Last year, the College Football Playoff committee did not shy away from controversy, allowing Ohio State to jump TCU in the final rankings. No drama was warranted this time around, however, as the top four teams – Clemson, Alabama, Michigan State and Oklahoma – remained the same.
Any issue with what the committee did this year?
“No, I don’t think so,” Fox Sports South college football analyst Cory McCartney said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I think the only team I maybe could have made the argument for would have been Stanford. This is a very talented Stanford team, but I don’t think you can make the argument at the end of the day that they deserve to be there over the top four. The only argument you can make, in my estimate, is just the order of them, and I think that’s really the only beef that anybody has with things at this point.”
Michigan State went from No. 4 to No. 3 in the final rankings, while Oklahoma fell from No. 3 to No. 4. McCartney, though, would have kept the Sooners where they were.
“I think Oklahoma was just playing so well,” he said. “If you look back since that loss to Texas, they scored no fewer than 30 points the rest of the season. That defining stretch against Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State – they averaged 44 points during that stretch. We’ve seen how great Baker Mayfield can be, how dominant that running game can be. They got through that part of the season that we were so focused on in dominant fashion. I think Michigan State’s wins, while impressive, they just didn’t come in that same fashion. So to me, I’m putting Oklahoma just above Michigan State.”
Alabama opened as a nine-point favorite over Michigan State, a surprising number to a lot of people. In fact, some analysts weren’t convinced that Alabama should have even made the playoff, in part because the SEC was down this year.
How down, you ask? Very.
“I think it was pretty dramatic,” McCartney said of the SEC’s decline. “You look at Alabama’s schedule at the point when they were playing these teams – Georgia was No. 8, A&M was 9, LSU was 2, Miss State was 17. These teams completely fell off the map. We were talking about Auburn at the beginning of the season as a dark horse national-title contender, Jeremy Johnson being a Heisman contender. They’re playing the Birmingham Bowl, for God’s sake. Auburn is playing in the Birmingham Bowl. That’s where Auburn will end their season, going 2-6 in the conference.
“Things went very south for the SEC,” McCartney continued, “but none of that should belittle how great Alabama was. Ever since that Ole Miss loss, I think they completely reinvented themselves. They got away from the cute stuff they were trying to do with Lane Kiffin at the controls there. They got back to running the ball.”
After losing to Ole Miss, Derrick Henry averaged 32 carries per game in SEC games and led the nation in rushing.
“They got (back) to basics (and) the Alabama way of playing football,” McCartney said. “I think right now they’re hotter than almost anybody.”