Who Belongs in the Top 4?

SEC Championship - Alabama v Florida

With Championship Saturday come and gone, and the Selection Sunday show only hours away, I think it’s time to take a look at the ideal playoff field. That doesn’t mean that I’m taking the teams that have the best resume, or a conference title, but what the committee would be putting together if they were truly about placing the four best teams in the playoff. You might hate my list, and that’s okay. You might agree with what I have to say, and that’s okay too.

Obviously, let me say first and foremost Alabama belongs in the top four. They’re the best team in the country right now, and they have been the best team in the country for the entire year. I truly don’t think there is much of a debate about this. If there is a debate about this, it’s a stupid one. The SEC as a whole is experiencing a down year, they’re not the best conference in the country anymore, but they are absolutely home to the best team. Alabama smoked Florida in the SEC Championship game. They’re in and they’ll be the #1 seed, as they deserve to be.

Ohio State entered this weekend sitting as the #2 seed in the rankings. Their worry is that they’re not participating in the Big Ten Championship Game this weekend. That honor belonged to Penn State and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes beat Wisconsin and lost to Penn State, which is the reason they find themselves idle this weekend. Take a look at the eye test, which is my preferred method of judgement, and it should be yours as well. Ohio State deserves to be in the playoff, even without winning their conference. They’re one of the four best teams in the country, and isn’t that ultimately the goal of the committee?

Clemson may not have the most impressive resume, with their best wins coming against Lamar Jackson and Louisville as well as an underachieving Florida State team, but they’re still a team deserving of making the playoff. They’re a very good team with an electrifying quarterback. They might not have the talent to beat Alabama, but they’re certainly one of the four best teams in the country right now.

This is where things get a little tricky. Actually, they could have gotten tricky earlier, but I declined to put Southern Cal in my top four, although I think they are playing some of the best football in the country right now. I’ll put them at #5. If Clemson would have lost to Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship, USC would’ve been my #4. Setting up two rematches in the semi-finals.

Michigan deserves to be in the College Football Playoff. Yes, they have two losses. No, they did not win their division or their conference. Yes, they lost two of their last three games. I don’t want to say none of that matters. However, none of that matters. Michigan is undoubtedly one of the four best teams in the country. Their losses both came on the final play of the game on the road. The Wolverines dominated teams physically throughout the entire year. They have a win over the Big Ten Champion, as well as a win over the Pac-12 South winner Colorado.

Try convincing me that they’re not one of the four best teams in the country, I dare you. They likely will not be in the top four, but they definitely deserve to be.

Now, you’re probably reading this wondering how it pertains to Notre Dame, after all, this is a website primarily focused on the Fighting Irish and I have yet to mention them. Obviously, at 4-8 Notre Dame is nowhere near a bowl game, let alone the top four. It does directly affect them in the future though. There is always talk about how Notre Dame needs to join a conference to be eligible for the playoff. The notion is that winning the conference title is a necessity. This year clearly shows that it no longer is. The best four teams should make the playoff above all else.

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