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A Look into 2016’s College Football Playoff

Hailey Spaeth

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By Roshan Chandrakumar ’17, Sports Section Editor

3 games. 1 champion. The four best teams in the country. That’s how the playoff was setup. But just hours after the rankings were released and the bowl schedule was released, it’s hard to say that the best four teams in the country were selected.

Alabama was a clear choice to make the playoff and the only Power 5 team to go undefeated. Nothing short of utter domination will satisfy the Crimson Tide as they look to win their 2nd straight championship. Could you have expected anything other than perfection from Nick Saban’s side? Even though they were led by a freshman quarterback, and without one outstanding name at running back, like they have been so accustomed to having, the Tide have evolved their offense and come back with an even more voracious defense to solidify themselves as one of the playoff teams.

Ohio State has had its ups and downs throughout the year. Going on the road and handling #7 Oklahoma, winning in Madison in overtime against #8 Wisconsin, dominating a once top-10 Nebraska, and gutting it out to defeat rival Michigan, the Buckeyes had the wins to make the case for being one of the top teams in the country. But struggles in a loss to Penn State, and a narrow win against a 3-9 Michigan State squad, coupled with the fact that the Buckeyes were not Big Ten Champions, cast some doubt into what their fate would be. Ultimately, the good outweighed the bad and the committee decided it would have been unjust to keep them out.

Clemson struggled at times throughout the season, but at other times we saw glimpses of what made them so special last year. After winning the ACC championship to finish a 13-1 season, Clemson also seemed a lock. Wins against #14 Clemson, #13 Louisville (then ranked #3), # 11 Florida State, and #22 Virginia Tech proved Clemson’s ability, and with only one blemish on their resume, it would have been seemingly impossible to leave out the Tigers.

To the entire country and to the College Football Playoff Committee three teams were a lock to make the playoff. But this is where things got tricky. 1 spot left. 3 teams with a belief that they deserved to be in. Washington. Penn State. Michigan. Each team had a right to be in the playoff, but only one could.

Of these three teams, Washington was the only one loss team. Going 12-1 is a fine accomplishment, but their strength of schedule was horrendous. Out of conference they played Rutgers, one of the worst Big Ten Teams, Portland State, and Idaho. Not one of those wins means a thing. In conference, they had some quality wins, including #18 Stanford, #19 Utah, and #10 Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship. But they missed their chance to solidify themselves as an elite squad when they lost to #9 USC. Washington’s schedule was weak, but they took care of business and were crowned champions of their conferences while only suffering one loss.

Penn State was an interesting case. Champions of a conference where they were arguably the 3rd best team, with 2 losses (one of which was a blowout), but a couple signature wins, Penn State really made the committee consider what mattered to them. With wins against ACC champion Temple, #2 Ohio State, and #8 Wisconsin, along with being crowned Big Ten Champions in a conference featuring 4 top-10 teams, Penn State had a strong case to be put into the playoff. A 3 point loss to a very good Pittsburgh (the only team to beat Clemson) was not completely disqualifying, but a 39 point loss to Michigan seemed to ruin their chances. Though with a far better strength of schedule than Washington and a very impressive conference championship, we might have seen Penn State in the playoff had they chosen to schedule a team the caliber of Portland State rather than Pittsburgh.

Michigan also had a chance to get in over Penn State and Washington. Having proven they were a better team than Penn State with a 39 point victory, and sharing the same amount of losses, it is arguable Michigan was the better team. Wins over #10 Colorado, #5 Penn State, and #8 Wisconsin showed Michigan was not to be taken lightly. A slipup against Iowa was all that kept them out. Yes, they didn’t get it done against Ohio State, but a double overtime loss against the 2nd best team in the country is not disqualifying. It’s certainly better than most of what Washington was able to accomplish.

In the end, the committee made the right decision. Only three Power 5 teams had one loss, and those 3 made the playoff. But Penn State, along with Michigan, had as much a right to be included, which is why I’m advocating for an expansion. Make the 4 team playoff an 8 team playoff. Each of the Power 5 conference champions would get in, so this year it would be Alabama, Clemson, Penn State, and Oklahoma. Then one non Power 5 team gets in; they deserve a shot and have the ability to surprise (as seen by last year’s Peach Bowl where Houston beat Florida State). This year it would be Western Michigan who went undefeated. And finally two at-large bids, the best two teams left in the eyes of the committee would get in. This year, that would be Ohio State and Michigan, who are both undeniably deserving of getting in. Expanding the playoff would ensure that every team worthy of getting in did and that conference champions were rewarded for their impressive feats. Fans would no longer have to argue over which conference was more deserving, or left complaining on how their team was robbed of a chance to win a national championship. This way every deserving team got a crack at playing for a championship and it would undoubtedly make college football more interesting.

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A Look into 2016’s College Football Playoff