Tim Benz: Blame the system, not Notre Dame
As the controversial fallout from the college football playoff selection process continues, two things are abundantly obvious.
1.) It’s high time to go to eight teams.
2.) Everyone hates Notre Dame.
I’m pretty sure the majority of Oklahoma, Georgia and Ohio State fans would have agreed on both points in the moments before the playoff bracket was announced.
That’s probably still the case in both categories right now.
I know that’s how I feel on both fronts.
Give us eight teams. The whole college football world would relish another round of meaningful playoff football as opposed to more meaningless bowl results. Expanding from semifinals to quarterfinals would mitigate the controversy over who gets in and who gets left out from the major conferences without watering down the quality of play. More often than not — including this year — that move would cure the issue of an unbeaten non-Power Five conference champion such as Central Florida being excluded.
As for the other point, yeah, everybody hates Notre Dame.
Don’t be offended Irish fans — although I know you will be.
I mean that as a compliment. College football is a better place when the rest of the sport hates you. And if we all hate you, that probably means you are a championship candidate.
As is the case this winter.
In case you missed the announcement, Alabama, Clemson, and Notre Dame all made the playoff in that ranked order. Oklahoma grabbed the fourth bid despite strong arguments made by Georgia and Ohio State, who finished fifth and sixth in the rankings.
A quick spin around your favorite social media platform, or any comments section of a national college football article, usually begins by Oklahoma, Georgia, and Ohio State fans ripping each other. Then they collectively decide that the true enemy of the people is Notre Dame because the 12-0 Irish got in the playoff without having to play in a conference championship game.
Nothing brings opposing sides together like a common enemy, right?
Almost every part of me wants to dive in with both feet and support that statement. It is inherently unfair that the Irish build a schedule through playing ACC opponents via a side deal with the conference, but they don’t have the risk of playing a title game.
Then there is the part of my brain that refuses to accept intellectual inconsistency.
First of all, blame the ACC itself. The member schools are the ones allowing Notre Dame to be a quasi-member. They get all the benefits of playing full time in the conference in any other sport they desire — and as a partial participant in football.
Imagine how bad it will look if, someday, Notre Dame gets into the playoff as the fourth seed and the ACC title game winner is left out as the fifth seed.
Secondly, why does the absence of risking a championship game matter in the analysis more than, well, actually winning one?
In 2016, Ohio State got into the playoff without winning the Big Ten. And, in 2017, Alabama went to the playoff without winning the SEC.
Neither of them played in a conference championship game.
Furthermore, Georgia lost its conference championship game Saturday and wound up ranked ahead of Ohio State a day after the Buckeyes won the Big Ten crown.
So, clearly, Notre Dame has that built-in advantage of being half-in a conference without a championship game risk.
But I’d advise being angry at the circumstances as to why that reality exists more so than I would be at the university for exploiting them.
If you think the benefits of having Notre Dame in the ACC on a less-than-full-time basis are outweighed by the benefits it gives them, then that’s the ACC’s fault.
If you are mad at the inconsistency of the alleged definition of what should qualify a team to make the college football playoff, then that’s the committee’s fault.
Notre Dame is only guilty of exploiting the options they have.
And rubbing everyone else’s nose in it.
Maybe Clemson will rub their noses in something else Dec. 29.
Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @TimBenzPGH. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.