Saturday, December 3, 2016

Eyeing the prize

OK, so now it gets interesting.

(Which doesn't mean it wasn't before)

(It's just that now it gets really, really interesting)

"It," in this case, being the answer to the question "Who makes the College Football Playoff?", because it's now become more about the "eye test" than where you actually wind up. It's no longer about such banalities as won-loss records and circumstance. It's a beauty contest.

As in, "Yeah, we know Ohio State isn't even playing in the Big Ten title game. And, yeah, we know they lost to Penn State, which is playing in it and could possibly win it. So what? Everyone knows the Buckeyes are REALLY the best team in the Big Ten, because, you know, eye test."

As in, "Yeah, we know Washington blitzed Colorado 41-10 in the PAC-12 title game, and that probably means they stay in the CFP at No. 4. But, dang, we'd really, REALLY like to stick Michigan in there, even though the Wolverines have lost twice. So what? Everyone knows they're better than Washington. Eye test, baby."

As it turns out, Washington probably did clear the fog in this deal by wiping out Colorado, even if (to use the CFP's criteria) everyone knows the committee probably would prefer Michigan, or even Penn State or Wisconsin depending on who wins the Big Ten. But in Michigan's case in particular, even the CFP voters probably can't figure out a way to eye-test into the mix a two-loss team that didn't make its conference title game.

Best thing now would be for Wisconsin to take out Penn State today, but you know, narrowly, so no Badgers drumbeat rises up. That would be the best-case scenario for the CFP, which has descended into true weirdness this fall with this whole eye test thing.

Not that the Blob has anything against weirdness, mind you.

Weirdness, after all, is part of what makes college football marvelous, and far superior, esthetically, to those people who play on Sunday. And this is above-and-beyond-the-call weirdness. It's as if the Cubs won the NL Central but got bumped out of the playoffs in favor of the second-place Cardinals because the National League office decided the Cardinals just looked like the better team. It's as if the Lions, who are leading the NFC North, would wind up winning the division only to have Roger Goodell decide to put the 5-6 Packers in the playoffs instead.

"Well, they're just better than the Lions. Everyone knows that," Goodell's imaginary rationale might go. "I know they got off to a rocky start, but they're playing better now, and besides, they've got Aaron Rodgers. Lots more people want to see him in the playoffs than Matthew Stafford."

In any case, the weirdness means we'll all debate this now, which is as it should be. Debating who should be where in the polls, after all, is a long-standing college football tradition. So is this institution or that thinking it got royally hosed when it doesn't make the cut.

And so, if Penn State wins tonight and doesn't get in, let the caterwauling from (Un)Happy Valley commence. And if Wisconsin wins and doesn't get in, ditto the caterwauling from Madison. And if the whole business goes completely haywire  and Washington gets booted for Penn State, Wisconsin or even Michigan ...

Shoot. They'll knock down the Space Needle and storm the ramparts with it.

And who wouldn't want to see that?

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