Quality wins are a myth, and other things we’ve learned in the last nine weeks

The metric that matters most to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee.


Why do we even bother to expend energy talking about “resumes” and “quality wins” while we breathlessly await the College Football Playoff rankings each week?

The CFP selection committee keeps showing us, week after week and year after year, that it doesn’t matter. Sure, it’s among several criteria taken into account in their deliberations. But in the final analysis, one consideration trumps all others: the eye test.

If resumes and quality wins meant anything, Minnesota would be in the Top 4 this week instead of Georgia. The Golden Gophers are undefeated and have beaten Penn State, ranked No. 4 themselves at the time – a win more impressive than any by Georgia, Alabama or Clemson.

And I will bet you someone on the selection committee at some point said the same thing we all thought when confronted with that idea: “Are we really going to put Minnesota fourth? Minnesota?”

Because the criteria that really matters is this: Do I think Minnesota would beat Georgia? Or Alabama? Or Oregon? And the answer is invariably: No. And so Minnesota is No. 8 this week.

This, of course, doesn’t mean there’s no chance for Minnesota or Baylor, the other unbeaten Power 5 team getting no love this week. If either runs the table, it will have beaten another CFP contender to get there. Minnesota would ultimately have to go through Ohio State. Baylor would have to beat Oklahoma. Probably twice.

The eye test would look much better for them then.

Some other things we’ve learned from the first nine weeks of the 2019 season:

LSU is the truth.

When’s the last time we’ve seen an LSU offense this good? I’m going with “never.”

If Joe Burrow continues to play like he did in Saturday’s 46-41 win over Alabama, he will win the Heisman. I just filled out a Biletnikoff semifinalist ballot that included both Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson. Clyde Edwards-Helaire had the biggest heart on the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday.

And that defense that everybody says isn’t any good? Wait and see how many of them end up in the NFL.

I don’t even blame Ed Orgeron for dropping the F-bomb on “Roll Tide” in the locker room or Booger McFarland, Marcus Spears and Ryan Clark for showing their colors on air in their respective analyst gigs.  LSU hadn’t beaten Alabama in eight years, and they just beat a Crimson Tide team that might have the best offense Nick Saban’s ever had. They deserve to celebrate, and they deserve to be considered the front-runners for the national title.

Yes, Virginia, Alabama still has a chance.

The question for Alabama after the loss to LSU is now: Can the Tide still get the playoff? And if history has taught us anything, it’s that the answer is yes.

If Alabama can get in the BCS final in 2011 without playing in the SEC Championship Game, it can get in the playoff without doing so in 2019. And it wouldn’t even take something crazy for it to happen. If LSU, Clemson and Ohio State all run the table – as they will each be favored to do – and Alabama doesn’t lose again, it’ll come down to which one-loss team the committee feels is most deserving: the Tide, a Pac-10 champion Oregon or Utah, and possibly Oklahoma, Baylor or Minnesota.

How would that discussion likely go? I refer you back to the first item of this column.

(Update 11/16: If the injury suffered by Tua Tagovailoa in Saturday’s game against Mississippi State is serious, forget all this. They’re likely done.)

Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead, and Michigan and Texas still aren’t back.

The Wolverines and Longhorns were popular preseason picks to at least be playoff contenders, longtime bluebloods that seemed to be on the rise.

Fast-forward nine weeks and Michigan is currently tied with “Indiana” in the division now known as the Big Ten East (after the blessed demise of that “Legends” and “Leaders” nonsense), while Texas is 6-3 and in third place in the Big 12.

While Texas does seem to be demonstrably better than in recent years – not a particularly high bar – this probably isn’t even the best underachieving team Jim Harbaugh’s had in Ann Arbor. It’s still Ohio State’s Big Ten and Oklahoma’s Big 12. And if for some crazy reason it isn’t, it won’t be Michigan or Texas taking control.

There’s room enough under the bus for everybody.

It admittedly hasn’t been a great fall in Pullman, Washington, or Lincoln, Nebraska. And Mike Leach and Scott Frost know just who to blame for that.

Spoiler: Not themselves.

Leach blasted his Washington State team as “fat, dumb and happy and entitled” after a 38-13 loss to Utah in late September. And Frost proved that irony is indeed dead, bemoaning players wearing hoodies during warm-ups in cold weather as a sign of a lack of toughness while he stood indoors at a post-game press conference … in a hoodie.

Both of these guys are probably right that their players aren’t working hard enough, but here’s the thing: They are paid millions of dollars to make sure they do. There’s plenty of blame to go around, fellas – make sure you take your share.

The NCAA is starting to accept the inevitable.

Last month, the NCAA took a step that it’s been fighting against for years – opening the door to the possibility of allowing college athletes to be compensated for their name, image and likeness rights.

Perhaps “took a step” isn’t the right phrase, however. It’s more accurate to say the NCAA was dragged kicking and screaming toward that door when California passed legislation granting NIL rights to college athletes and other states are considering it as well.

While some will bemoan this as an end to amateurism, that horse is out of the barn, over the fence and in the neighbor’s pasture. There’s nothing amateur about major college football and basketball. It’s big business. If you don’t believe it, walk through the football facilities at Alabama or Clemson. Look at a list of Power 5 athletic department budgets and coaching salaries. It’s long past time to allow the athletes that fuel the enterprise to earn some benefit from it beyond the cost of their education, even if it’s just a royalty check from EA Sports.

This is the first step toward that end, not the final one. The NCAA’s action merely directs its divisions to consider bylaw changes permitting name, image and likeness rights. It remains to be seen how those rights will be honored “in a manner consistent with the collegiate model,” as referenced in the NCAA’s statement.

But it’s a step. And that’s more than the NCAA has been willing to think about until now.

Categories: College football

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