Five teams for four spots. That was the big dilemma this year when it came to selecting the teams that would play for college football's national championship. ESPN, which televises the playoff games, went on for four hours ad nauseum Sunday morning on what the selection committee should do, and which team deserved it more. In the end, the deserving teams got in.
Here's the deal. Alabama, Ohio State, and Clemson were the top three going in. Most everyone agreed that they were all locks to be selected to the final four, although Ohio State didn't win its conference, and there was some debate on whether the Buckeyes should make it. There's no rule that says only conference champions should go, and Ohio State was ranked two or three all year. They got in and they deserved it.
The debate was for that fourth spot. Fourth ranked Pac-12 Conference champion Washington won their game easily over Colorado, but many felt that Penn State, which was ranked seventh going into last weekend, defeated sixth ranked Wisconsin for the Big 10 title. Many felt the Nittany Lions, being in a better conference, and having handed Ohio State its only loss, deserved the nod over Washington. They were wrong, and the selection committee thought so as well.
This is the reason Washington deserved it. It's not because there is an inherent east coast bias and the west should be represented. It's not because Huskies quarterback Jake Browning went to Folsom High School and this reporter got to broadcast one of his games. It's not because their only loss was to USC, and this gets revenge against the Trojans. There are really two reasons why Washington deserved it. They have one loss and Penn State has two, and the Huskies were already ranked well ahead of the Nittany Lions and won their game handily. If Penn State had been selected ahead of Washington, it would have meant that the previous college football rankings, put together weekly for the last month by the same people that made the final selection, would have been meaningless. What kind of credibility would there be from here on out?
In getting the number four selection, that means Washington will play top ranked Alabama New Year's Eve in Atlanta. Penn State, which finished out of the top four, ends up in the Rose Bowl against USC—not bad for a team that lost scholarships after being rocked by the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal five years ago. The Washington-Alabama winner will face either Clemson or Ohio State for the title on January 9, but while the five teams for four spots furthers the cry for an expanded playoff, it's far better than the old system. A top-two would have controversy over which team should play Alabama—Clemson or Ohio State. That's a debate you can have for yourselves.
Washington is a two-touchdown underdog against 'Bama coming up in the Peach Bowl, while Penn State-USC is an exciting matchup in Pasadena and has the makings of a great game. It will be easy come January 3 to say that Penn State played better than Washington, and the committee blew it. They didn't. The Pac-12 champs, with quality wins against Stanford, Utah, Colorado, and others, deserve to get rolled by the Tide more than Penn State does.
Hoop-LA: Before the big college football championship menu on Saturday was a pretty tasting appetizer. UCLA defeated top-ranked Kentucky 97-92 at Rupp Arena—a place where few road teams come out on top. The Bruins led throughout, withstood several Wildcat runs, and even overcame a few of their own mistakes in the final seconds to hang on. As a result, UCLA is now ranked second in the nation in this week's Associated Press poll, but weeks will tell if they deserve it. Kentucky fell from first to sixth.
Winter Meetings: Major League Baseball did reach a labor agreement hours before the December 1 deadline, which means (among other things) that the annual Winter Meetings are going on as scheduled and run until Thursday. In the first full day today, the San Francisco Giants picked up free agent closer Mark Melancon, and strikeout pitcher Chris Sale is reportedly on the move from the Chicago White Sox to the Washington Nationals. Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen could be traded before the meetings are over—perhaps to the Dodgers.