That stands for the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, which started off the new year with vindication after coming under fire for its decision to feature two SEC schools in the four-team tournament to crown a national champion.
However, those two SEC schools showed why it continues to be the most respected conference in the polls throughout the season.
Alabama, a controversial pick that meant only three conferences (the SEC, ACC and Big 12) would be represented in the playoff, routed the No. 1 team in the nation, Clemson, 24-6 in the Sugar Bowl Monday night.
Georgia, the team that conquered Auburn for the conference title, thus ending the Alabama’s three-year streak atop the SEC, had all they could handle from the Big 12 Champion Oklahoma, which entered the Rose Bowl ranked No. 2 in the nation.
The Bulldogs had to overcome a 17-point deficit against the Sooners to send the game to overtime before scoring a 54-48 victory in a second extra period.
This guarantees that a SEC team will hoist the National Championship trophy for the second time in three seasons and for the ninth time in the last 12 years.
This is the second time that the SEC has sent two teams to the national championship game, but the first time since the current playoff system was introduced in the 2014 season.
In the 2011 season, ‘Bama was also a controversial inclusion to the BCS championship picture, as the Crimson Tide suffered a loss earlier in the season to LSU and were then chosen to face the Tigers in a rematch for the championship, which Alabama won 21-0.
That game was the first time in the history of the Bowl Championship Series, which was implemented in 1998, that the title game featured two schools from the same conference.
Now, it’s happening again. Alabama and Georgia will face off in Atlanta this coming Monday for the title.
While Alabama rewarded the selection committee’s choice, there are still programs with a legitimate gripe for the Tide’s selection over them.
Perhaps at the forefront of that list, in my mind, is Auburn. Despite ending the season with two losses (typically a dealbreaker for BCS title contention), Auburn defeated Alabama in the regular season and blocked the Tide from the SEC Championship game.
As a result, the Tigers became a victim of their own success. Had it not been for Auburn drawing an extra game against Georgia for the conference title, Auburn would have undoubtedly made the playoff cut. Of course, had Auburn won the title game, that wouldn’t have changed Alabama’s position, who by virtue of taking just the one loss to the division winner, did not have to take on the extra game during conference championship week and got to sit pretty while the last contenders ahead of them in the rankings, Wisconsin and Auburn, played the other toughest teams from their conferences and suffered critical losses.
It has to be a tough pill to swallow to outlast a team in the rankings at the end of the regular season and then get bumped from the playoffs due to a conference championship loss while a team that didn’t even qualify for the conference title game gets inserted into the championship picture in your stead.
It was certainly an angering occurrence when a similar situation kept Mizzou out of a premier BCS bowl game during the 2007 season.
After Mizzou had defeated Kansas and become the No. 1 team in the country, the Tigers clinched the division in the Big 12 North and earned a place in the Big 12 championship game against Oklahoma while the Jayhawks sat at home. Sam Bradford then led the Sooners past the Tigers and not only bumped the Tigers from a once-in-a-lifetime shot at the title, but completely out of any of the four other premier bowl games at the time — the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl.
Thus, the Tigers were relegated to a Cotton Bowl matchup with Arkansas while the Jayhawks were selected to the Orange Bowl despite the Tigers proving they were the superior team.
After seeing this all unfold, can I blame the selection committee for selecting Alabama as one of the four playoff teams? No. However, I do believe there has to be more weight given to winning a major conference title game or to the team that came out ahead of another top contender from the same division.
There are also undefeated teams from less powerful conferences to consider, otherwise known as “this season’s Boise State.” This year, that team was UCF, which went 13-0 and oh, by the way, knocked off Auburn, the only team to beat Alabama this year, in the Peach Bowl.
What it ultimately boils down to is more teams wanting to be included, an expansion from four playoff teams to eight. I don’t know if or when that will become a reality, but I do know that expansion of the playoffs wouldn’t much affect the amount of contention for the selections. Somebody will always have a solid case for a different school to be included than the ones that were chosen, no matter if it’s two teams, four teams, eight teams or 64 teams.
However, this seems like more proof in the pudding that four spots don’t seem to be enough.