Indiana might be playing in their best bowl game since the 1968 Rose Bowl.

Yet not many — aside from perhaps head coach Tom Allen, judging by his public spin — are very happy about it. It’s easy to be upset. Indiana’s snub from the New Year’s 6 bowl games might be the biggest head-scratcher among many head-scratchers by the CFP Selection Committee on Sunday afternoon.

Instead, the Hoosiers are playing Ole Miss in the Outback Bowl, matching up the No. 7 team in the country with one that finished 4-5, 5th in the SEC West.


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Let’s go over the list of Indiana clapbacks in the past week.

• The Hoosiers gained only 1 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings after beating Wisconsin 2 weeks ago, up to No. 11 from 12, when IU earned their signature win in the 2020 season. Never mind, too, that Indiana proved they could win with their backup quarterback.

• The Big Ten changed its rule to allow Ohio State into the B1G Championship Game, when it appeared that Indiana — by way of having played the then-required number of games — would be the East Division representative.

• In the final rankings Sunday, the committee placed Indiana No. 11 overall, 1 outside the window for a premier New Year’s Day bowl game. Not only that, but the Hoosiers were behind 2 teams that had 3 losses.

• And then, adding to the mess, the Hoosiers were skipped over in the non-NY6 bowl pecking order as Northwestern, at No. 14 in the latest rankings, was picked by the Big Ten to go to the Citrus Bowl.

Slap. In. The. Face.

And why?

The committee’s logic isn’t sound.

Let’s start here: It seemed to have prioritized wins over anything else, almost to the point of excluding losses as a consideration. It was as if losing simply had no bearing on whether a team was in or out. You could almost imagine a 4-8 team making it into the 4-team College Football Playoff, presuming those 4 wins — somehow — were against Clemson, Florida, Notre Dame and Oklahoma. The losses be damned. Who cares, right?

It’s the only way to explain Iowa State. The Cyclones lost 3 games, but they beat Oklahoma and Texas for their quality victories. So, throw out the losses, because Iowa State is in a New Year’s 6, the Fiesta Bowl vs. Oregon, probably the one the Hoosiers thought they were destined for.

There’s more. The committee appears to be okay with Ohio State playing only 6 games — and cool with the idea that their best win might be vs. Indiana — because it put the Buckeyes in as the 3rd team in the Playoff, but it doesn’t like that Indiana played only 7. Every other team in its top 10 played at least 9 games, aside, of course, from OSU.

So which is it? You can’t both reward one team and punish another for playing under the same circumstances.

Look, Indiana’s resume isn’t perfect. At 6-1, the Hoosiers didn’t beat a team with a winning record, with their most impressive game, arguably, being the loss to Ohio State. But the eye test, which the committee relied on, too, should tell an observer that the Hoosiers are good, with an opportunistic offense that can benefit greatly from a ball-hawking, aggressive defense.

So who is to blame?

The committee? Yeah, it didn’t have a coherent message about the criteria for inclusion, either in the Playoff or the NY6.

The Big Ten? Well, yeah. The conference has messed the season up from the start, delaying due to COVID-19, then reversing course. And when it dumped on IU for the title game, it gave the Selection Committee the clearance to do it again. And then the Big Ten placed Northwestern ahead of IU.

The injury? Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is hurt, taking away perhaps the most nationally known Hoosier from the roster. Maybe the committee didn’t like that, as if IU should be punished for such a thing.

Gary Barta, the committee chair, was asked by the Indianapolis Star about that. Did Penix’s injury affect the way the committee viewed Indiana?

“The committee really appreciated watching (IU) play,” Barta said. “Obviously we pay attention whenever a student-athlete isn’t available. In Michael Penix’s case, a high-profile student-athlete. Jack Tuttle came in and performed very well. Their only loss was to No. 3 Ohio State. They’re 6-1.”

Okay. So those are facts. Cool. Unfortunately, they’re ones that tell us nothing about the committee’s thoughts.

What a shame.