Maybe Baylor Head Coach Art Briles was so angry because he saw this coming.
The College Football Playoff committee evidently didn’t think the No. 4 Baylor Bears or the No. 6 TCU Horned Frogs deserved to play for the national championship, and the Big 12 conference was completely shutout, with the champions from the SEC, ACC, Pac-12 and Big Ten all surging ahead when the CFP’s final rankings were announced Sunday.
Briles went off on Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby after Saturday’s victory over Kansas State assured the Bears a share of the Big 12 title. Briles was specifically angry with the conference for crowning two champions, his Bears and the Horned Frogs, rather than pitting the programs against one another in a championship game.
And now there could be a major groundswell around the country questioning the CFP committee’s decision to put both Ohio State and Florida State next to Alabama and Oregon in the four-team playoff to decide this season’s champion.
Many will say the Bears were robbed. Baylor boasted an excellent resume that would be worthy of a national title claim almost any other year. TCU could also be reasonably upset after the committee placed them third in the country last week, and then yanked them out a week later.
Alabama and Oregon seemed to be locks for the championship series. After claiming its conference championship with a huge, blowout victory, Oregon was assured a place at the table, and despite its lack of blowouts, Florida State’s ability to remain undefeated was always its trump card.
That left the committee with the choice of either Ohio State, Baylor or TCU. Solely on strength of schedule, the Buckeyes did have a tougher road – the 45th-hardest schedule, compared to 59th for Baylor and 53rd for TCU.
But taking a look at their overall seasons, Baylor may have a reasonable gripe with the CFP committee.
For one, Baylor (11-1, 8-1 Big 12) surpassed both Ohio State and TCU in the latest Associated Press rankings. The Buckeyes ran wild against Wisconsin with a 59-0 victory in the Big Ten Championship, and Baylor edged out No. 11 Kansas State for a 38-27 win. Both victories look far more impressive when compared to the Horned Frogs 55-3 smashing of unranked and 2-10 Iowa State.
But it seems the committee valued Ohio State’s recent efforts more than the Bears.
Wisconsin owns the fourth-best defense in the country, allowing a little over 16 points per game, and the Buckeyes completely dismantled the Badgers, even after losing quarterback J.T. Barrett to a season-ending injury and having sophomore Cardale Jones make the first start of his career. It was the 11th straight win for the Buckeyes, and their third over a ranked opponent, all in the Big Ten.
Baylor didn’t wreck Kansas State, but still faced a stiff challenge in the final week of the regular season, a fact that seemed to elude the CFP committee but not AP voters. The Wildcats were a two-loss team that nearly upended then-No. 5 Auburn in September and claimed a one-point victory over then-No. 11 Oklahoma.
Even though the rankings were first released after the tenth week of the season, the committee was charged with judging each team on the entire season. And committee defenders will point to two ugly losses on Ohio State and Baylor’s schedules, and try to claim the Bears loss was worse.
The Buckeyes fell to unranked Virginia Tech at home by two touchdowns in the second week of the season, and the Hokies wound up a 6-6 team; though Virginia Tech did beat Duke later in the year.
Baylor’s main trump card was its 61-58 win over TCU, but it severely hampered its chances by following that victory up with a two-touchdown loss at West Virginia. It’s possible the CFP committee didn’t put much stock into a head-to-head TCU-Baylor matchup that was decided by a field goal, but instead focused on the Bears meltdown against a Mountaineers squad that lost to every other ranked opponent it faced by an average of 6.75 points. And the Mountaineers handily beat Baylor.
Whatever the case may be, controversial or not, the CFP committee appears to have drummed up major publicity before the National Championship game on Jan. 12, 2015.