I do not envy Kirby Hocutt. As the chairman of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, the Texas Tech athletic director has a difficult job of trying to explain the reasoning of 13 different people on a weekly basis.
Every week when explaining the rankings Hocutt contradicts himself to justify the committee's rankings, but his latest contradiction might be the most egregious to date.
The committee released its final rankings on Sunday morning with Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia and Alabama claiming the top four spots. The debate had been between Alabama and Ohio State for that final spot. Ohio State supporters pointed out that the Buckeyes were Big Ten champions and had better wins. Alabama supporters just kept yelling "31-point loss to Iowa" over and over again.
Both sides had a strong case, and in the end, Alabama's won. Personally, I'm fine with it, because I don't think there was a right or wrong answer this year. That said, when Hocutt explained the decision, I had to do a double take at the double speak.
"Alabama was clearly the No. 4 ranked team as a non-champion," said Hocutt when asked why the committee went with the Tide over the Buckeyes.
Let's go back to last week -- five days, in fact -- when the committee released its penultimate CFP Rankings on Tuesday night. In those rankings, Alabama was No. 5 and Ohio State was No. 8. Here's what Hocutt said while answering questions about the debate between Alabama and Ohio State less than a week ago.
"Reflecting on the discussions over the last two days," said Hocutt, "obviously there's three spots that separate [Alabama and Ohio State] right there, but it's close separation from team No. 5, Alabama, [with] No. 6 Georgia, No. 7 Miami, No. 8 Ohio State. Those teams are close. Very little separation in the committee's eyes between teams five through eight."
So what happened to take us from having "very little separation" between Ohio State and Alabama to "Alabama was clearly the No. 4-ranked team?"
Was it Ohio State winning a Big Ten title against No. 4 Wisconsin that proved Alabama was clearly better than it? Was it Auburn, the team that beat Alabama, losing to Georgia that proved Alabama was better? Or is the committee just talking out its you-know-what to explain its rankings on a weekly basis?
Only one of those three questions has an obvious answer.
Since we can't depend on what the committee says for clarity, we can only go by its actions. Those speak clearly.
If the last two years have taught us anything, it's that what matters more than anything is how many losses you have -- especially if any are blowout losses. Last year, Penn State beat Ohio State, but it had two losses, including a blowout loss to Michigan. Ohio State had a better overall resume and was chosen ahead of it despite the head-to-head loss. This year, Ohio State has two losses and better wins than Alabama, but it also has that 31-point loss to Iowa.
So the lesson is that your losses don't matter as much as your wins do, but blowout losses mean more. That's how it should be.
Why Hocutt can't just say that, I don't know. Probably because then we wouldn't watch the rankings show every week because we'd already know the answers. Well, now we do.