Let’s take a leisurely stroll through my fantasy world and talk selection of the 2012 four-team College Football Playoff participants. Forget (for now), who will actually decide this thing after the 2014 season. It’s my turn! Now, just pretend that it’s December 2, 2012. All of the conference championship results are in, but none of the bowl games have transpired. (It’s harder to do this than your realize!)
IMO, Notre and Alabama were easily in. The only two undefeated teams in the country. SEC Champ. Both with big wins and decent strength of schedule. Nice and simple. This selection stuff is a piece of cake!
The remaining two teams aren’t so easy.
On the one hand, you have Oregon and Florida ranked in both polls at #3 and #4. Shoe-ins, right? Not so fast! Neither won their division, let alone a conference championship.
On the other hand, you have #6 Kansas State and #7 Stanford who each won their respective conference. Surely the Big 12 and PAC 12 champs deserve the last two spots, right? Well, not really. Each has a loss against a very mediocre team. (Kansas State in an embarrassing shootout at the hands of a 5-loss Baylor and Stanford in a slugfest at 5-loss Washington).
And, don’t forget #5 Georgia. They beat Florida on a neutral field AND won the SEC East…over Florida. The Bulldogs played #2 Alabama tough on a neutral field in an extremely close SEC championship game.
You also have Florida State and Wisconsin that won Big 5 conferences. Aren’t they at least on the radar?
If I am [on] the selection committee, there is no way that I allow Oregon in ahead of Stanford. Stanford beat Oregon in Eugene, beat Oregon for the PAC 12 North division, and won the PAC 12 championship. Stanford’s bad loss to Washington does not negate the fact that Stanford: (1) beat Oregon on the field; and (2) won the division over Oregon. To add to the analysis, out of conference, Stanford played a tough road game at No. 1 Notre Dame. A controversial call kept Stepfan Taylor out of the endzone and the road upset slipped through the Cardinal’s fingers. Who was Oregon playing out of conference? Tennessee Tech. Arkansas State. Fresno State….all at home. Sorry, Ducks, you’re not in ahead of Stanford. To get in the playoff, you gotta play a better schedule… With an emphasis on the REGULAR SEASON and CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS, you have to give Stanford the nod, at least over Oregon. So, Stanford > Oregon.
Also, for similar reasons, it would be difficult to pick Florida over SEC East winner Georgia. Georgia also played #2 Alabama extremely close in the SEC championship. But Florida did play a tougher SEC schedule and tougher out-of-conference schedule (mostly because #12 Florida State was much better than 6-6 Georgia Tech). They went 2-1 against top-10 competition and 5-1 against top-25. And, Georgia isn’t a conference champion. This is a tough one. For now, Georgia and Florida are neck and neck.
Kansas State is also in the mix for winning the Big 12 championship and beating #10 Oklahoma and #18 Texas. The loss at Baylor is KSU’s wart. It was a road game,…but it wasn’t that close. They were spanked. But again, the conference championship gets the Wildcats serious consideration. But, a non-conference schedule including North Texas, Miami, and Missouri State….all at home just isn’t enough to tip the scales and makeup for a BAD loss at Baylor.
Florida State and, especially, Wisconsin are out of the discussion. Yes, they won their respective “Big 5” conferences. But they just didn’t do enough to merit a serious look. Florida State lost to Florida. Wisconsin lost five times – and only won the B1G one because of the Ohio State and Penn State sanctions.
So, it’s down to Stanford, Oregon, Georgia, and Florida for the last two spots. As already mentioned, Stanford is ahead of Oregon and Georgia and Florida are in a virtual tie. Ultimately, I would give it to Stanford and Georgia.
Stanford gets my vote, despite the black eye loss at Washington, because they are the only conference champion in the last group (Oregon, Florida, Georgia). In the process, they beat top-5 Oregon in Eugene, top-20 Oregon State, and top-20 UCLA (twice, once in Los Angeles). They also played a close game AT #1 Notre Dame. Stanford gets in over Oregon, Florida, Georgia because it has a conference championship.
If Georgia doesn’t get in before Florida, does that undermine actual on-the-field results? What about Florida’s wins over Texas A&M and South Carolina and Florida State? So, close, but not enough. Florida and Georgia played each other, at a neutral site, and Georgia won. And why even have a divisional winner? If Alabama had beaten Florida in the SEC championship, would Georgia then have the better argument for a CFP spot (avoiding Alabama)? If Florida had lost its division to Alabama, it might be a different scenario. But it’s not. They lost to Georgia. Georgia gets in by a hair.
2012 College Football Playoff could have been:
Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Stanford
Orange Bowl: Alabama vs. Georgia
Other CFP Bowls:
Rose: Oregon vs. Wisconsin
Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Northern Illinois*
Sugar Bowl: Kansas St. vs. Florida
Peach Bowl: LSU vs. Florida St.
*Using the “Group of 5” structure under the new CFP model, N. Illinois would get in over Louisville. (And the Cardinals, again, thank their lucky stars that they are headed to the ACC)