Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (“Careful What You Wish For” T-shirts sold separately in Lincoln):
FIRST QUARTER: PLAYOFF OPENING ARGUMENTS
The College Football Playoff selection committee meets this week and will release its first rankings Tuesday night. The fact that this largely older group is insisting on meeting in person, amid a pandemic, every week, when the only rankings that matter come out December 20th, is one of the things that makes college football the most vexing sport on the planet. Hopefully this goes off without infection. We’ll see.
As has been discussed in this space previously this fall, the committee has a thankless task on its hands. So in an effort to help, The Dash has taken the liberty of writing position statements for each of the most important teams under playoff consideration. Here is what you need to know, committee, members; just remember to thank The Dash later.
Alabama (1). The only time you’ve held the playoff without us is when our star quarterback is injured, and this year Mac Jones is hale and hearty. (Please continue to watch over Mac and keep him safe, Coach Bryant.) We aren’t just undefeated; we are the only undefeated team to have played more than three games and won them all by at least 15 points. We are killing people. We defeated two good teams, Texas A&M and Georgia, by a combined margin of 45 points. Our average margin of victory is 30.1 points, which is on pace to be better than any previous Nick Saban team. Our 49.4 points scored per game is on pace to break the school record set last year, which broke the school record set the previous year. We are fun to watch, we are a brand name, and if you don’t make us the No. 1 seed we will post your email addresses to our fan site message boards. Roll Tide.
Notre Dame (2). Which team is the only Power 5 member to be 8-0? Right here, baby. As Brian Kelly pointed out last week, we’ve already played a full Big Ten schedule without losing. Keep that in mind when those blowhard Buckeyes start demanding things. We are the only team to have beaten Clemson in the regular season since 2017. We also play a little defense around here—we’re the only undefeated team to have held five opponents to fewer than 14 points. Our quarterback is playing great; we have a national following; and the people who root against us will tune in to hate-watch. Don’t hold past flops in big games against us. That was Old Notre Dame. New Notre Dame is legit. (P.S. don’t hold the field storming against us. Just a bunch of kids having fun.)
Clemson (3). We are having an airplane banner flown around your hotel in Grapevine this week saying the following: Trevor Lawrence didn’t play at Notre Dame. Just a friendly reminder, one we will keep reminding you of weekly until Dec. 20th. So feel free to put us ahead of Ohio State (which has played fewer games) and just behind Notre Dame until we get a chance to thump the Fighting Irish in the December payback game. Trevor was about to go off when Florida State chickened out Saturday, keep that in mind. We don’t lose at full strength unless there’s some Joe Burrow voodoo going on, and he’s in the NFL now. Also: not to be pushy, but bring your own guts into that committee room and resist sending us out to Pasadena for the playoff.
Ohio State (4). Let us start with the fact that we, THE Ohio State University, saved this season from being a half-hearted, half-nation Southern Invitational. If not for THE Ohio State University’s persistence in playing, the playoff would be left to the likes of the SEC, ACC and a couple of peasants from the Group of Five. So by all means, thank us for our service to football. And give us credit for squashing Indiana—people will try to say that game was close, but we never trailed and actually led for the final 2 1/2 quarters uninterrupted. Remember, we can score on anyone, we have a Heisman Trophy-caliber quarterback, and our coach occasionally likes to keep things interesting by passing up chip-shot field goals that could clinch games. One last thing: we also have the largest (and mouthiest) fan base in the country and we will make your lives a living hell if you leave us out. Check with Kevin Warren on that front. O-H …
Northwestern (5). We have employed our Pat Fitzgerald Disrespect Detection Device and determined that you really don’t want to rank us at all. You don’t want to give us any credit for being 5-0 against a quality schedule to date. In fact, you actively hate us. The Rece Davis slander from Joey Galloway? Our wiretaps reveal that several of you chuckled at that line. So here’s what we’re going to do, in the face of such bias: we’re just going to win every game and force you to rank us, respect us, and ultimately love us. We are going to keep shutting down everyone with defense. We are going to keep locking up offenses in the second half, having given up just 10 points after halftime all season. And when the time comes we’ll shock the world and the insufferably arrogant Buckeyes in the Big Ten title game and you will HAVE to put us in your field of four. We know it will hurt.
Cincinnati (6). Your Excellencies, thank you for your time. We trust you all received your Bearcat holiday gift bags upon check-in, complete with gift cards for Skyline Chili and Graeter’s ice cream. (There may also be some cash tucked into the UC mini-helmet in that bag. Worth checking.) Given the fact that the Big 12 has spit the bit and the Pac-12 has barely gotten off the ground, we see this as an excellent opportunity to use your large and discerning brains to reward an undefeated team that is dominating an underrated conference. We are the most balanced team this side of Alabama, in the top 15 in the nation in both scoring offense and scoring defense. If you want us to schedule a pickup game against BYU in Kansas City, just give us the sign. We will also dispatch a grad assistant to your house to wash your car.
BYU (7). This playoff is big enough for two renowned religious-based institutions with national followings. That’s right, give the people what they want: BYU vs. Notre Dame in one of the semifinals, the playoff Holy War. You need geographic balance, and we’re by far the best team out West. You need fresh playoff storylines and new blood—people are tired of the Alabama-Clemson-Ohio State routine. We’re here to give it to you. Our quarterback Zach Wilson is a strong Heisman contender and an improvisational wizard—he’s fun to watch. We have dominated everyone but UTSA, and even in that game, we had control for the final three quarters. If it comes down to selecting a G5 team, just remember how much more fun our offense is than Cincinnati’s and how much more broad our audience is. We can also arrange some sweet hotel deals for you all with our favorite alum, Bill Marriott.
The SEC One-Loss Consortium (8). Since Texas A&M and Florida don’t get along after Dan Mullen basically accused the Aggies of cooking the attendance books and putting “50,000” in the stands in College Station last month, the SEC has appointed one spokesman for both teams to avoid any crossfire. So here’s the pitch: We are the SEC. If you insist on a little more pitch, fine: We are the league with a 9-4 playoff record, and the only time you let a conference get two teams in the playoff we ended up with an all-SEC title game. So here’s the scoop: If Florida beats Alabama in the SEC title game, take the Gators and the Tide. If Alabama wins, take the Tide and the Aggies. It just means more, and we are perfectly prepared to complain more if we don’t get our way.
The Pac-12 Coalition of Current Unbeatens (9). Larry Scott is spending the week at a five-star Maui resort on the company dime and not answering his phone, but we’ve asked for other staffers to make our case. Look, does it really matter how many games we play? Your own rules say there is no minimum number, so let’s think minimally. Six or seven, who needs more! Besides, wouldn’t it be nice to have some West Coast representation in this thing? We have four undefeated teams, two in each division, with potential showdown games looming: Colorado at USC Saturday; and Washington at Oregon Dec. 12. With some luck, we produce two undefeated divisional champions for a high-powered conference title game and the winner gets in. (Of course, luck is not our strong suit. But dare to dream.) Anyway, we’re sure Larry will be in touch when he comes back. If he comes back.
The Marshall-Coastal Carolina Alliance (10). Yo, greetings from the fringe. We’re out here winning games and having dream seasons and nobody knows it. We’re kind of like the self-produced podcast nobody listens to, but should. So we thought we’d send up a joint flare and see if anyone notices. We’re having fun out here, check us out—at Coastal they have a teal field and a bunch of mullets, and at Marshall they are playing some vicious defense. This is a little like blindly asking a supermodel for a date, but we’re out here shooting our shot. Say yes.