The college football postseason was stitched together on Sunday, and the only griping came from ... the Big 12?
Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State were the top three teams announced by the College Football Playoff committee. No surprise there.
The first mystery curtain was pulled back next. Washington was seeded fourth, over Penn State.
This could have produced a firestorm. The Huskies and Nittany Lions won their conference championship games, but Penn State, 11-2, captured college football’s most difficult league, the Big Ten. Washington, 12-1, won the Pac-12.
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Fans of the Nittany Lions may have been upset, but coach James Franklin wonderfully diffused the situation with his comments on the selection show.
“Our guys would have obviously loved to have been in the playoff, but they’re also excited about the opportunity to play in a big bowl game,” Franklin said. “We’ve had a great year, I’m really proud of our guys … but we’re still very, very appreciative and honored for the opportunities that we have.”
Hey, a non-playoff prize of playing in the Rose Bowl is about as good as it can get. Penn State will take on Southern California in a marquee matchup.
But taking the high road serves Franklin and Penn State well, and the sentiment rang familiar. Two years ago, TCU found itself in a similar position, more difficult really.
The Horned Frogs went into the final weekend of the regular season ranked third by the committee, won its final game by 52 points, and dropped to sixth, out of the semifinal. It was a gut punch to TCU and the Big 12, which wasn’t represented in the inaugural CFP by the Frogs or co-champion Baylor.
In that moment, Frogs coach Gary Patterson didn’t belly-ache. Instead, he offered similar thoughts, appreciating his team’s season and getting them prepared for their bowl game, which TCU won handily.
But the Big 12, specifically commissioner Bob Bowlsby, wanted some answers on Sunday.
The league knew getting its champion to the CFP would be a longshot. Oklahoma defeated Oklahoma State on Saturday to cap a perfect league record. But even with two losses against solid opposition, including Ohio State, the Sooners were close.
Committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said Oklahoma wasn’t “as much of a complete team as those that we’re looking at the top six.”
Meaning, Oklahoma has issues on defense. But Bowlsby has issues with the committee, which he said sent a mixed message with it semifinal lineup of Alabama-Washington in the Peach Bowl and Clemson-Ohio State in the Fiesta.
“Obviously I acknowledge the difficulty of the task, but I’m not sure what I advise my members right now,” Bowlsby said. “We’ve been telling them that non-conference schedules matter. One of the four has an exceedingly weak non-conference schedule.”
That was reference to Washington’s non-league slate of Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State, an FCS program.
“And we’ve been telling them the 13th data point matters, and we added a conference championship game because of that.”
That was a shot at the committee selecting Ohio State, which didn’t participate in the Big Ten title game.
“We’ve always heard that conference championships matter, and now it’s confusing,” Bowlsby said. “I’m just looking for clarity.”