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The SEC over undefeated Florida State?! Of course the Noles top our final CFP Anger Index

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Published in Breaking News
Sunday, 03 December 2023 21:22

To echo the great prognosticator Clubber Lang, we had just one obvious prediction for the final college playoff rankings of the four-team era: pain.

There are five teams -- six if you count Georgia (unless you want to be added to Kirby Smart's enemies list) -- with a valid argument for making the playoff, but for the last time, there are only four spots.

And, if we've read our stages of grief properly, the next step after pain is anger (followed closely by bourbon and basketball season). And there's a lot to be angry about.

So, as the committee retreats to its secure bunker to wait out the coming apocalypse, let's dive into our final Anger Index of the year. There's a lot of outrage to unpack.

1. Florida State Seminoles (13-0, No. 5)

In the olden days, we had a beauty contest. The top team in the nation was decided entirely by the voters.

Then we moved to a better system, one determined in part by computers that at least added some math to the abstract rationalizing while also allowing two teams to decide it on the field.

Then we moved to a four-team playoff, and the whole point was to eliminate the hypotheticals and let a champion be crowned by the actual results on the field. If you won your games, you had a chance to win a national title.

Turns out, all of that was a charade. None of it mattered. The games are pointless. What happens on the field is less important than what a committee thinks might happen in a future matchup.

It is an absolute slap in the face to every player who has ever put on a helmet, laced up cleats and marched onto the field to battle for a victory, because a bunch of folks in a conference room in Texas decided their sacrifice was not as important as the Las Vegas line on a potential playoff matchup.

It's a joke.

Yes, Florida State is without starting QB Jordan Travis, meaning it would have to play with a quarterback who wasn't its opening-week starter in order to win a national title, and of course that couldn't happen. After all, only 2014 Ohio State, 2017 Alabama, 2018 Clemson and 2021 Georgia did that. What are the odds that something that's happened 44% of the time would happen again?

And sure, FSU's passing game was a mess in the ACC championship game. No argument there. Funny thing though: FSU won its title game by more than Alabama did. In fact, FSU has won its past two games by more than Alabama has. And since Travis got hurt in Week 12 against North Alabama, the Seminoles have thrown for just 8 fewer yards than Michigan has in that same stretch, but there was no debate about Michigan.

Oh, and this is probably irrelevant in the face of such a poor quarterback performance against Louisville, but there's also the small matter that the QB who started that game, Brock Glenn, wouldn't be the QB starting a playoff game (since Tate Rodemaker would be out of concussion protocol by then).

The committee cared about one stat when making this decision: FSU's 55 passing yards against Louisville.

Here are the stats it ignored: Seven sacks, 14 tackles for loss, 10 passes defended, 189 rushing yards against a stacked box, a 10-point win over a top-15 team with a QB making his first career start.

Let's be real about what happened here: The committee members couldn't leave the SEC out of the playoff. They didn't care that Alabama needed a miracle to avoid a loss to 6-6 Auburn two weeks ago. They didn't care that Georgia's own injuries -- playing with a banged-up Ladd McConkey and Brock Bowers -- likely played a large part in why the Tide won Saturday. They didn't care that the ACC has a winning record, head-to-head, against the SEC this season. They didn't care that Alabama beat 2023 Georgia, not 2021 or 2022 Georgia. They cared that Alabama and the SEC had to have a spot in the playoff by birthright. And as a result, they sent a message that what happened on the field -- the blood, tears and sacrifice that players made all season to win every game on their schedule -- was less important than getting the most compelling TV matchup.

But hey, there'll be a 12-team playoff next year, so all is forgiven, right?


2. Washington Huskies (13-0, No. 2)

Give the committee this: At least it was consistent. In snubbing Florida State, it determined the "eye test" was more important than the results, and they held true to that philosophy in ranking Washington behind Michigan in spite of the Huskies' overwhelmingly more impressive résumé.

Check the metrics:

Wins vs. Top 25
Washington: 5
Michigan: 3

Wins vs. FPI top 35
Washington: 6
Michigan: 3

ESPN Strength of Record
Washington: 1
Michigan: 2

ESPN Strength of Schedule
Washington: 11
Michigan: 33

And, of course, as the committee made clear with Florida State, no stat means more than passing yards, right?
Washington: 344 per game
Michigan: 219 per game

The committee, of course, is also allowed to weigh "other factors," which it did for Florida State. Apparently "having your head coach suspended twice for subverting two separate NCAA rules" does not count as an "other factor."

The end result: Washington has to travel 2,600 miles to play in the Sugar Bowl rather than giving the Pac-12 its proper send-off in the Rose Bowl.


3. Georgia Bulldogs (12-1, No. 6)

Three points.

Three.

After 29 straight wins and two consecutive national championships, a three-point loss with two of its best players battling injuries and two freshmen playing linebacker is what knocked Georgia from No. 1 in the rankings last week to No. 6 this week.

Three. Stinking. Points.

You know where three points come from? A field goal. A kicker. We're cutting the two-time defending champs out of the playoff because of a kicker? To paraphrase Allen Iverson: "We're talking about field goals? Field goals? Not a touchdown! Not a touchdown! Field goals."

Please, committee members. Go stand next to Brock Bowers. Look him in the eye and tell him a field goal is why he doesn't belong in the College Football Playoff.

We hope your committee assignment comes with a good health insurance policy.


4. Oklahoma Sooners (10-2, No. 12)

There are 12 teams with two losses or fewer. Eleven of them are playing a New Year's Six game. The other? Oklahoma.

Is that reasonable?

Well, Oklahoma has the best win of the group by far, having beaten No. 3 Texas on a neutral field.

Oklahoma trails only Oregon among two-loss teams in FPI.

Oklahoma has five wins vs. FPI Quad 1 opponents. Penn State has one.

In Oklahoma's six games vs. Quad 1 foes, its average score margin is +12. That's better than Oregon's.

Oklahoma's two losses have come by a combined eight points, both on the final drive of the game. Aside from a brief 3-0 score in the first quarter against Michigan, Penn State never led in either of its losses. Ole Miss was outgained by 314 yards in its two losses. Missouri allowed 40 points per game in its two losses.

There is no conceivable reality in which the Sooners don't belong in the New Year's Six. Fortunately, they'll be in the SEC next year, where they won't have to worry about such shoddy treatment.


5. SMU Mustangs (11-2, No. 24)

It was a terrible day for ACC teams current and future.

After all, if the committee is only interested in "best" teams, well are we really taking Liberty over the Mustangs?

Look, we're not here to argue against an undefeated team (Liberty) missing out on the big time. We're fully #TeamNoLosses. But the committee split hairs to go with the eye test at the top of the rankings, then went the other direction at the bottom of the top 25.

Liberty's strength of record is 14th. SMU's is 19th. Advantage Liberty.

But FSU was also ahead of Alabama and Texas, and that didn't matter. Instead, the committee went with "best," and by those metrics, advantage SMU.

Strength of schedule
SMU: 76
Liberty: 133 (out of 133)

FPI
SMU: 20
Liberty: 49

Points margin/game
SMU: 23.2
Liberty: 18.1

Wins vs. FPI top 60
SMU: 2
Liberty: 0

Like an umpire in baseball, we don't ask that every ball and strike is called accurately. We just want the same calls for both sides. The committee, as usual, makes up the rules to fit its decision.

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