Had Wisconsin scored on its final drive in the Big Ten championship game, the overrated Badgers would have stolen the fourth playoff spot as the undefeated conference champs. And the Grinch would have stolen Christmas. Alabama would have been out.
Following Ohio State’s victory, the College Football Playoff (CFP) committee labored over the choice between the Buckeyes and Alabama and the Grinch nearly stole Christmas. In the end, the committee made the wrong choice because RPG actually had Ohio State ranked millimeters ahead of the Tide. If you watched the reveal show, you know what a shock it was to Kirk Herbstreit and many other TV experts that Alabama was selected ahead of Ohio State. Herbstreit literally fell out of his chair and walked off the set. But the committee compared the wrong two teams. It should have compared Alabama to Oklahoma and should have placed both Ohio State and Alabama in the playoff field. So the Sooners got in and the Buckeyes were left out and we’ll never know how the playoffs should have played out.
Fortunately, Alabama was not left out of the playoffs but one week ago Joey Galloway, and many other TV experts, called the Clemson Tigers, mistakenly ranked #1, the most complete team in the field and predicted they would thrash The Tide. Actually, RPG had Clemson at #4, a sliver ahead of Penn State. Alabama proved RPG correct and suffocated the overrated Tigers.
And thus, the football gods intervened and overcame the fallible humans and gave us the Christmas we deserved: Georgia’s irresistible force against Alabama’s unmovable object in an amazing National Championship game. Bama’s offensive starters couldn’t move the ball against Georgia so Nick Saban dipped into his bottomless reservoir of talent and found a freshman quarterback from that hotbed of surfers and SEC football talent–Hawaii–two freshman wide receivers and a freshman running back and beat the Bulldogs with backups. Benching his stars has to be the crowning achievement, and gutsiest call, of Saban’s storied career. And another pupil–Kirby Smart–became the grasshopper for the teacher–Nick Saban.
But, the men in the striped shirts nearly stole Christmas from the Alabama faithful. In a poorly officiated game, Bulldog fans had plenty of valid complaints about blown and missed calls, but two egregious mistakes went Georgia’s way. The first was on Alabama’s field goal attempt on its first drive. The Alabama kicker made a field goal on play blown dead. Although a Georgia player had entered the neutral zone before the snap, the officials called a false start on Alabama and the addled Bama kicker hooked his second attempt wide left. Minutes later, Bama would be correctly called for inducing a false start so the officials know the rule but got it wrong.
The second blown call was on Georgia’s long touchdown bomb in the third quarter. Until last night, touching the white boundary marker meant the runner was out of bounds. Not so on the Georgia touchdown. No green grass showed between the receiver’s cleats and the boundary, meaning he touched the white grass, but this time he was considered inbounds and the play nearly decided the game. On the other hand, the two blown calls gave us the dramatic overtime conclusion so maybe we should thank the refs.
The moral of the story is that the four team playoff system is rife with error–human committee error–and is in need of repair. Human judgment fails us. Had Wisconsin beaten Ohio State, the correct field would have been Georgia, Alabama, Clemson and Penn State in that order. Since Ohio State did win, the correct field should have been Ohio State, Georgia, Alabama and Clemson in that order. Would Georgia have beaten Penn State? Would Ohio State have beaten Alabama? We’ll never know, but we do have awesome memories to tide us over until next season. Pun intended.
For the SEC haters out there, you now have two monsters to keep you awake nights–Alabama and Georgia.