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The College Football Playoff Rankings were even worse than you thought

The Committee just threw gasoline on many of college football's worst problems

Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.

I don’t normally consider complaining about the College Football Playoff Rankings to be part of the purview of this newsletter. I didn’t watch the ranking shows during the season, and legitimately planned on writing about UMass and Conference USA rumors for this morning, as a bit of counterprogramming. I guess that has to come tomorrow.

The more I think about the final pairings, the worse I feel not just about this season…but about what I think is going to happen next.

In the very unlikely event that you somehow missed the news, for the first time, the College Football Playoff Committee left an undefeated, Power Conference champion out of the Playoff. Michigan, Washington, Texas, and Alabama were picked, while Florida State, despite their perfect record, was seeded 5th.

The rationale, of course, is that Florida State isn’t a playoff-caliber team after their starting QB, Jordan Travis, suffered a season-ending injury. Via the final press conference, here’s committee chair, NC State AD Boo Corrigan:

But in the eyes of the committee, Florida State is a different team without Jordan Travis. One of the things we do consider is player availability, and our job is to rank the best teams, and in the final decision looking at that, it was Alabama at 4 and Florida State at 5

Here’s the thing. This argument absolutely sucks.

Is Florida State’s passing offense as good without Travis? No, of course not. But so what? Florida State still won those games, beating Florida on the road and beating Louisville, (who is good, btw), by double digits in the ACC Championship game.

As Travis himself alluded to in his heartbreaking tweet, Florida State was always more than just its quarterback. Florida State has the 5th best defense in the country per F+, (better than Alabama or Texas), allowing under 16 points per game. This was always a team built to win games in a defensive slugfest, something the team could still have very well done without Travis, just as they demonstrated on the field.

If we’re going to ding teams for sometimes playing with a horrific downfield passing attack, why the hell would you put Michigan as your top seed? It’s almost as if that shouldn’t be the only metric to judge a football team.

We also already have evidence that a team could be very competitive in the Playoff with a backup, or even third-string, QB. My Ohio State Buckeyes, after all, won a national title in 2014 after J.T. Barrett (who, remember, was the backup to presumed starting QB Braxton Miller before Miller got injured shortly before the start of the season) got hurt deep in the 4th quarter of the regular season finale.

Yes, Ohio State demolished Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, and yes, Cardale Jones put up a substantially better stat line, but I think there’s been some real revisionist history about that playoff run for Ohio State.

The Buckeyes crushed Wisconsin because their defense forced four turnovers (and scored a touchdown), and because they rushed for over 300 yards and 8 YPC. Cardale Jones was awesome, but he only completed 12 passes in that game, and wasn’t the primary offensive threat during Ohio State’s upsets of Alabama or Oregon. That was running back Ezekiel Elliott. Ohio State had the opportunity to complete easier downfield passes because they could build around the true strength of that team…their running game.

I mention this only to point out that championship-caliber teams, especially with weeks to prepare, can build gameplans around injuries. The committee decided to ignore what actually happened and substitute what they thought would happen. That’s fanfiction, not football.

That’s a stupid standard, and it isn’t even one the committee consistently applied

So say that you’re adamant about only wanting to select the four best teams, and not the four most deserving teams. Forget resume, forget on-the-field results, just go by the best team. After all, most serious college football observers would agree that Alabama (and for that matter, Georgia) is probably a better, more complete team, than Florida State is right now.

Well, by virtually every single advanced statistical metric, from F+ to SP+ to FEI and beyond, you know who is one of the four best teams in college football right now? That’s right. Ohio State. But nobody, not this newsletter, not even the most partisan Ohio State fan, is clamoring for the Buckeyes to jump into the top four.

And I think that’s the correct decision! The games themselves have to matter. The committee also did this with their G5 selection. Liberty is undefeated, but their strength of schedule was horrific. SMU would likely be a Vegas favorite against the Flames (advanced stat metrics are more split)…but the Committee (rightly, in my view), ranked Liberty slightly ahead.

If you deeply believe that the Travis injury really changes the quality of Florida State football, don’t rank them fifth. Do these committee members actually believe that the Seminoles are now worse than Georgia or Ohio State? If they don’t, do they actually believe that their only change is in direct comparison to Alabama?

