The College Football Playoff is set, with No. 1 Alabama meeting No. 4 Washington in the Peach Bowl while No. 2 Ohio State meets No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. Penn State finished at No. 5 despite winning the Big Ten championship and logging one of the best wins of the season (over the Buckeyes). So, in short, did the committee get it right? Or should Penn State have been rewarded for its red-hot end to the season? Our panel of writers discuss the results of the rankings and whether the committee did their jobs in finding the four best teams in the country.
Pete Thamel: Yes
The committee absolutely got it right. A lot of the Penn State push on Saturday night and Sunday felt contrived. The committee would have had to undermine their own credibility of ranking Washington where they did all season to unseat them. That's especially true considering the tenor and magnitude of their victory over Colorado in the Pac-12 title game. Alabama is clearly the best team. Clemson got rewarded for winning the ACC, the second-best conference, and only having one loss. Ohio State earned a spot by virtue of winning at Oklahoma and Wisconsin and also beating Michigan and Nebraska. Two-loss Penn State remains haunted by the manner in which they lost to Michigan and the out-of-conference loss to Pitt. There's an argument for Penn State, but it was a forced one.
Brian Hamilton: Yes
We act like this is an exact science. We act like there are hard-and-fast rules and absolutes to how this system works. The system is, in fact, intentionally elastic. The system, in fact, is set up to consider different factors every year for different teams. We can and will talk endlessly about data points when it's really very simple: We have one undefeated team and three one-loss teams as playoff contenders. (Apologies to Western Michigan, but let's be realistic here.) And they're all in the playoff while all the contenders with two or more losses are not. And that makes a whole lot of sense.
Joan Niesen: Yes
I think the committee did. By the eye test, these are the four best teams in the game this season. I'm not buying the argument for Penn State for several reasons: one, because conferences and divisions have mostly ceased to be anything more than television revenue structures, and two, because it lost to Michigan by 39 points, much less to Pitt.
Andy Staples: Yes
It basically came down to a judgment call between Washington and Penn State, and there are perfectly reasonable arguments for either team. So without getting into a balls and strikes argument on that front, I'm inclined to say they got it as right as they could have. I explained in Punt, Pass and Pork why puncturing the myth of the almighty conference champion and rewarding tough non-conference scheduling is good for the sport, so I have no issue with Ohio State being in there. The key question is this: Am I excited to see these matchups? The answer? Hell yes.
Lindsay Schnell: Yes
I think so. At first I was against Ohio State getting in over Penn State, but then I read my colleague Andy Staples' piece, where he mentions that the committee "doesn't attach the mystical significance to a conference title that a lot of fans do." If I can remember that, then I do agree that Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington are the four best teams. You can make a strong argument for Penn State, especially given how they've played the last few games, but it's about the entire resume -- and the four playoff teams have it. Now let's hope the matchups prove the committee did, in fact, get it right.