I know our dedicated readers have already seen that the Mountaineers aren’t getting any love in the polls. You know that I’m not real happy about it either. ESPN is declaring that everyone in the conference should just pack it up and fight for 2017, well I say “Make Love That Noise” (you’ll get the euphemism).
First, lets address the elephant in the room. Yes, the Oklahoma Sooners, the preseason conference favorite has lost two games. When the perceived best team in the conference loses early, the perceived strength of the conference is questioned. However, an early loss does not mean that the conference is now out of the playoff race.
Ohio State 2014
Do you remember what team won the inaugural College Football Playoffs? The Ohio State Buckeyes, who lost to the Virginia Tech Hokies in only the second game of the year. Every talking head, pundit and local sports blogger said the same thing, “Ohio State has blown their chance at the playoffs.” So, about that? Ohio State ran through their conference, capping off the season with a win over the mighty SEC Alabama Crimson Tide. So one-loss doesn’t mean its the end of the world.
“Defacto Championship Game”
The playoff committee is good but it isn’t great. The fact that it nearly left Oklahoma out last year because of the whole “They don’t play a championship game” rhetoric was idiotic. This year, the Big 12 has three games on Championship Weekend. It would be a big help if one of those games is a defacto Championship Game.
The best bet for the conference would be the two undefeated teams playing for a shot at the playoffs. That would mean Baylor and West Virginia. Baylor, having cruised through its normal and unsuitable non-conference slate begins Big 12 play this weekend with Oklahoma State. West Virginia finishes up its non-conference slate with Brigham Young at FedEx Field. Imagine both teams, having run through the Big 12 play coming into December 11-0. Despite what has happened so far, the winner of that game would absolutely make the playoffs.
Let’s talk about Oklahoma. The loss to Houston was tough but did include a “kick-six” where Houston returned the ball 109.9 yards for a score. It was also played in a Houston-favored neutral site game. Two games later, the Sooners played a very poor game against Ohio State. I would argue that Oklahoma does not deserve to be ranked at this time. The AP voters disagree with me.
If you are willing to concede that playing, and losing to, Top 25 teams should not eliminate you from the Top 25, then what happens if Oklahoma decides to play like the best team in the Big 12? Would the playoff committee keep out Oklahoma if they finish the year 10-2 and go 9-0 in the Big 12? They’d still be a Top 25 team all year because the AP voters never dropped them from the rankings. They wouldn’t have lost since September and would be one of the hottest teams in the country.
Sports journalism and college football are reactionary. It is the way of the world. We’ve all spent the last 6 months craving the excitement and passion that is exuded from college football and now it’s here. The only way to fully enjoy this fleeting sport every year is to react, and overreact, to every little change. Unlike other sports, one loss feels like 10. One big win could be the difference between bowl eligibility and staying home in late December.
Well stop it! Louisville whoops up on Florida State but until they play the entire schedule, it doesn’t mean they are going to be in the playoffs. AT one point in 2014, THREE SEC teams were slated to make the playoffs.
Come November, when you have an idea who is strong and who is weak, you can start to dissect who is going to make the playoffs and their seeding. In September, the voters argue that you haven’t played anyone but immediately rush to let you know that Team A is going to make the playoffs while Conference B is dead.