Stephen's Report

College Football Playoff: Why Alabama’s case has more appeal than Ohio State’s?

Alabama head football coach Nick Saban pacing sideline during Crimson Tide's game versus Mississippi State: Cedric Mason - Touchdown Alabama Magazine

If you somehow managed to throw away plans and spend funds that were originally purposed for the College Football Playoff and you are an Alabama fan, you might want to quickly retrace your steps and obtain those things.

The thought going into this weekend was should chalk hold and the four top seeds – Clemson, Auburn, Oklahoma and Wisconsin – win their conference championship games, the Crimson Tide’s fate would simply be a New Year’s Six Bowl. 

Despite TCU getting blasted by Oklahoma, Ohio State’s narrow victory over Wisconsin has re-opened the door of conversation for the Tide. Regardless of national media waving Alabama’s strength of schedule as a sign of weakness, both the Tide and Buckeyes have defeated six teams with winning records. In the case of 6-6 schools counting as winning seasons, Nick Saban’s bunch carries an additional two marks over Ohio State in beating Florida State and Mississippi. 

Both Alabama and Ohio State scheduled four preseason top-25 teams heading into this year’s campaign, but going into this weekend, the Tide had defeated three institutions – LSU, Mississippi State and Fresno State – that were in the CFP top 25 rankings as opposed to the Buckeyes, who knocked out two in Michigan State (No. 16) and Penn State (No. 9). 

While the masses are quick to discredit the Tide’s win over Florida State, let’s first take into account both teams were in the preseason top five for the matchup in Atlanta. 

When it boils down to general consensus from media and Chick-fil-A committee members, Alabama’s season opener with the Seminoles was coined in being the “Greatest Opener of All Time.”

Florida State’s defense accounted for much of the buildup and the play of quarterback Deondre Francois had the Seminoles as the pick to be one of the top four seeds in the playoff.

Losing Francois put the school’s national championship hopes in jeopardy, especially with seeing how the Tide was the lone team that played the ‘Noles at full strength. 

A 6-6 record could have easily been a 9-3 year at the least, when one factors in Florida State’s losses to North Carolina State, Miami and Louisville all coming on a combined 13 points. 

After seeing what Francois was able to do last season, having an argument that he would not make up 13 points is complete nonsense. Now, look at Mississippi State loss in the Egg Bowl. 

The Bulldogs fell by three (31-28) to the Rebels, and it came on the heels of it losing the most critical player in the first quarter. Nick Fitzgerald is Mississippi State’s offense, in terms of what he can create (2,766 total yards, 29 touchdowns) and how he’s able to frustrate defenses. 

Upon recording 224 total yards and a touchdown in a 31-24 loss to the Tide, to say Fitzgerald could not make up three points is all but accurate. Even in its embarrassing defeat at the hands of Troy, LSU won six of its last seven games (lost to Alabama) to earn a 9-3 season for the year. 

Three things one must recognize in clearing up the Tide’s resume: a definitive win over LSU, a victory on the road versus a ranked Mississippi State, and a competitive loss on the road to Auburn – one of the hottest teams in the league, prior to falling to Georgia in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. 

Now, we look at Ohio State’s resume. 

If the CFP committee was to judge top 25 wins based on the schools that currently hold these spots, the Buckeyes have three victories but only one is definitive.

Its 48-3 win over No. 16 Michigan State is the one in which Ohio State controlled the game from start to finish. 

Keep in mind, Penn State (7-0 and in the thick of CFP race) held a 15-point lead over the Buckeyes – 35-20 — in the third quarter. Head coach James Franklin and the Nittany Lions had control of the matchup until a certain point, then it proceeds to blow a double-digit advantage.  

Beating No. 4 Wisconsin in convincing fashion was the only way of seeing a two-loss Ohio State squad in the playoff; however, with the Buckeyes not delivering the hammer in the same way Georgia, Oklahoma and Clemson did to their opponents leaves a gray area for Urban Meyer. 

Also, take into consideration the losses for the Buckeyes. 

Oklahoma and Iowa physically dominated Ohio State, as the two collected double-digit wins. Behind quarterback Baker Mayfield, the Sooners whipped Meyer’s bunch 31-16 at Ohio State also known as “The Horsehoe.”

The Hawkeyes, who were a three-touchdown underdog when it took on the Buckeyes, defeated Ohio State by four touchdowns in securing a stunning 55-24 victory. 

Alabama, on the other hand, was not beaten at home this season and though its loss came via 12 points, there remained a number of moments in which the Tide could have beaten Auburn. 

Make no mistake about it, college football is about the bottom dollar. 

For the case to truly be about putting the four best teams in a playoff, taking a careful glance at television ratings, traveling fan bases and what would be the best matchup has to come into effect.

During the last two seasons, the playoff committee has seen the Big Ten Conference under perform in marquee semifinal games.

A combined score of 69-0 between Clemson-Ohio State and Alabama-Michigan State had people turning the channel, before the start of the second half. 

With the Tide, Saban has proven that his teams won’t lose by more than two touchdowns.  

Even if it was to fall, fans, contract negotiators and others would leave knowing they received their monies worth. This principle cannot be stated about Ohio State after watching it self-implode versus an unranked opponent and almost lose to a team in Wisconsin (27-21) that the committee had no confidence in, despite placing it at No. 4 based on its undefeated regular season. 

In conclusion 

Does Ohio State have more top-10 wins than Alabama? Yes 

Do the Buckeyes have a conference championship? Yes 

The latter of these two would matter in the past, but with the committee already establishing a precedent with Penn State, the Big Ten title may not hold serve for the Buckeyes. 

Everyone has heard about the committee taking injuries into account. If they have taken the injury to Clemson’s quarterback Kelly Bryant into consideration during the team’s loss to Syracuse, then why not revisit Florida State and look at the Deondre Francois situation. 

Once again, 9-3 looks better than 6-6 and Francois at least gives you nine wins. 

Take a look at the Nick Fitzgerald issue. Mississippi State would have been 9-3 if he does not go down against Ole Miss.

With his size, toughness and playmaking abilities, getting three points back should not be a huge deal for him. Alabama should not be held liable for the SEC’s troubles as a whole, but Ohio State could have controlled both of its blemishes and did not do it.  

Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

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