COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sane people can debate whether Ohio State football deserves to move past USC into the College Football Playoffs field when the Buckeyes were idle and the Trojans faced another loss this weekend.
But let’s end any debate over whether Alabama should leap past Ohio State with two losses on Sunday and secure a place in the playoffs. The College Football Playoff Selection Committee made that clear when it placed OSU No. 5 and Bama No. 6 in Tuesday’s rankings. But just in case, let’s keep getting the message across.
The fall of the Crimson Tide is largely based not on who she defeated but on how she lost both games. Alabama lasted in Tennessee 52-49 while Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker was still healthy and chasing the Heisman Trophy. It then lost 32-21 at LSU in overtime as the Tigers enjoyed a late-season rebound that pushed them into the SEC championship game.
The problem is, Alabama’s resume doesn’t come close to a signature win. It won in 20th-rank Texas, 20-19, when Longhorns starting quarterback Quinn Ewers was injured, yielding to a backup who was also injured.
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It also beat No. 24 Mississippi State, 30-6, in Tuscaloosa. After that, you’ll need to squint to find great value in wins at unranked Arkansas and Ole Miss. Solid wins to be sure, but enough to make up for two losses? Hardly.
Ohio State won 8th place Penn State. While that took a rally in the fourth quarter, it was a far less precarious win than Alabama’s in Texas. Ohio State also beat Notre Dame No. 21.
If Alabama had a significant analytical advantage, it could help sway the argument. However, Ohio State remains ahead in both Football Outsiders’ F+ (2.22-2.04) and ESPN’s SP+ (31.1-30.3).
Narrow margins, but still margins in favor of horse chestnuts.
Ohio State has lost badly at home. Even if you factor in Michigan’s late touchdowns when OSU sold out to get the ball back, that was a two-touchdown loss at best. On the other hand, came the Buckeyes’ loss to a Michigan team that has proven to be in a higher league than Tennessee or LSU — the teams that Alabama couldn’t overcome.
(Remember, the Volunteers were already on their way to a loss to South Carolina before Hendon Hooker injured his season-ending knee in the fourth quarter.)
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Alabama has more significant metrics advantages over TCU, which is unbeaten and playing for the Big 12 championship. If the Horned Frogs lose to No. 10 Kansas State on a neutral field, the selection committee would elevate a two-loss Alabama that hasn’t played for a conference championship above a team that comes into Saturday with just as well, let alone one win many wins over CFP ranked teams?
LSU had a case as a two-loss playoff team if they could have led the table and beat Georgia for the SEC championship. Putting Alabama above TCU would require quite a change from past precedent.
The same applies to bringing in the tide via OSU. You just don’t have a better resume. And the selection committee issued a statement of its own last Tuesday as it put the Buckeyes ahead of Alabama in the penultimate ranking.
Sorry SEC fanatics, you probably have to live with two Big Ten teams in the playoffs.
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