CFB Playoff Selection Forum

Who ya got?

The fact that the Power Five schools played a college football season during a pandemic that closed in-person instruction in most of their schools is a remarkable testament to, well, something. But we’ve now reached the end of the regular season and we’ll know in about four hours which four teams made it.

My Alabama team went into the SEC Championship the clear top team in the country and would likely have made the top four even with a narrow loss. Instead, they held on against the 6th-ranked Florida Gators in what turned out to be a shootout.

Notre Dame, which had beaten Clemson earlier in the season, was ranked number 2 but got absolutely clobbered in the rematch by the 3rd-ranked Tigers. Does Clemson take the 2 spot? Does Notre Dame drop to 4 or out altogether?

Ohio State is the weirdest case. They went into the day ranked 4 despite having played only 5 games—half as many as the others. They won convincingly against a bad Northwestern team. Will that be enough to keep them in? Do they move up ahead of Notre Dame, who won twice as many games?

Do one or more of yesterday’s losers drop out and a one-loss Texas A&M or undefeated Cincinnati sneak in?

My prediction as to what the Committee will do:

  1. Alabama (11-0 SEC Champion)
  2. Clemson (10-1 ACC Champion)
  3. Ohio State (6-0 B1G Champion)
  4. Notre Dame (10-1)

Who I’d put in:

  1. Alabama (11-0 SEC Champion)
  2. Clemson (10-1 ACC Champion)
  3. Texas A&M (8-1, winners of 7 straight since Alabama loss; no 1-loss SEC team has ever been excluded from the Playoff)
  4. Cincinnati (9-0 AAC Champion)

I don’t think a Notre Dame team that got clobbered at the end of the regular season is one of the four best. And, while I think Ohio State is probably the third best team in the country, I don’t think a team that only had to play 6 games deserves a shot at the title. Every other team has not only had more opportunities to lose a game but was more likely to sustain injuries to key players.

FILED UNDER: Sports
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The fact that the Power Five schools played a college football season during a pandemic that closed in-person instruction in most of their schools is a remarkable testament to, well, something.

    Misplaced priorities?

    5
  2. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Maybe. Look, it’s a multi-billion dollar business. But it’s also the social lifeblood of a lot of these schools and communities.

    2
  3. Sleeping Dog says:

    Maybe. Look, it’s a multi-billion dollar business. But it’s also the social lifeblood of a lot of these schools and communities.

    And the only major business that exists on indentured servitude. Major college sports is a criminal racket.

    9
  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: Look, it’s a multi-billion dollar business.

    Silly me, here I thought they were in the business of education.

    Sorry James, I know what you’re saying, and I do get it, but this is such low hanging fruit I just can’t pass it up.

    4
  5. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner:

    Look, it’s a multi-billion dollar business. But it’s also the social lifeblood of a lot of these schools and communities.

    I haven’t been able to see my mother for damn near a year. Fuck their “social lifeblood.”

    9
  6. Tony W says:

    In my state, and many others, the highest-paid state employee is the head football coach at a major university.

    A few years ago I got an e-mail from my alma mater discussing the seriousness with which they were addressing the opening for head football coach. There was a search committee, multiple panels considering various candidates, and a public comment forum set up. Ultimately they settled on some dude who they are paying a few million bucks a year to coach the team.

    A few weeks later I got another e-mail from the same group explaining that they had hired a new president of the university and giving the guy’s name. I believe he makes $145K/year.

    4
  7. James Joyner says:

    @Sleeping Dog: @OzarkHillbilly: The “amateurism” model has increasingly become broken. It’s changing. But the fact of the matter is only a handful of schools could afford to pay its football and basketball players and fewer could afford to pay the others. Even at top schools, most aren’t pro prospects. So, football is their chance for glory and networking.

    At Alabama, at least, Nick Saban has done an incredible job of building an academic support network. Most of his players are not only graduating, but a remarkable number of them are also doing it in three years.

    @Mikey: I get it. But sports really have nothing to do with that. Most programs are taking extraordinary precautions and essentially all of the fans are watching from their living rooms, giving a welcome break from the monotony of quasi-lockdown.

    @Tony W: Top university presidents are making seven figures now. And football coaches aren’t paid from the public treasury, so it’s really a cheap media stunt to pretend that they’re the highest paid “state employee.” The money comes from the athletic budget, which is not only self-sustaining but often pays for things outside the athletic department.

    2
  8. Joe says:

    [Ohio State wins against] a bad Northwestern team

    Ranked in the top 20. Not sure of your basis here.

    1
  9. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner:

    I get it. But sports really have nothing to do with that.

    It’s not about sports per se. It’s about how America’s mindset is pure garbage and having live sports is just a part of that. We could have done so much right and we did literally nothing right and now we’re having a 9/11 worth of death every day. So when I hear about live sports or big weddings or homecoming parties or whatever in the context of “social lifeblood” I get angry. Because people are being so fucking selfish and that’s why I still can’t see my mom.

