Championship Weekend in college football was one for the ages. Complete chaos was unleashed when the No. 8 Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs, creating a major headache for the College Football Playoff Selection Committee.
Here are some key takeaways on this wild Championship Weekend, predictions for the top four teams, analysis of the difficult decisions the committee will have to make and what it all means for the College Football Playoff as the field expands to 12 teams beginning next season.
Michigan is the best team in the country
The Michigan Wolverines are the best team in the country, and they have the accolades to back it up. Based on the selection committee’s criteria and the eye test, the Wolverines deserve to be ranked No. 1 in the final College Football Rankings when they are released later today.
Georgia, Alabama both deserve to be in the top four
These two teams are among the four best in the nation. This year's SEC Championship Game was terrific, and if one (or even both) teams are excluded from the College Football Playoff, there is a real chance that people will look back at this season and view this game as the “true” national championship, and the winner as the real champion.
Teams shouldn’t be punished for having to play an extra game. Georgia has been dominant all season, they pass the eye test and are still arguably the best team in the country, and they are also the defending champions. That should count for something.
Having won the national title past two years, it is very possible that the Bulldogs could pull off a three-peat. There is absolutely no way that they should be denied that opportunity due to a three-point loss to an Alabama team led by Nick Saban in a conference championship game, when many of Georgia's players were playing injured.
This isn’t an FSU situation (more on that later) where a star player suffered a season-ending injury. Many of Georgia’s key players played through their injuries and would be fully healthy in a semifinal game a month from now.
This team deserves the opportunity to play for another national title, and the opportunity to three-peat should not be taken away from them.
Earlier this week, College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock made it very clear that it is the four best teams who earn the right to play for a national championship, not the four most deserving teams. If he was being honest about that and meant what he said, then there is no way not to include Georgia. There is no question they are a better team than Florida State without Jordan Travis, and if Georgia and Texas met tomorrow on a neutral field, most sportsbooks would probably have Georgia as at least 7-point favorites, if not more.
In my eyes, Georgia is still clearly among the best teams in the country. If the committee truly wants the best teams in the College Football Playoff, they need to ask themselves which teams can realistically compete with Georgia. So far, only one team has proven they can actually defeat the Bulldogs.
They’ll have to do it again, but Alabama needs to be in. Nick Saban’s squad is one of the four best teams in the country, and if they both make it, we could see a Georgia-Alabama rematch in the College Football Playoff National Championship.
Texas, Ohio State didn’t do enough, while Florida State is not one of the four best teams
Let’s get one thing out of the way to start with: Texas has one of the most impressive wins of the season, a victory against Alabama in Tuscaloosa. That being said, they also have a disappointing loss to Oklahoma. The Longhorns also had two wins by three points against unranked teams and a 10-point win against unranked Iowa State. All three of these close wins came in the second half of the season.
Alabama grew immensely throughout the season, and if Texas and Alabama held a rematch tomorrow, it is very likely the Crimson Tide would be the favorite. Saban’s team has shown immense growth, especially in the second half of the season. Also, Alabama’s victory against Georgia is better than any other victory by a wide margin.
Ohio State could make a case for being one of the four best teams, and they certainly are capable of winning the championship if given the chance. However, under the current format, they had their chance to beat Michigan and earn a spot in the conference championship game and failed to do so. Ohio State represents another argument in favor of the expanded playoff coming next year, but for this season and under the current rules, they simply didn’t do enough.
The Florida State Seminoles present an interesting dilemma, and they should be Exhibit A for why next season’s 12-team playoff format can’t come quick enough for the college football world. Florida State did everything right this season, they controlled what they could control, and their defense is arguably the best in the country.
Unfortunately, star quarterback Jordan Travis suffered a season-ending injury. Realistically, their offense simply isn’t good enough to contend for a championship without Travis under center. That being said, it is grossly unfair that the Noles should be denied the opportunity to compete.
Without the games being played, we’ll never know what could have happened. That being said, if the committee is looking for the four best teams, FSU is not one of the four best without their star quarterback. It’s cruel and unfair, but it is what it is.
Florida State shouldn’t keep a spot in the top four at the expense of another team that has a much more realistic chance of winning. This isn’t fair to Florida State, and I certainly don’t envy the committee members who have to make this decision.
This is why college football needs a 12-team College Football Playoff format.
Why this year’s wild Championship Weekend reinforces the need for an expanded playoff format
Michigan, Georgia, Alabama, Texas and Florida State all have highly compelling arguments to be included in the CFP. All of these teams have met at least one of the following criteria: An undefeated season, a conference championship, or a win over a team ranked in the top 10 at the time.
One of these teams is coming off two consecutive championships. As the old saying goes, to be the champ, you have to beat the champ. You can’t beat the champ if the champ isn’t included, and one of the teams on the bubble is the only team to have actually beaten the defending champions.
College Football Playoff rankings
The top four teams that I would put in the final CFP rankings are as follows, in order from first to fourth: Michigan, Washington, Alabama and Georgia.
Michigan is ranked first because they have the conference championship, the undefeated record, a high-quality win against Ohio State, and they pass the eye test.
Washington is ranked second with two quality wins against Oregon (which I rank just below Michigan’s win against the Buckeyes), an undefeated record and a conference title in the Pac-12.
Alabama is ranked third because, while they absolutely pass the eye test and they have the single best win of any team in the country, they don’t have an undefeated record. In fact, the team that beat them is controversially left out of the top four in this scenario. They can’t lose to a team outside of the top four and be ranked higher than an undefeated team at full health with multiple wins over a top-seven opponent.
Georgia is ranked fourth because they have multiple top-15 wins, they pass the eye test with flying colors, they are the defending national champions, and their only loss came against Alabama in a conference championship game.
Teams shouldn’t be heavily punished for losing an extra game that they only played in because they had won games throughout the season. Being dropped from first to fourth is enough punishment, and the Bulldogs shouldn't be left out completely. No team that was ranked first overall in the second-to-last ranking had been left out since the inception of the CFP, and a Georgia team that passes the eye test shouldn’t be the first.
The best of the rest
The next best teams are listed in order from fifth to eighth: Texas, Oregon, Ohio State and Florida State.
Texas has one of the best signature wins of any team in the country, beating Alabama on the road. They also have a conference title.
Oregon’s only losses were to a team ranked second in the country in this scenario, and they played in a conference championship game. Ohio State didn’t get a chance to play for a conference title because of the Big Ten’s ridiculous division setup, they passed the eye test, and their only loss was to the team ranked No. 1 in the nation in this scenario.
Florida State is ranked eighth because, even with their championship-caliber defense, they simply don’t have enough offensive firepower without Jordan Travis under center to compete with the best teams in the nation. However, they did everything right this year, controlling what was within their power to control, adapting and overcoming adversity, going undefeated and winning their conference championship.