So after weeks of debate and posturing by various coaches and conferences, we got our official final College Football Playoff contenders. Despite all the talk by ESPN, Michigan didn’t get in. Ohio State did even though they didn’t win their division or their conference just like Michigan.
But the Buckeyes won a lot of games over some quality opponents so we can deal with that. No one’s going to debate Alabama and if you do, you have some issues. Clemson is a bit of a fraud if you ask me but they only lost one game. The Washington Huskies grabbed that final spot to give us this conclusion:
Penn State got screwed.
The Penn State Nittany Lions, winners of the Big Ten East division and the Big Ten Championship, were left on the outside looking in. The Nittany Lions made an incredible comeback against the favored Wisconsin Badgers to end the regular season on a nine-game winning streak. Arguably, Penn State was one of if not the hottest team in the nation.
And they got screwed.
The College Football Playoff committee chairman Kirby Hocutt told ESPN that Washington was “playing with a lot of momentum” and had “beaten a lot of good football teams this season.”
That’s a really interesting statement. It’s really interesting because people have been saying that Washington has a weak schedule. Check the date on that video too, it’s from early November. That wasn’t the only time someone questioned the Huskies’ schedule either. It was honestly kind of a common theme.
Suddenly, Washington has beaten a bunch of good teams? There are three teams from the Pac-12 ranked in the top 25. Washington lost to one of them and beat Stanford while they were in a skid not like Stanford at all. The nonconference schedule for the Huskies included Rutgers, the worst Power Five team probably ever, and opponents from the Big Sky and Sun Belt conferences. Big time players there. Also, since when is three consecutive wins considered a lot of momentum?
Meanwhile, Penn State has wins over three teams in the top 25. The only two losses for James Franklin’s team sit at no. six in Michigan and no. 23 in Pitt, who beat Clemson for what it’s worth. Let’s not forget that the Nittany Lions also knocked off the current numbers 24, either and three. That’s one hell of a resume.
Couple all that together and the explanation from the committee is starting to look a little weak. The Big Ten is the best conference in the country and Penn State won the whole thing with a strong nonconference schedule. Washington won a Pac-12 that was treated with little to no respect by the committee all season with a weak nonconference schedule.
So what gives? I’m not the only one who doesn’t get it either. The commissioner of the Big 12 wants some answers too. His conference got burned for poor out of conference scheduling and not having a conference title game. This year the Big 12 and Penn State had both and the Nittany Lions got left out.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
Ready for a hot take? If Wisconsin had won the Big Ten Championship, they’d be in the playoff.
I’m sure you took a moment to check the rankings from the previous week and saw that Wisconsin was ranked in front of Penn State by one spot. If not, you’re welcome. Wisconsin had lost to Michigan and Ohio State but beat LSU in nonconference play and beat Michigan State when they were hilariously still ranked and Nebraska. Not nearly as impressive, right?
Why does Wisconsin get in when Penn State doesn’t? Because the committee is exactly that: they are a group of people. No matter what they say or what they think, there’s going to be biases and memories and the desire to do what’s “best” for college football.
You know what a lot of people still think of when they think about Penn State? The Sandusky scandal. That horrific event is still attached to Penn State in the minds of many. I had to write something on it for this very site last summer. The school almost lost its accreditation as a university.
There were plenty of people who were and still are calling for the death penalty to Penn State for what happened. This article is from last year about giving the Nittany Lions the death penalty. Can you imagine the uproar if the university that was home to the biggest scandal since SMU played for the National Championship? Just to be clear, I am not comparing the two scandals. Nothing can compare to child molestation.
So yeah, Penn State had an uphill battle that they weren’t going to win. There’s still some tarnish to their university that’s going to take a few more years to buff out. I hope for their sake that it buffs out quickly because, with the way James Franklin has these kids playing, the committee won’t be able to deny them next year.