The committee that chose college football’s final four had a rough assignment this season. Should the selection committee have picked Ohio State, the Big Ten champion? What about Southern California, the champion of the Pac-12? The schedules of Ohio State and USC were loaded.
The decision to omit Ohio State, and to a lesser extent USC, is the toughest the selection committee had to make in their four years of doing this. Could you imagine the controversy if only four teams made the NCAA men’s basketball tournament? Four is a lonely number, and you can make the case that two-loss Ohio State is entitled to contend for football’s national championship.
The Buckeyes, however, lost at home Sept. 9 by 15 to Oklahoma, which will play Georgia in a final four semifinal. Ohio State also lost on the road to Iowa by 31 points.
If I were on the selection committee, I would have made the same choice it did. If Alabama is not in the field, the final four is diminished, and so is the credibility of the winner.
Alabama, which is the only school to make each of college football’s final fours, is to its sport what the New England Patriots are to theirs. One quality they share: the only people who like them are their fans.
Clemson, the top seed, will open the playoffs against fourth-seeded Alabama. What if it was Ohio State the Tigers were playing, and Clemson beat the Buckeyes and went on to win the whole thing. Wouldn’t many of us wonder what would have happened if, for the third straight season, the Tigers played the Crimson Tide?
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says he wants to play Alabama, and I believe him. He loves the big game, and what’s bigger than Alabama? That isn’t a team he has in Clemson. It’s a program, and it has become as good as anybody’s.
I don’t like college football the way I like the NFL. But miss the Clemson-Alabama game? No way.
The selection committee has two rules it doesn’t like to talk about.
The first: If you’re Alabama, you’re in. See you, Crimson Tide, in January.
The second: If you lose to Iowa, you’re out.