    Sure, people yearn for normalcy, but they don’t want to understand that you have to handle a period of complete not-normalcy to get back to normalcy. You can’t half-ass it and that’s what we did. Actually I don’t think we even got to half of the ass.

    2
  10. James Joyner says:

    @Joe:

    Ranked in the top 20. Not sure of your basis here.

    Nobody thinks Northwestern is a top team this year. Alabama beat Florida, which is a top team. Clemson trounced Notre Dame, a top team. Ohio State has played half the games Alabama, Clemson, and Notre Dame did and have been untested. I think they’re probably the third best team in the country. But everyone else in the conversation played a grueling schedule, with the opportunity for loss (Ohio State always manages to lose to a team they shouldn’t over a long schedule) or injury (Alabama has lost two star players in recent weeks).

  11. James Joyner says:

    @Mikey:

    So when I hear about live sports or big weddings or homecoming parties or whatever in the context of “social lifeblood” I get angry.

    That’s fair and I thought the seasons should have been canceled. Still, live sports are in a very different category from a wedding or homecoming party. Literally millions of people get joy from watching their team play on television, versus the relative handful who go to homecoming. I would have preferred that there be no fans in the stands and, in many cases, there weren’t.

  12. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    But the fact of the matter is only a handful of schools could afford to pay its football and basketball players

    And football coaches aren’t paid from the public treasury […] The money comes from the athletic budget, which is not only self-sustaining but often pays for things outside the athletic department.

    So schools can’t pay their players, but the athletic budget (which, of course, is mostly filled by football and basketball revenue) is not only self-sustaining but also pays for things outside the athletic department?

    Obviously, this doesn’t add up.

    Even at a fairly mediocre Power-5 school like Iowa, the head football coach gets paid ca. $4.5m annually and their stadium seats 70,000 (IIRC).

    Assume for a second that they could find a head coach who would be willing to take $1m annually, that would leave $3.5m to be distributed among 90 scholarship players, who could thus make close to $39,000 each.

    And that’s only the head coach, not the other staff and athletic administrators.

    Most Power-5 schools could, in fact, pay their football and basketball players.

    2
  13. Sleeping Dog says:

    @James Joyner:

    If football or basketball obsessed alumni can come up with millions for a head coach, they can come up with tens of thousands for the players.

  14. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner: I get it. I mean, I even watched the Stanley Cup final, which was actually very well done isolation-wise, two months in a “bubble” with 34,000 COVID tests and not one positive.

    I guess my anger isn’t with the sports specifically, but with America’s utter failure to do the one thing that’s the most basic reason a nation exists in the first place: protect each other. Your comment about “social lifeblood” set me off because we’re not even taking care of people’s ACTUAL lifeblood very well.

    1
  15. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner: And I know this isn’t college ball, but seriously. This is why we can’t have nice things.

  16. reid says:

    In yet another reflection of 2020, this Notre Dame fan didn’t watch a single game until yesterday’s. Perhaps I caused the rout.

    I haven’t really been a sports fan for many years now, so I’m not too bothered.

  17. Mister Bluster says:

    Gotta’ love the burning spire of Notre Dame Cathedral (twice no less) noted as Related Posts since Notre Dame is mentioned in the original item. The algorithm must have seen the Tigers destroy the Fightin’ Irish yesterday.

  18. Joe says:

    I take your point, James, about Ohio State’s limited schedule and Northwestern is not a perennial title contender, but the pesky Cats are by no stretch “bad” this year.

  19. EddieInCA says:

    @Mikey:

    I haven’t been able to see my mother for damn near a year. Fuck their “social lifeblood.”

    This. As I’ve said many times, College Football is just a modern version of slavery. No coincidence that where it’s most popular and important are the former slave states.

    3
  20. Mister Bluster says:

    Alabama v Notre Dame
    Clamson v Ohio State

  21. Mister Bluster says:

    Clemson

  22. CSK says:

    @EddieInCA:
    Many an Alabama fan will tell you that being in the presence of Nick Saban is almost like being in the presence of God. Seriously. Google “Nick Saban” and “God”. The images that pop up–Saban as Jesus, for one, complete with sacred heart–will either appall you or make you laugh hysterically.

    Since no one in my neck of the woods gives a damn about college football except for some alumni, this is a mindset that’s totally alien to me.

    4
  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Joyner:

    But the fact of the matter is only a handful of schools could afford to pay its football and basketball players and fewer could afford to pay the others.

    Fortunately, ability to pay employees is not one of the hallmarks for running a successful business anymore. Thank Dawg!

    1
  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Joe:

    Not sure of your basis here.

    Not in the top five? Isn’t coached by someone named Saban? Doesn’t have a stadium in Tuscaloosa? I’m sure there’s some basis.

    1
  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:
  26. James Joyner says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: It’s a shame but not an outrage. The bowls had lost much of their prestige through proliferation and constant renaming based on who was willing to pay and the playoff really changed the dynamic. Army certainly deserves a bowl more than most, having cobbled together a really successful season after their initial one was canceled. But the system of conference tie-ins isn’t working this year.

    1