Sports tells us a lot about ourselves. We are prone to idolatry and false priorities, but there is something I have noticed on social media proclamations about the college football playoffs this year that I believe reveals something about our culture and our nature. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve read the following, or some variation of it, I would have a large nickel collection.
Any team with only six wins in the regular season is disqualified and should not be included in the college football playoff.
Many of those who say this are Big-12 fans who wanted Oklahoma in or SEC fans who thought a second team from that conference should be included (likely Texas A&M). Some just don’t like Ohio State. After OSU put a beatdown on Clemson, this opinion was shared even more widely than before. Many other opinions have been shared.
- “Notre Dame shouldn’t be in.” (A sentiment I tend to agree with.)
- “No conference should have two teams in the playoff.” (Another opinion that I think has merit.)
What makes the “six-win” viewpoint unique is that it is stated as if it were a rule, some kind of guideline that was ignored. The Committee ignored that rule about how a team with only six wins was eliminated from contention in the playoff and included OSU anyway.
Just the facts…
1. The CFB playoff committee has essentially unfettered freedom to choose any four teams they choose. They are tasked to choose the four best teams and they have no guidelines, no formulas, no strictures. If they stated that they believed the four best teams were Central Michigan, Middle Tennessee State, Utah State, and Slippery Rock, those teams would be in the tournament. Of course, since the committee is controlled by the Power 5 Conferences, such choices are unlikely. The point is that they meet and talk and make choices, but they do not have any rules except their own opinions.
I am not a fan of this system and I am not defending it. I hate the fact that a group of unaccountable men (are there women on the committee?) sitting in secrecy in a room somewhere make the decision on who gets to play in the tourney. It stinks. It is the system we have.
2. They give some explanation of their decisions every year, but the goalposts move a bit. One year conference championships matter a lot, but the next year they ignore them and include an Alabama team that didn’t even make its conference championship game. They do as they please annually then explain what they did.
3. This year, with all the cancellations and isolations and disruptions from COVID, the system was more dysfunctional than usual. The Big-10 changed its rules to allow Ohio State to compete in the conference championship game. Originally, 6 games were required to get in, but they removed that rule after Michigan canceled its rivalry game with OSU. Indiana, which would have gone to the game, was so angry they covered up all their B1G logos for their bowl game. As a fan of a Big-10 team, I’m grateful, since they laid a total stinker against a mediocre team from the mediocre SEC.
4. Is Ohio State one of the four best teams in the nation? The evidence seems to support that notion, especially after they drilled the team I thought might be the real #1. I watched several Clemson games this year and thought when Trevor Lawrence was under center they were formidable. OSU made them look ordinary, even inept.
Did Ohio State deserve to be in the tournament? YES! Why? Because there is only one entrance requirement. A team must be one of the four best teams in the nation in the eyes of the members of the committee. There is no other requirement. Conference championships and records are not determinative. Members of that committee, meeting in secret and accountable to no one but themselves, must think a team is one of the four best. They thought OSU was in the top 4 and so a) they were in and b) they deserved to be in.
That is our system. I don’t like it, but that is the system. I think at least there ought to be an 8 team tournament and I’ve written here on that. The system is the system though. Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean the system is rigged or unfair. By the system that is currently in place, OSU was a legitimate part of the CFP. They very well might win it all.
What’s It All About?
We have a tendency to make our own opinions the standard by which all things are judged. Of course, any of us can state our opinions about anything, but the fact that I have an opinion doesn’t make that opinion the standard for the world.
The fact that I don’t think a six-win team should be in the playoffs doesn’t mean that a six-win team is illegitimate. My opinions are not the standard of truth.
I have seen this in so many areas of life, especially in the Baptist world.
We tend to imbue our opinions with biblical import, assuming our opinions must be mandates from on high.
- If I didn’t vote for a particular candidate, his election must be “corrupt.”
- If a vote at business meeting or the SBC annual meeting doesn’t go my way, it must be a sign we’ve abandoned the gospel and truth.
- If people disagree with me, they must be the enemy of all things holy.
We tend to sanctify, even deify our opinions and make officious pronouncements of truth. We can stand firmly on that which the word of God affirms but tend to seek a similar authority for our own opinions. Perhaps we are just buying into the worldly “hot take” system. Who knows? But the tendency to make official pronouncements based on our opinions is dangerous. We need to distinguish carefully between God’s word and our opinions.
In my opinion, of course, the SEC is evil and Alabama needs to lose by at least 30 points. Right, CB? Come to think of it, that might be a prophetic word…never mind.