CFB Playoff: The selection committee's SEC bias is reaching dangerous levels
Scenario guy is my least favorite person.
You know the type, the guy who spends way too much time formulating enough College Football Playoff possibilities to fill a moving truck. Rarely do any of them come to fruition.
But here I am, pounding away on a keyboard like a gerbil spinning a wheel with one scenario I just can’t get out of my head — and how it might just unveil whether or not we’re dealing with a selection committee with an agenda.
The scenario? Georgia beats Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. That’s the fly in the ointment that I haven’t been able to process over the last few weeks.
Although there are a million other circumstances that could occur, let’s just pretend that Clemson, Notre Dame and Michigan win out. We can assume that Georgia and Alabama will win their final two games before meeting in Atlanta on Dec. 1.
What if, somehow, the Bulldogs upset the Tide and claim the SEC title?
There seems to be a real possibility, at least among the analysts on ESPN, that both Alabama and Georgia would earn a spot in the College Football Playoff, giving the SEC two bids for a second straight season. An undefeated Clemson would undoubtedly be in, as would an unbeaten Notre Dame team.
Sorry, Michigan, your invitation must’ve gotten lost in the mail. Unfortunately, B1G, you’re not quite as important as the SEC or the ACC. Better luck next year.
I would have a huge problem with that. It’s not simply because I work for a B1G website, or have grown up living and breathing this conference since birth. That scenario would reveal — pretty clearly — that the selection committee is operated under the guidance of the SEC and ESPN.
The way the rankings have looked the last two weeks, it’s pretty clear there’s already some bias behind those conference room doors.
Not convinced? Here’s something to consider: The SEC has the highest ranked undefeated team (No. 1 Alabama), the highest ranked two-loss team (No. 7 LSU), the highest ranked three-loss team (No. 13 Florida) and the highest ranked four-loss team (No. 21 Mississippi State).
That, alone, is enough evidence that the committee has provided the SEC with some built-in cushion. It’s not about what those teams have done on the field, but the perception that they play in the best conference in the country.
And while we’re on that topic, why is LSU sitting at No. 7? I’m aware that they used to have wins over four ranked opponents, but that number has plummeted to two. They haven’t looked nearly as impressive over the last two weeks in games against Alabama and Arkansas. And yet, they sit ahead of Washington State, West Virginia and Ohio State, all of which have just one loss.
As FOX Sports college football analyst Joel Klatt pointed out after the rankings show last night, it’s a safety net for Alabama, should it drop a game to Auburn or Georgia.
— Joel Klatt (@joelklatt) November 14, 2018
LSU’s positioning would also be a safety net for Georgia, by the way. Should the Bulldogs do the unthinkable in the SEC Championship Game, their lone loss would be to a top seven Tigers team. Don’t think that wouldn’t be a factor in the final decision on Dec. 2.
All of the points I’ve made above could be debated. As unfounded as they might be, you could make the argument that the SEC deserves to have the top ranked two-loss, three-loss and four-loss teams. You might also be able to make a case for LSU at No. 7, though not a real valid one. What does it have to do with the SEC, ESPN and the selection committee?
I’ll actually defer to something BTN basketball analyst Jon Crispin said on a recent episode of Podcast on the Brink. Yes, the former Penn Stater geared his argument toward the hardwood, but it most certainly applied to football, too.
Crispin pointed to the megadeal the B1G reached with FOX to air some of the most high-profile games throughout the year, including Michigan-Ohio State. And since that agreement, ESPN has been left with a lot of scraps.
“ESPN does not get the best B1G games anymore,” Crispin said. “ESPN now has a vested interest — like FOX does with Big Ten Network — with the SEC Network, with the ACC Network. Who do you see ESPN promoting the most? It’s the SEC, it’s the ACC.
“The national narrative has been down on the B1G, and it just so happens to be at the same time when ESPN does not have as much as a vested interest in the conference.”
Again, Crispin was referencing basketball. I’m applying it to football. And if you go look at the history of the College Football Playoff, it makes sense.
The three conferences that have been left out of the four-team field since the inauguration of the College Football Playoff are the B1G, Pac-12, and Big XII. All three of those conferences have deals with FOX.
The two conferences that have had a team reach the College Football Playoff all four years? The SEC and ACC, both with those major ties to ESPN.
Coincidence? Possibly. But after seeing the rankings over the last two weeks, it’s hard not to wonder if there isn’t some sort of Pinky and the Brain type plotting occurring. And when you listen to the analysts on ESPN banter back and forth, it’s hard not to wonder.
That’s why this scenario continues to buzz around my head like a mosquito trapped inside a car that can’t find its way to the cracked window. There’s already a consensus that Alabama has done enough to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff, regardless of its performance in the SEC Championship.
Bouncing Michigan — or even Notre Dame for that matter — from the top four to make way for both Alabama and Georgia would be criminal. It would also be the red flag we’ve needed to re-evaluate the College Football Playoff selection process and whether a major network like ESPN, which has significant ties to two major power conferences, should own broadcasting rights.
Maybe I’m a conspiracy theorists digging a little too deep. Perhaps I’ve muddied my hands for no reason. Or maybe Klatt and Crispin are on to something.
With plenty of football left, there are a million things that could happen. It’s likely that the scenario I’m most worried about won’t even become a reality. That’s why scenario guy is my least favorite guy.
I just couldn’t help myself this time.