If Washington wins the Pac-12 title game Friday, it should be in the College Football Playoff, plain and simple. Pundits from different regions are making cases for why the Dawgs might be left out, but their justifications don’t quite hold up.
On Dec. 4, the College Football Playoff committee is going to be the envy of exactly zero people. It will be swamped with data, smothered by opinion and torn limb by limb by various arguments.
No matter what decisions are made, there will be at least one team — likely more — that will feel victimized by an “unfair” or “biased” process. But in regards to the Huskies, I just ask one thing of committee members when the big moment comes: Don’t get cute.
If Washington wins the Pac-12 title game Friday, it should be in the playoff, plain and simple. Pundits from different regions are already making cases for why the Dawgs might be left out, but their justifications don’t quite hold up.
This isn’t homerism — the Huskies are the least-qualified one-loss team among Power 5 schools and would be among the worst two-loss teams had they dropped another game. With a 12-1 record, though? You just can’t turn them down.
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Or can you …?
The primary anti-Huskies argument is that the winner of the Big Ten — which had four of the top eight teams in last week’s Associated Press poll — has to get in. This isn’t a completely irrational thought, but it’s flawed upon further inspection. Despite the consensus that Ohio State (11-1) and Michigan (10-2) are the two best teams in that league, neither will play in the conference-title game. Instead, Wisconsin (10-2) will meet Penn State (10-2) in what kind of feels equivalent to that World Cup third-place game.
It isn’t a third-place game, of course. Both teams won their divisions fair and square. But does either have a résumé polished enough to supplant a one-loss UW team? Not quite.
If the Nittany Lions had only one loss, they would be a shoo-in to leapfrog the Huskies with a Big Ten championship. Despite a 39-point loss to Michigan, Penn State is the sole team to beat Ohio State, and it has dominated its opponents since. Unfortunately, Penn State also has a Week 2 loss to Pittsburgh (8-4), which is nowhere to be found in any Top 25 polls.
It’s not a completely inexcusable loss, but it’s not excusable enough.
On the other side, you have Wisconsin, which does seem to have excusable losses. The Badgers’ only defeats this year came at the hands of Ohio State and Michigan, which entered Saturday as the Nos. 2 and 3 teams in the country. Wisconsin also has a nonconference win against No. 25 Louisiana State, which is probably why it was ranked above the Huskies in the AP poll last week.
The only problem is that the College Football Playoff is supposed to decide a championship among teams that haven’t had the chance to settle it on the field. Wisconsin has had some impressive wins, but when it came to the true tests in their conference, the Badgers came up short twice.
Mulligans are commonplace in the college-football world, as most every team has one off game per season. But to lose marquee games on two separate occasions adds up to one thing: If you miss out on the playoff, you did it to yourself.
Right now, Alabama sits at 12-0 with Ohio State, Clemson and Washington each at 11-1. Under the BCS system, there would be plenty of controversy regarding who the No. 2 team should be if all four win out (Clemson and UW would have conference-championship games, while Ohio State would not), but nobody would be considering Wisconsin or Penn State.
That’s something to consider, because the idea of this playoff was to crown a definitive national champion — not for the CFP committee to outthink itself.
The fact is, Washington’s only loss (No. 12 USC) was to a Pac-12 opponent. We can speculate all we want as to how much better the Big Ten is than the Pac-12, but aside from Colorado’s 45-28 loss at Michigan early in the year, there’s not a whole lot to go on.
With a victory Friday, Washington will have beaten Stanford, Utah, Washington State and Colorado, all of which were in the Top 25 when the Huskies played them. Washington will have also beaten a top-10 team in the Buffaloes, for the final boost its résumé requires.
To leave UW out at that point would be a blatant shot at the Pac-12, which had six teams in the CFP’s Top 25 this weekend. If it comes down to Alabama and three one-loss teams, the national title needs to be decided on the field — not in committee members’ minds.