ATLANTA — Two years, two whiffs for the Big Ten champion in trying to snag an invite to college football’s biggest dance. Meanwhile, two of the SEC’s glamour programs — Georgia and Alabama — are preparing to lace up for the College Football Playoff and a date with national glory.
Has a little SEC envy formed in Big Ten Land? Has an edge developed north of the Mason-Dixon Line after the conference’s winner was more “out” than “in” the last two years?
“I think it’s definitely a chip on the shoulder with the Big Ten,” Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor told SEC Country on Wednesday at the College Football Hall of Fame. “I think that’s going to push every team in the Big Ten Conference to continue to work and get better, to kind of prove themselves and prove that they deserve to be in the playoff picture.
“It’s definitely odd. The playoff committee, you don’t know their formula. The only thing you can focus on is to win as many games as possible and just try to make sure that you can prove that you belong in there.”
At this point, all teams within the Big Ten’s borders should have emotional fuel for the work ahead.
Last year, Penn State was the selection committee’s proverbial pumpkin, after the Nittany Lions punched a ticket to the Rose Bowl instead of the College Football Playoff with a 11-2 record. (Of course, Ohio State was placed within the top four of the CFP rankings without winning the Big Ten East.)
This year, the Buckeyes (11-2) were bucked from the playoff with SEC West runner-up Alabama (11-1) sliding into a Sugar Bowl date against Clemson (12-1) on Jan. 1. SEC champion Georgia (12-1) and Big 12 champion Oklahoma (12-1) meet in the Rose Bowl in the other national semifinal the same day. Somewhere, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany needs more tissues.
Two years. Two whiffs for the Big Ten champion. Many more questions to go with the committee’s cold shoulder.
“There was definitely hurt we didn’t get in,” Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett said.
“It’s truly hard to win a conference title, I think, in any conference. With that, not being considered as much as other conferences, that’s not for me to talk about. But it’s really hard to win a conference title.”
Oh, Urban Meyer’s bunch had an opportunity but fumbled it away with a 55-24 loss to Iowa on Nov. 4. The committee decided that defeat was more of a scarlet letter than Alabama’s 26-14 loss to Peach Bowl-bound Auburn on Nov. 25. Thankfully, we have human beings making the choice instead of computers.
Some argued that the super-subjective “eye test” favors Alabama over Ohio State. Still, with the Crimson Tide managing multiple injuries on defense, the question about whether the Tide would roll the Buckeyes will remain a mystery.
That’s a shame, too.
“The argument could be made for us to be in there and for us not to be in there,” Ohio State center Billy Price said. “So it’s just tough, and the criteria at which the committee looks at can be kind of hypocritical at times. But again, it’s not our decision to make.”
Yes, the whole playoff dance is out of players’ hands once their final body of work is determined. But once more, the Big Ten champion created an opening for a snub and a wicked case of déjà vu.
And Alabama will wear a big smile all the way to the Big Easy because of it.
“I’m a Big Ten guy, so I’m obviously going to root for a Big Ten team to make it,” Penn State running back Saquon Barkley said. “The way I saw it was it was a similar case we were in last year, and I think the College Football [Playoff] committee set a standard of what it [takes] to get in.
“So I’m not shocked Alabama made it over Ohio State. It was a no-brainer to me.”
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