The end is near. That is not a warning about Judgment Day but an advisory about Justification Day, when during the dying embers of college football season schools make their case for inclusion in the playoff.
The end is near.
That is not a warning about Judgment Day but an advisory about Justification Day, when during the dying embers of college football season schools make their case for inclusion in the playoff.
This week is all about justice - if your team gets in - or injustice, if it does not. It is about how to best analyze statistics, compare records and use the eyeball test to fairly determine the four best teams in the nation.
"(Our) mission and sole purpose is to rank the four very best teams in college football for inclusion in the playoff," College Football Playoff selection committee chair Kirby Hocutt said Tuesday night after the penultimate rankings were released, with Alabama No. 1, Ohio State No. 2, Clemson No. 3 and Washington No. 4.
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In other words, the committee lives by the mantra of William Munny in "Unforgiven" - "Deserve's got nothing to do with it." This is about football, not fairness.
Hocutt sure made it sound like the Buckeyes will get in, no matter what, when the final rankings are released at noon Sunday. But let's give each playoff contender a chance to convince the jury of 12 selection committee members that "we" should get in ahead of "them."
Alabama: "You're kidding, right?"
Jury: Unless Florida beats Bama 444-0 in the Southeastern Conference championship game, the Crimson Tide is in. Even a run-of-the-mill blowout won't sink Nick Saban's ship.
Ohio State: "We beat three top-10 teams, including then-No. 3 Michigan on Saturday. And losing at Penn State was no embarrassment, considering the Nittany Lions are playing in the Big Ten championship game. Plus, we're the only team that can upset Alabama."
Jury: We think the Buckeyes are one of the four best, but we're conflicted because our selection criteria rewards conference champions and head-to-head results when analyzing razor-thin margins, so the door remains cracked for OSU to slip to No. 5 if Clemson and Washington win and Penn State defeats Wisconsin by something like, say, 59-0.
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Clemson: "If we defeat Virginia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game, we're in."
Jury: Confirmed. But lose to the Hokies and we like the Big Ten champion, or No. 8 Colorado if it crushes Washington, to take the Tigers' place.
Washington: "If we defeat Colorado in the Pac-12 championship game on Friday, we punch our ticket to the semifinals."
Jury: Agreed. It is true that Hocutt said the margin between Washington and No. 5 Michigan is extremely small, but the Huskies would widen the gap with a win over the Buffs. A loss and U-Dub is toast.
Penn State: "Who is playing better than us right now? Not Ohio State. And for those whining how we needed two fluke plays - a blocked punt and a touchdown off a blocked field-goal attempt - to defeat the Buckeyes, our counter is it works both ways: Ohio State needed a failed two-point conversion by Michigan State and contested fourth-down spot and double overtime against Michigan."
Jury: Convincing arguments. Unfortunately for Penn State, we would prefer a playoff team from the Pac-12 over a second Big Ten team. But our minds are not made up. It would help the Nittany Lions' cause if they walloped Wisconsin into Canada.
Wisconsin: "We're in trouble, aren't we?"
Jury: The Badgers' fingerprints are all over the crime scene. They look guilty of missing out after losing to both Ohio State and Michigan. Bucky's best hope is to join the Buckeyes, not leapfrog them.
Michigan: "Coach Harbaugh says our losses to Iowa and Ohio State should not count, because, well, they just shouldn't. And we beat Wisconsin, Penn State and Colorado. So there."
Jury: First, a 15-yard penalty on Harbaugh for complaining about his "spot" in the rankings. Second, you lost two of your final three games. You're out. Unless Clemson and Washington both lose, then you're in. Maybe. That's the best we can offer, so tell Jimmy to pipe down.