Gordon Monson: Utah’s Utes — like other top teams — are cursed by a ridiculous college football playoff
(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Utah Utes linebacker Francis Bernard (13) celebrates a tackle as the Utah Utes host the Washington State Cougars, NCAA football at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019.
The malady that troubled college football for so many years troubles it, still.
That plague has been reshaped from the antiquated BCS days, formed in an almost more damaging way, a kind of counterfeit, an imposter, meant to make things better, but … no, it does not make things what they should be. It remains too heavily based on the same fraudulent foundation — opinion — that has never been properly limited or eliminated, not to a satisfying degree.
And there’s a solid chance that foundation will end up cursing Utah football, even if the Utes win out
and finish at 12-1, beating Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game.
But it is sanctioned by the powers that be in and around college football and its incomplete playoff, the one bound to leave the Utes or other deserving teams wanting.
Every P5 league champion should be in the playoff, with three at-large teams, allowing for unusual circumstances in which a few teams that for whatever reasons fell short during the regular season or played in a Group of Five conference, or even an independent other than Notre Dame, to get in. It might also encourage teams to schedule tougher non-conference games, just in case.
An eight-team playoff would add just one more week to the process, and it would be comprehensive without being excessive, without devaluing the regular season. If a team doesn’t finish among the top eight, it would have a small chance of winning three games, anyway, against the best college competition. Eight is enough.
To reiterate, any team good enough to offer tangible evidence as a P5 champion should be in the freaking playoff.
While the earlier playoff rankings, as the playoff presently is constituted, don’t indicate in any sure way who will be included in the final four tournament, the faulty and sometimes sadly laughable reasoning of the selection committee demonstrates how stupid that reasoning is.
Consider some of the examples offered by CFP committee head Rob Mullens after the latest rankings, the ones that listed Utah at No. 7, were made known.
Those ratings listed LSU at the top, followed by Ohio State, Clemson, Georgia, Alabama, Oregon, Utah, and Minnesota.
Mullens opened by saying: “LSU has four wins against top 20 teams, the most of any team in the nation. LSU’s win on the road against Alabama was impressive. It’s offense is explosive. LSU is ranked No. 1.
“Ohio State is ranked No. 2. It continues to play at a consistently high level on both sides of the ball. They’re an excellent team.
“Clemson is also dominant on both sides of the ball. Although its schedule is not as strong as some others, Clemson is an excellent undefeated team. They have gained more than 500 yards of offense in each of their last five games. The committee is impressed with what it sees.
“Georgia, with wins against both Florida and Notre Dame, put them at No. 4 in the rankings this week. The committee spent a lot of time comparing Georgia and Alabama. In the end, Georgia’s two wins over ranked teams made the difference in the No. 4 spot. Alabama clearly is a strong team, but the committee gave the edge to Georgia.
“Finally, let me say a word about undefeated Minnesota, which we ranked No. 8. It’s win against then-fourth-ranked Penn State was impressive. They have a powerful offense and have added a win against a highly ranked team.”
Mullens was asked about the comparison of Georgia and Alabama, and those teams’ respective losses to South Carolina and LSU. He said: “We’re aware of the South Carolina loss for Georgia and that Alabama’s loss was against a team that was ranked No. 1. … But we’re also looking at Georgia’s wins against top 20 teams Florida and Notre Dame.”
Remember, the Gamecocks are 4-6 and LSU is undefeated, so Georgia’s loss is substantially worse than Alabama’s, regardless of the opponents those teams have beaten.
Asked about undefeated Minnesota, a team that has played exceptionally well of late and, as mentioned, beat highly ranked Penn State, being behind one-loss teams Oregon and Utah, Mullens, the athletic director at Oregon, bailed out, saying he was recused from the room when the Ducks were discussed.
“But again, the conversation is when you’re looking at Minnesota, their schedule was a concern, particularly their non-conference schedule, and just as it laid out up through week 10, they had only played one team in their league that had a winning record, but the added win against Penn State obviously impressed the committee.”
Mullens was asked further about two undefeateds — Minnesota and Baylor — and why Baylor is ranked considerably lower. He also was asked about the quality of those teams’ wins, the Gophers with a “great” win and the Bears with no “greats,” but a number of “good” wins.
“… [W]e’re able to dissect the entire schedule. And sure, a win against a highly ranked Penn State team is there, but we also understand that Baylor does have good road wins at [Kansas State] and Oklahoma State. You know, it’s all part of the discussion, and then again, this is an art, not a science, and the members have to vote based on the information that’s discussed.”
Asked about how Minnesota and Alabama were compared, each having only one conference win against a team with a winning record, and Minnesota winning its top 10 matchup this past week and Alabama having lost its top 10 matchup, Mullens said he wasn’t in the room for that discussion.
Asked what the difference is between a “good” win and a “good” loss and a “bad” loss, Mullens said: “Well, again, we’re looking at full resumes, and there’s a lot of good teams — right? — so our job as the committee, and again, this is an art, not a science, is to rank those based on what we see on the resumes but also watching the games …”
“It’s an art, not a science,” is a code phrase for “We’re clueless, having no legitimate way of really knowing which team should be ahead of which, so we vote.”
Biases come into play, frames of reference are part of the equation. It’s not just a beauty pageant, it’s a joke, a sham being put upon the football-loving public, measuring things that don’t really matter.
The only way to do this right is to go with what’s tangible — conference title winners, and then, if there are votes and squabbles over the final three at-larges, at least the authentic champions of the toughest leagues qualify.
If Utah wins the Pac-12, it will have proved itself as worthy and should be in, same as the other four champs, and go from there. It’s not that complicated. This time around, a couple of P5 league winners might be shut out. That’s wrong, and easily fixable. Just add one week of competition.
You’d think the powers that be, people who consider themselves smarter than the rest of us, could figure that out, jumping over the politics, sparing everyone the mumbo-jumbo.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.