Those teams (Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame) are definitely some of the best, but are not exactly locked in to be competing for the national championship in January.
Analyst Joel Klatt said on Colin Cowherd’s radio show this week that these teams, all east of the Mississippi River, are the beneficiaries of an east coast bias.
He believes that other teams like Oklahoma State, Baylor and Stanford (before Baylor and Stanford’s losses this weekend) are just as deserving to be in the playoff but are scrutinized because of their different styles of play. They play a faster offense that maximizes the number of offensive snaps and puts less emphasis on time of possession.
Klatt does make some interesting points. He says that the playoff committee consists of a lot of former coaches that coached the same style of play that the top four teams employ. They may be more inclined to rank them higher because stats show that they play better defense.
Klatt also says that these defensive statistics can be deceiving. Stats like total points allowed are misleading because western teams tend to play more possessions. When you look at points allowed per possession, the numbers start to even out between the top teams in the Big 12 and the SEC/Big 10.
So do the western teams have a reason to be upset? They are definitely still displeased after last year’s final results, with Ohio State getting the last spot over Baylor and TCU. The decision at the time seemed extremely unfair, but Ohio State ended up winning the title, which seemed to justify their selection.
I think the point is that it is still early this year. The Pac 12 will most likely not get a team in the playoff because of Stanford and Utah’s most recent losses, but the Big 12’s schedule is back loaded and will give a chance for teams to earn their spot later this season. OSU still has to play Baylor and Oklahoma, and Oklahoma plays TCU.
It’s an exciting season this year and there is still a lot to play for, which is exactly what the playoff committee intended. Biased or not, there is no way of knowing how the rest of the season will turn out.