College Sports

How the College Football Playoff committee once again came up short on promises

Video: Clemson coach Swinney’s remarks ahead of National Championship game

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney gives his opening remarks Jan. 10, 2016, during the coaches' national championship game press conference.
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Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney gives his opening remarks Jan. 10, 2016, during the coaches' national championship game press conference.

Well, the committee got it right.

Sort of.

The College Football Playoff national championship game will indeed feature the top two teams from 2018 when Alabama and Clemson face off Monday. That played out perfectly for the committee, which always is a target for criticism.

There is a problem, however. While the committee got the top two teams correct, Nos. 3 and 4 are now appearing as highly questionable. Clemson pummeled Notre Dame 30-3 in the first semifinal and Alabama beat Oklahoma 45-34 in the other semifinal, whose score was misleading.

I know what you’re thinking, “hindsight is 20/20.” Well, I’m here to tell you that I feared this was destined to happen following conference championship week.

As we sat there waiting for the great reveal — we knew Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame were in — I thought Georgia was the fourth-best team, not Oklahoma. Yes, the Bulldogs had two losses to the Sooners’ one. Yes, Georgia lost in its conference championship game (to Alabama).

But this is all about getting the “four best teams,” not the teams with the best records. Isn’t that what they tell us? And isn’t that the reason Central Florida has gone undefeated two straight seasons and has yet to receive serious consideration?

Now, I’m not here to jump on the Knights-are-national-champs bandwagon. Nor am I starting an argument for a playoff featuring more teams (though I am a proponent for it). Instead, I’m perplexed as to what the committee actually values.

Just look at Georgia’s schedule and factor in that its only losses were to LSU and Alabama. Yet, Oklahoma had lost to a Texas team that seems improved but isn’t the old Texas just yet.

I sat there on the eve of the semifinals and asked a friend of mine who’s a diehard Clemson fan if he believed all the predictions that said the Tigers would roll against the Fighting Irish. He said, “I don’t know much about Notre Dame. They didn’t play anybody.” To that I replied, “Well, neither did Clemson.” He didn’t argue my point.

Yet, on Saturday when the game was being played it was clear early on that Clemson was on another level. It proved what most of the talking heads had predicted. Perhaps it was because they’d seen what each team was made of and could tell by watching that the Tigers were superior.

It was also easily predictable that Alabama would be too much for Oklahoma, and the Crimson Tide led 21-0 after a quarter. Though, like many figured would happen, the Sooners put up some points and made the game look closer than it really was.

Still, here we are with defending champion Alabama and Clemson for a third time, and we’ll never know if the likes of a Georgia, which lost the 2018 championship game by a field goal and fell to the Tide in the SEC championship game this year by a mere touchdown, could have given either one a run for their money.

Instead, we wound up with lopsided semifinal games that featured a Fighting Irish squad that doesn’t have to worry about winning a conference championship game and an Oklahoma team that couldn’t define the word defense.

This year just proved that the committee will go based on record rather than what appears to be the best teams — unless it’s looking at teams that aren’t from the Power 5 conferences. Or perhaps it was a cop out so there wouldn’t be two SEC teams in again.

Either way, it’s pretty clear to me that the committee didn’t have the guts to put a two-loss Power 5 team in ahead of another with one loss and a conference championship under its belt. It’s all about the number of wins and losses and a program’s long-term reputation.

In some ways I can understand their perspective. But for those of us who wanted a delivery on what was promised, we now feel like we’ve been lied to.

Stop telling us it’s about “the best four teams.” If that was true, the semifinals would have been worth watching.

The committee appears to fear hurting anyone’s feelings and it reeks of politics. Wasn’t getting rid of that the reason we went to this system?

Well, at least we know — or at least hope — Alabama and Clemson won’t disappoint.

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David Wetzel serves in both editor and reporter roles for The Sun News. An award-winning journalist, he has reported on all types of news, sports and features stories in over a decade as a member of the staff. Wetzel has won awards for sports column, feature and headline writing.