If the University of Miami beats Clemson in the ACC Championship game on Saturday in Charlotte, is there any way the College Football Playoff committee would bypass UM and instead choose 11-1 Alabama to compete in the four-team playoff?
If the committee did that, it would be violating the rules of its own mission statement.
The CFP’s web site specifically says: “The selection committee ranks the teams based on the members’ evaluation of the teams’ performance on the field, using conference championships won, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, and comparison of results against common opponents to decide among teams that are comparable.”
UM and Alabama would both have 11-1 records if Miami beats Clemson. So UM and Alabama would satisfy the need to be “comparable.”
Alabama would not have the edge over UM in any of the other four categories specified by the committee.
UM would have won a conference championship (game) if it beats Clemson. Alabama didn’t win the SEC this season and isn’t even playing in the conference’s championship game, which will match Auburn and Georgia next Saturday in Atlanta.
According to the Sagarin strength of schedule ratings, UM’s schedule is rated 40th toughest in the country after this weekend’s games, and Alabama’s is 54th. And UM’s will rise after playing Clemson.
Alabama and UM had one common opponent (FSU), which lost to both teams.
UM and Alabama did not play, so head-to-head isn’t a factor.
So of those four stated criteria, UM wins two against Alabama; one is a tie; and one isn’t applicable.
There was concern expressed initially about Alabama potentially beating out UM because of the Crimson Tide’s reputation as a powerhouse, the perceived strength of the SEC and the suspicion that some committee members would consider Alabama a better team than UM even if UM beats Clemson.
After all, if Alabama played UM, the Crimson Tide would be a 10- or 11-point favorite, Wynn Sportsbook’s Johnny Avello told WINZ’s Andy Slater (via Twitter).
Also, the original mission statement of the College Football Playoff committee included this sentence: “For purposes of any four-team playoff, the process will inevitably need to select the four best teams from among several with legitimate claims to participate.”
Notice how the CFP said four “best” teams. Nowhere does the CFP’s mission statement or web site mention the four most “deserving” teams. So that would seemingly give the CFP committee an avenue to subjectively pick Alabama over a one-loss Miami, perhaps claiming the eye test would favor Alabama.
But the four criteria mentioned above means this: If the CFP committee chose an 11-1 Alabama over an 11-1 UM, it would be violating the rules it agreed to follow. And that’s why UM should be playoff-bound if it beats Clemson.