2017-12-06 / Sports

THE PRESSBOX

Rolling against the Tide

One of the last idiosyncrasies from my sports-obsessed adolescence is my dislike for Ohio State. I don’t necessarily hate them anymore, but every time a scarlet and grey “O” catches my eye, I instinctively cringe.

Still for some reason, against all of my instincts, I’m sort of pissed that Ohio State isn’t playing in the College Football Playoff. I’m not entirely sure why this is, but I think it has something to do with blindly accepting what we are told and the playoff system as a whole.

I’m a big believer that sports are entertainment and should be treated as such. I concede that Alabama is probably, on paper, the best choice for the playoff, but this doesn’t sit right on my conscience.

With the rise of fantasy football over the past decade into the mainstream culture, a trend has developed. Fantasy Football has risen as an industry adjacent to the NFL. We have television shows, blogs and even reporters whose primary job is covering the fantasy aspect of football.

Everyone plays fantasy football and uses the same “insider information” and player rankings or has the same sleepers. This creates a void in actual opinions, resulting in just regurgitation of what we hear on ESPN or read on a sports blog. The current College Football Playoff system is just another step toward sports in-real life being consumed in the same way we consume fantasy sports information.

Wisconsin ran the table until the postseason, lost a close game to a consensus top-five team, but isn’t even considered for the Playoff. With the diminishing view of Wisconsin, the reaction to Ohio State becomes cyclical. Obviously, they’d beat Wisconsin because Wisconsin is a fraud. This devalues OSU’s victory.

But why do we collectively believe that the Badgers are overrated? (Other than quarterback Alex Hornibrook being nothing more than a left-handed John O’Korn.)

ESPN and the like told us all year that Wisconsin is overrated, so when they lose in the Big Ten Championship Game, everyone’s suspicion is confirmed.

Alabama, on the other hand, is crowned every season as the nation’s most complete team, even without winning the National Championship the previous year. When the Tide loses, it’s not Alabama who is flawed; the SEC is just so darn tough!

Imagine if a two-loss Alabama team had beaten an undefeated foe in the SEC Championship. The Committee might just cancel the Playoff altogether and hand Nick Saban the trophy outright.

Gun to the head, I’d probably say Alabama is better than Wisconsin and Ohio State. But sports shouldn’t be taken as art, which is the major flaw of the College Football Playoff Committee. They sit in a room and debate hypotheticals and value “quality losses” instead of putting the wins above any other metric. Winning is the greatest statistic in sports. You can play worse than another team, but that doesn’t matter if you happen to score more points. Still, when talking heads talk, we listen and treat it as gospel. This a dominant Alabama football team, even though they lost handily to a three-loss Auburn team. We nod our heads in agreement.

The only argument I can’t get past is how much Hornibrook sucks, which hinders not only Wisconsin but also Ohio State. I can lay out my entire case for keeping out Bama and if you simply replied with “Dude, Hornibrook is trash,” I’d nod my head in agreement and completely submit.

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