The College Football Playoff Selection Committee Continues Looking Foolish While Defending Its Actions With Baffling Answers: ‘Set Aside Watching the Games’

The College Football Playoff Selection Committee has one of the most difficult jobs in sports. However, it doesn’t deserve our sympathy. The CFP rankings should reflect how college football‘s best teams stack up against each other week in and week out, but they never actually accomplish that goal.

The rankings only show us who the selection committee members want to rank where, which has led to their recent decisions hurting their credibility even more while also ruining the playoff’s integrity.

Who sits where in the third CFP rankings?

College Football Playoff Selection Committee chair Gary Barta, and two top-10 teams in the CFP rankings, Michigan State and Cincinnati.
(L-R) Michigan State’s Jayden Reed, CFP Selection Committee Chair Gary Barta, and Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder. | Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images; Matthew Holst/Getty Images; Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at the most recent CFP rankings. Little changed from the previous version, but it could be the calm before the storm as significant movement may take place in the coming weeks.

1. Georgia (10-0)

2. Alabama (9-1)

3. Oregon (9-1)

4. Ohio State (9-1)

5. Cincinnati (10-0)

6. Michigan (9-1)

7. Michigan State (9-1)

8. Notre Dame (9-1)

9. Oklahoma State (9-1)

10. Wake Forest (9-1)

The selection committee has made numerous questionable decisions within the top 10 this year — and even more within the lower half of the rankings. But let’s start with the obvious and most confusing one: Michigan’s ranking over Michigan State.

The College Football Playoff Selection Committee looks foolish by putting Michigan over Michigan State

After the Nov. 16 rankings, College Football Playoff Selection Committee Chair Gary Barta made an interesting comment.

“Head-to-head is certainly one of the criteria we use, one of the things we evaluated,” he said on ESPN.

That holds true with Oregon and Ohio State. Despite Oregon’s one loss coming to a seven-loss Stanford team — yes, seven losses — the Ducks rank higher than the Buckeyes due to the fact they beat them in September.

But then we look at Michigan and Michigan State.

MSU just beat its in-state rival on Halloween weekend, and the win catapulted the Spartans to No. 3 in the rankings. But they ultimately had a Wolverine-sized hangover the next week, losing to Purdue, and they then, naturally, fell the next week.

However, no one expected Michigan State to be lower than Michigan due to UM’s one loss coming to MSU. But for the past two weeks, the committee has ranked the Wolverines at No. 6 and the Spartans at No. 7.

So, what is its reasoning? You’ll get a kick out of Barta’s answer.

“Set aside watching the games, that’s certainly a part of it, but statistically, in just about every category, offensively and defensively, Michigan comes out on top over Michigan State,” he said. “Again, it certainly is understood and considered that Michigan State beat Michigan, but at the end of the day … the committee decided that Michigan is still needing to be ranked [ahead] of Michigan State.”

OK, so the committee essentially thinks statistics are more important than what happens on the field? That sounds laughable, but that’s not actually the case.

Ohio State averages more points and yards offensively than Oregon and allows fewer defensively, but it still ranks behind the Ducks. So, Barta essentially proved that the committee members only use specific criteria if it helps push their agenda rather than use it for every team and ranking across the board.

How is that fair?

The CFP rankings have had other major question-marks

The Michigan and Michigan State rankings aren’t the only ones that have hurt the selection committee’s credibility this year.

The AP and Coaches Polls have either put Cincinnati at No. 2 or No. 3 in the weeks since the first CFP rankings. The selection committee, though, put the Bearcats at No. 6 before moving them to No. 5 after MSU’s loss to Purdue.

Barta said the committee considers strength of schedule when ranking UC, which may hold a little weight as its SOS is No. 102 in the country. But the committee is a big reason why its schedule may not look at least slightly more challenging. 

Houston is in Cincinnati’s conference and will likely play UC in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game. The Cougars are 9-1 so far and rank No. 17 in the AP and Coaches polls. The committee, though, put UH at No. 24 this week. That’s seven spots below the other rankings.

How can the Bearcats — who are one of only two top-five teams to beat a top-10 squad — improve their resume if the committee is actively making it harder for them to do so? It’s simply impossibly.

All in all, this may be the only sport in which specific people have this much power. There is a selection committee for March Madness, but 68 teams get into that tournament. If college football wants to have any integrity at all, it may need to reevaluate how it decides which teams play for its national championship.

Stats courtesy of the NCAA; Rankings courtesy of ESPN

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