Sunday, December 14, 2014

Big 12 football fans: Stop your whining

It’s still going on: all this groaning and whining and gnashing of teeth all because poor TCU and poor Baylor got left out of the four-team college football playoff. I read four letters to the editor about it in this morning’s newspaper. Get over it. The system worked. The four best teams got in. And we don’t need to expand the playoff to six, eight or 16 teams to remedy the situation. It’s absolutely fine just the way it is.

How could the voters have TCU ranked No. 3 the week before the final poll and then drop them all the way to sixth at the end, these groaners ask. Actually, that’s not exactly the way it happened. Ohio State played itself into the No. 4 slot. Regardless of what any Big 12 apologist claims, Ohio State’s (and I was not a supporter of the school’s top four qualifications before this) final victory, a 59-0 thrashing of Wisconsin, was not only, by far, the most powerful statement made by any college football team that weekend, but one of the most overpowering of the entire season. And not just because it was in a conference championship game, as the detractors claim, but because it was against a team that was ranked 11th in the AP poll going into the game, had a running back that wound up being the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, and had only lost a game by more than one score once in the last five years. They held that Heisman runner-up, Melvin Gordon, to 76 yards on 26 carries, his second worst performance of the season. Not only that, the Buckeyes were a 4½-point underdog going into the game because the week before they had lost their starting quarterback to a season-ending injury. Nothing that the TCU or Baylor did that weekend — or the entire season, for that matter — even came close to matching what Ohio State did the final weekend of the season. Also consider this: Ohio State finished the season on an 11-game winning streak and defeated nine bowl-eligible teams, all but two by double digits. Ohio State earned that No. 4 ranking.

But there are overlooked reasons why this four-team playoff system worked so well. I don’t know about you, but under the BCS system, the only bowl games I cared one bit about were the BCS championship game and whatever Bowl Texas was in. However, this year, we’ve got a number of high-tier bowl games that are not only extremely watchable, but, if the oddsmakers are correct, will be more thrilling than the semifinals of the playoffs. The Peach Bowl (when was the last time anyone outside of Georgia cared about the Peach Bowl?) has an intriguing TCU-Ole Miss matchup in which TCU is 3½-point favorite. The Cotton Bowl this year will feature a Baylor team that lost its last bowl appearance 52-42 to Central Florida facing a far tougher Michigan State squad. Baylor is a 3-point favorite. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time either the Peach or the Cotton bowls seemed this attractive and it’s all because of a playoff system that worked. As a comparison, Ohio State is a 9½-point dog to Alabama and Oregon is favored over defending national champion Florida State by 9.Only two other bowls have a wider spread.

So here, in short, is what happened to Baylor and TCU: they got passed over by a better team. My advice: Quit crying about it and play your way into the playoff in 2015.

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