When the College Football Playoff became a real, uncreatively-named thing before the 2014 season, it was sold as something that would help decide championships "on the field." It's precisely what fans, coaches and administrators wanted to hear after 15 years of dealing with polls and computer formulas few, if anyone, could understand determining their fate.
Here we are, six years later, and nothing has changed. Sure, the playoff allows for twice as many teams as the BCS did, but we still don't know how it truly works. We know that every week, a group of Very Important People get together and rank the teams. What they ultimately use to decide those rankings varies from week to week and sometimes from team to team based on the answers given by the selection committee chair. This year, it's Iowa athletic director Gary Barta. No matter who it's been, when asked questions, all have moved the goalposts with regularity.
In the end, all it leads to is more talking and fewer things being decided on the field. Before Saturday's games began, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey appeared on television with the conference's talking points about playoff selection.
"Florida will have to play eight straight weeks through our championship game," said Sankey during an appearance on College GameDay, nearly 12 hours before Florida would lose to LSU. "I don't know if you've noticed, but we have some conferences that aren't even going to play eight games in their schedule.
"Playing games matters. The Playoff Selection Committee has said that. We have a chance to demonstrate the excellent football in the Southeastern Conference today. I really didn't have any pushback from our teams. They're ready to play and have these opportunities. I think playing games matters. Candidly, you take the Texas A&M-Florida game. We added that to our schedule when we went from eight conference games to 10. You take that game away and Florida is undefeated and Texas A&M only has the loss at Alabama and it's a different world. So the question is - are we going to be rewarded for playing games or rewarded for not playing games?"
The world would become a lot different when things were seemingly settled "on the field" when Florida unexpectedly threw its playoff chances away like a defensive back might toss a recently discovered shoe.
The Gators' second loss on the season, to an LSU team that entered the game 3-5 and had seen many of its best players opt-out in recent weeks, eliminated them from playoff consideration. Oh, wait, no, hold on a second. Florida coach Dan Mullen disagreed with that after the game.
"I know we've played 10 games, so I guess probably the best thing to do would've been play less games," Mullen said. "Because you seem to get rewarded this year for not playing this year in college football."
Mullen's comments echoed Sankey's earlier in the day and were a clear shot at the Big Ten and ACC. As angry and petulant as they were, they were also factual statements at their core. Sankey and Mullen are correct. It's a lot easier to avoid losses when you're playing six games compared to 10. Of course, if one wanted to, they could make the argument that Ohio State is 5-0 right now, and Florida didn't make it through five games without a loss. Its first loss of the year came in its third game. Texas A&M's came in its second game.
Maybe that's what Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren should be doing, or maybe he was planning to and changed his mind.
Who's right and who's wrong doesn't much matter in this situation. What matters is that they argue their side convincingly and with confidence in hopes of swaying the thought process of some Very Important People.
It turns out that the system designed to settle things "on the field" is actually settled in hotel conference rooms, well-lit home offices, and Zoom press conferences. It's one hell of a system we've built for ourselves.
Question of the Week
Does Jimmy Sexton represent sportswriters? If not, do you think he'd be willing to branch out? Auburn fired Gus Malzahn on Sunday, and by doing so, put itself in a position where it must pay Malzahn roughly $21.5 million to not coach for it anymore. Malzahn will receive $10.25 million of that $21.5 million by mid-January, and then he'll get about another $2.6 million on July 15. He'll then receive that same $2.6 million payment every July 15 through 2024.
Not coaching is a great gig if you can get it.
Of course, Malzahn is the second SEC coach to receive a large buyout during a pandemic that has cost athletic departments millions and has forced many to drop some sports altogether. Will Muschamp got $15 million from South Carolina to not coach. Kevin Sumlin will get $7.5 million to not coach at Arizona. Lovie Smith is a relative bargain, only commanding $2.3 million to not coach Illinois.
Sexton represents both Malzahn and Muschamp, and I'd like him to represent me too. I've been thinking about getting into the "get paid millions of dollars to just hang out" business.
Stunning Visual of the Week Part 1
Regardless of the game outcomes and what they mean, it was a visually stunning college football weekend. Weather always adds an interesting new element to games, and this weekend we saw fog, rain and snow offering us a feast for our eyeballs almost everywhere we looked.
Handshake of the Week
Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins didn't have a lot of time for Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi after the Yellow Jackets lost to the Panthers 34-20 on Friday night. I don't know about you, but I like seeing things like this. I don't need every coach or player to be a perfect representation of proper manners. Not everybody has to like one another all the time, nor should they have to pretend they do.
It makes things more interesting. Plus, Pat Narduzzi doesn't seem all that hurt by it.
Cold showers in Georgia again!! 🤝— Pat Narduzzi (@CoachDuzzPittFB) December 11, 2020
Stunning Visual of the Week Part 2
Catch of the Week
Stanford receiver John Humphrey knows that if you're having trouble catching a football, the best thing to do is fall on your back and kick the ball up into the air unintentionally while doing so. That buys you the time you need to catch it again after you've landed on your back. It's just proper fundamentals, folks.
Stunning Visual of the Week Part 3
Can the Big Ten figure out a way to make this flag slowly blowing in the breeze as snow falls its new logo? Honestly, I can't stop saluting it.
Block of the Week
Rules Question of the Week
I don't like pass interference. I think it's too subjective a penalty with too harsh a punishment. While college at least minimizes the damage to 15 yards rather than a spot foul like the NFL, I think that it's a penalty that can be done away with. Calling defensive holding or illegal contact would settle roughly 90% of all pass interference penalties, and it would do away with officials having to decide whether or not jostling for position is a penalty.
Still, I know it's not going anywhere, so can we at least see it called with some more consistency? Think about how many times per week you see pass interference go uncalled on a play because the officials deem the pass uncatchable. There are two kinds of uncatchable passes without fail: ones that land 10 yards out of bounds or 10 yards past the intended target.
But why aren't under-thrown passes considered uncatchable? Under throwing your receiver has become one of the most efficient ways to pick up a first down these days. You see it time and time again. The quarterback underthrows his receiver, and the receiver has to stop or slow down to come back to the ball. The defensive back, being a human being and not some super-intelligent space creature, is then too slow to react to this because he's running full speed in the opposite direction, contact happens, and in comes the flag.
If a pass that is going to land 10 yards past its target is uncatchable, why isn't a pass that lands 10 yards short uncatchable as well?
Stunning Visual of the Week Part 4
College Football Playoff Projection of the Week
Until the next Monday After!