By Aaron Moser
The fallacious “Power 5” bias reared its ugly head again this week as Cincinnati was dropped from No. 8 to No. 9 in the latest College Football Playoff Rankings.
Quick recap: Ohio State has remained steady at No. 4 despite only playing five games. The Big Ten had to waive their own games requirement rule to allow Ohio State into the championship contest. Their win over Indiana is solid, but is nowhere near enough to justify a fourth spot.
Earlier this season, No. 5 Texas A&M received a 28-point shellacking at the hands of Alabama; their win over Florida and nine-game schedule makes them at least more deserving than Ohio State.
Speaking of No. 8 Florida, with an LSU cleat in hand, Marco Wilson likely threw away the Gators Playoff dreams. Despite that loss to LSU, the committee still put two loss Florida ahead of Cincinnati.
With a defense that is No. 3 in efficiency, Cincinnati is undefeated and has dominated most of their schedule. A schedule that includes wins over 8-2 Army, 7-3 SMU, 7-3 Memphis and 6-3 UCF. They will likely win the AAC Championship over 6-1 Tulsa (a Tulsa team who lost to Oklahoma State by just 9 points).
So, with that impressive resume and no losses, why did the committee drop the Bearcats? How are they still ranked behind three teams with two losses?
“When Cincinnati came out and our committee had its first evaluations, we had information to put them where we put them,” College Football Playoff committee chair Gary Barta explained. “We haven’t had a chance to see them play since November 21st. Other teams around them have been playing and have been adding to their resume.”
This justification is so comical it should be framed. If losing to LSU on your home field counts as resume building, then I guess Vanderbilt’s 34-point beating from the Tigers was a solid week.
I would also love to hear Barta’s explanation on how Ohio State beating 2-4 Michigan State counts as resume building. It’s the real world equivalent of adding “knows how to use Microsoft Word” at the end of a mostly empty application to MIT.
This coming from Barta is no shock though. He’s a Big Ten athletic director relaying the bias of a “Power 5” lead committee room.
Cincinnati will likely end their season undefeated, unlike Texas A&M, Iowa State, Florida and Georgia. They will likely win their conference championship; Texas A&M and Georgia won’t even participate in theirs.
Despite losing by 28 points the first time to Alabama, Texas A&M may just get another opportunity to play the Tide. Despite Ohio State playing just six games (Indiana being the only competition worth remarking), they will likely get the opportunity Cincinnati won’t.
Even if Cincinnati loses to Tulsa tomorrow, it is quite obvious what the committee did to them this past week. The justification for Cincinnati’s drop, the Committee’s supposed criteria and how the rankings currently sit, simply does not add up.
Don’t just take it from me though; take it from former Alabama quarterback Grey Mcelroy.
“What I’ve yet to find out is why the committee is not rewarding teams for having played an entire schedule. For instance, I have the utmost respect for Ohio State and it’s not their fault that the Big Ten decided to shut things down at the beginning of August. As a result, they’ve only played five games, they’ll have their sixth game on Saturday. But they should be penalized for having not put themselves at risk as many times as other teams. And if for whatever reason Notre Dame’s to beat Clemson on Saturday, we’re not going to put Clemson in the playoff because they had really good recruiting rankings the last few years and because they pass the eye test. No, they played their way out and they had two opportunities to beat Notre Dame and they weren’t able to do it.
“So, those who have said ‘well even if they lose they should still get in,’ how can I support that? The team that’s not getting enough love is the Cincinnati Bearcats. This is a team that has dominated everybody on their schedule. And I think frankly if they played Ohio State’s schedule, they’d probably be undefeated as well. And I know Indiana is a good team but we are not sitting here and rewarding teams for what they’ve actually accomplished. We’re rewarding them for what we think they are.”
Mcelroy is absolutely correct. Subjectivity and bias is deeply ingrained into the committee room and until major reforms happen, like playoff expansion with automatic bids, teams that don’t wear the “Power 5” hat will not get the respect and opportunities they deserve.
Edited by Emma Moloney