This Sunday, college football fans were on the edge of their seat as the College Playoff committee announced the four teams that made the playoffs. While Clemson, Oklahoma, and Georgia were expected to make it, many fans didn’t understand why Alabama was chosen over Ohio State and USC. Looking at past years and the trend in their rankings this year, it’s clear why they chose Alabama.
To start, let’s compare the resumes of the three teams that were being considered for that last spot. Alabama had one loss to Auburn on the road, had good wins against Mississippi State, LSU, and Florida State, and wasn’t a conference champion. Ohio State lost to Oklahoma at home and Iowa on the road, had good wins against Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan, and a conference championship over Wisconsin. USC had losses against Washington State and Notre Dame, had good wins over Arizona and Stanford twice, one for the conference championship.
After comparing each team's full body of work, there was one reason the committee put Alabama in over the other two schools. They didn’t have a terrible loss all year. When you look at the four teams that made it in, all of their losses were either to good teams, or they lost by a possession. Clemson lost by a field goal to Syracuse, Oklahoma lost to Iowa State by a touchdown, and Georgia lost to Auburn, a top ten team. Alabama fit that criteria because they only lost to Auburn, versus Ohio State lost by 31 to a weak Iowa team and USC lost to Notre Dame by 35.
Also, many forget that Alabama was either the number one or two team in the nation all year. This team is still a threat to win the entire championship. Vegas has already opened up the odds for their game against Clemson and Alabama is the favorite to win. When all bets are taken, it's likely more money will be wagered on Alabama to win the four-team playoff than any other squad.
People will be upset and point to a bias towards the south, since three teams in the playoffs are from the region (two from the SEC). However, think about what would happen if Ohio State faced off against Clemson this year. Last year, the Buckeyes were humiliated in the playoffs, losing to Clemson 31-0. Alabama probably wouldn’t lose that badly to Clemson, if they fall at all.