C’mon. The actual results of the game have to matter. They just didn’t for Florida State.

This sucks for Florida State. But I’m legitimately concerned about what happens next.

For one, this episode could provide a powerful example of why a program should not be honest and forthright about injuries. Professional gamblers already get more accurate information than what teams elect to provide, creating a marketplace that is ripe for corruption. Now, why would a school confirm the severity of a late-season injury, knowing that Playoff committees could use that information to punish them, regardless of what actually happens on the field?

In the press conference, when asked about this, Corrigan said: “That's not a topic that ever came up.” If that’s true, it speaks to how out of touch these committee members must be with the actual blood and guts of their football programs. There’s no fine any conference could impose that would compel a coach or football program to be honest if they believe these are the consequences of honesty.

But this also throws gasoline on some existential problems facing college football

Florida State made sure everybody knew that they were very unhappy with the status quo in the ACC, and they were not afraid to investigate other options. They’re unhappy with the revenue generation, the revenue distribution, and their ability to compete at the highest level under this current league structure. Clemson (and others), feel the same way.

Well, Florida State just went undefeated in ACC play. They beat Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech, Louisville, and a good Duke team. They also won at Florida and beat the hell out of a very good LSU team. And that still wasn’t enough. The committee just confirmed every argument made by every Warchant poster about the ACC.

Maybe peace was never an option, but how can anybody feel good about even the immediate stability of the ACC now? Why wouldn’t Florida State, Clemson, and anybody else with the means and interest redouble their efforts to raise the funds needed to buy their way out of the league? When Jon Wilner says the ACC’s extinction timeline just got expedited, what is the meaningful counterargument?

This year might already be a preview of our grim college football future. All four Playoff teams this year will be in the Big Ten or SEC next year. Outside of the contractually mandated ACC champion (Florida State), and G5 champion (Liberty), so is every single other New Year’s Six participant. The next highest-rated team outside of that group is Arizona, way down at #14.

Over the next five years…I suspect that’s going to be more of the rule, rather than the exception. The new Big Ten and SEC are likely to completely dominate the expanded Playoff field, creating additional incentives for further consolidation and separation.

And I don’t want to hear a single commissioner or AD complain about a lack of congeniality or trust or whatever. Because they all build this system for themselves.

There’s been some convenient rewriting of history over these past few days, suggesting that the playoff did not expand this year simply because The Alliance was jealous of the SEC. In the real world, the SEC re-ignited the arms race by adding Texas and Oklahoma, as was their right. The other three leagues tried to protect their interests in response. Their coordinated effort fell apart as each league also needed to protect their own individual self-interest.

And leading up to Sunday, we had Greg Sankey repeatedly invoking Sesame Street for why the league deserved postseason access. The game is the game. Everybody has to take shots at each other or potentially kneecap the other to protect their kingdom.

Rather than potentially work together to take a teensy bit of steam out of the kettle, spurning Florida State will just kick those tensions into hyperdrive.

And since the only way for Florida State (or Clemson, or UNC, or Miami) to leave the ACC is by raising a massive amount of money, the committee may have very well pushed schools further along the path of private equity purchasing ownership stakes in their athletic departments. I don’t know about you, but I view this as a singular threat to almost everything I enjoy about the industry. I think it would be a terrible, terrible event for fans and most athletes.

Am I going to watch the Playoff games? Yes. They should be great games. Alabama, despite being a flawed team, could very well win the whole dang thing.

And I know that next year, we’ll move towards a system where this exact argument will probably be impossible.

But I can’t help but think that this vote was another step towards an increasingly alien college football world, an accelerationist step towards something that I think many fans aren’t going to like.

It sucks. Today, it sucks for Florida State. Tomorrow, it might suck for a whole lot more people.

If you’d like to buy ads on Extra Points OR in ADS3000, good news! They’re affordable, and we have openings this season. Drop me a line at [email protected]. If you have news tips, I’m at [email protected]. Otherwise, I’m at [email protected], @MattBrownEP on Twitter, @ExtraPointsMB on Instagram, and @MattBrown on Bluesky.

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