playoff committee could have done the right thing.
Cincinnati is 8-0 with a road win over No. 10 Notre Dame. Ohio State is 7-1 with one Top 25 win — that coming over No. 20 Minnesota. But with games looming against Michigan State and Michigan, not to mention the possible Big Ten Championship Game, the Buckeyes would have ample opportunity to prove they are better than the Bearcats by doing it on the field.
Nobody would be able to complain if the inevitable leapfrogging took place. At the end of the season, the Buckeyes would have their 4 Top 25 wins to Cincinnati’s 1. Ohio State’s only loss would be to a fellow Playoff contender, Oregon.
Instead, the committee boxed itself into a corner by ranking the Buckeyes over the Bearcats now rather than waiting for Ohio State to earn it. From that corner, there is a singular message being spoken.
If you’re not from a Power 5 conference, screw you.
All the Playoff committee has done is prove its bias toward brand names. The optics are awful. It’s a travesty for the health of college football, and college athletics as a whole.
If you’re from a smaller school, what’s the point of even fielding a football team if you’re denied access to anything meaningful? Do they really think teams should aspire to win a GMAC Bowl as their ceiling and be OK with that?
Big Ten, big respect
Fortunately for the Big Ten, this is strictly a poor people problem. It’s nice to live in a gated community, even if the neighborhood isn’t quite as fancy as the one where you can lose a game and still be ranked No. 2.
The team that wins the mad dash to finish atop the Big Ten East is clearly Playoff-bound. That includes Michigan, which can easily work its way up from No. 7 if it wins out while someone else dispenses of Michigan State.
And though it isn’t nearly as significant for the Playoff picture, that respect carries over to the B1G West.
Minnesota and Wisconsin, both unranked in the AP poll, checked in at Nos. 20 and 21 in the CFP rankings. Iowa, which has underwhelmed in back-to-back losses to the Badgers and Purdue, still has enough respect to be ranked 23rd. One of those 3 teams will make its way to Indianapolis to provide another Top 20 feather for the East winner.
Expansion is needed
At this point, it’s obvious that expansion is the only answer for the future of the College Football Playoff, because it’s the only thing that benefits every interested party.
If this was a 12-team field, the Big Ten would have 3 teams in the Top 7. A just reward for a conference that has the most balance near the top. Just as the 3 Big 12 teams ranked 8-12 are a just reward for a conference with great balance but no great team. And Cincinnati would be in the field with ease instead of praying for others to stumble — a just reward for a uniquely great Group of 5 program.
Instead, we are stuck with this silliness until the details of expansion can be sorted out. It can’t come soon enough.