My Sunday mornings tend to be very regimented. I wake up, make a cup of coffee, and get myself situated in front of a television and break out my laptop for some morning reading. My TV programming usually consists of English Premier League clashes and NFL Sunday pregame shows, all while I plot out how to survive stress-inducing fantasy football battles with friends. However, this particular Sunday morning was different. There was urgency in the air. The selection committee was announcing the four teams that would be participating in the College Football Playoff.
Alabama. Clemson. Ohio State. Washington.
At Betphoenix, an online betting site, you can easily see that the Washington Huskies are the biggest underdog going into the playoff. The Pac-12 champion pulled off a campaign that no one, not even Huskies fans, saw coming. The emergence of Jake Browning reminded us that UDub's quarterback pedigree has given us the likes of Warren Moon, Mark Brunell and Marques Tuiasosopo in years past. Along with the Huskies' stellar QB play, there are playmakers across the field offensively and defensively, even if 99 percent of the people reading this article have no idea how good guys like Myles Gaskin, John Ross and Sidney Jones are for this team.
However, this isn't a sell job for the Huskies. This is about a breaking down of false narratives, myth-busting and making things whole within the shenanigans of college football.
The Huskies earning the fourth spot in the playoff was a fight against East Coast Bias, a perceived tendency for power brokers and the media-at-large to give greater appreciation to those teams that play in the Eastern Time Zone. Both the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Michigan Wolverines fit in this storyline, as the pundits and prognosticators crafted what seemed to be complex arguments for the two-loss programs to be in the playoff. Per ESPN's Ted Miller:
Penn State, playing by Big Ten rules, won the rugged Big Ten. It beat Ohio State head-to-head, arguably the best win of the season. How could the Nittany Lions not be in the playoff?
Michigan beat Penn State by 39 points -- 39 points! -- and was robbed by poor officiating at Ohio State. The Wolverines were clearly one of the best four teams. Just ask coach Jim Harbaugh.
Add in Ohio State's dominance, and the Big Ten East division provided three elite teams that ended up cannibalizing each other to their detriment. Is it fair? Probably not. Do the Nittany Lions and Wolverines deserve better? Probably. Does any of this matter when you have two losses on your record? Not a single bit.
In the end, Washington getting in and Penn State and Michigan being left out is noise. Never mind that Washington finished 3-1 against the final top 25 (compared to PSU and Michigan both finishing 3-2) and had a better point differential (Washington +63 versus Michigan +57 and Penn State -25). Does the fifth game against a tough opponent matter? Maybe, but both Big Ten teams had their extra games to prove their elite-hood against good but not great teams like Iowa, Pitt and Temple.
Of course, it's not like Washington hasn't been in this situation before, where 16 years prior its curriculum vitae (an 11-1 season that ended in a Rose Bowl victory) was put to the test against (South)East Coast Bias in the form of the Florida State Seminoles and Miami Hurricanes. Again, from ESPN's Miller:
Miami coach Butch Davis was relentless in selling his team's head-to-head win over Florida State. When asked about his Hurricanes' head-to-head loss at Washington that year, he hemmed and hawed. A chill Bobby Bowden and his Seminoles emerged from the one-loss conundrum, then lost to unbeaten Oklahoma in the BCS national title game. At the time, Huskies fans viewed themselves and their program as among the established national elite.
They thought the marriage with coach Rick Neuheisel, still a honeymoon in its second year, would continue to flourish. Even the worst nightmares of the most pessimistic Huskies fans wouldn't have predicted what followed -- a program collapse that hit bottom in 2008 with a winless 0-12 campaign under Tyrone Willingham.
Moreover, it's not like we haven't seen one division produce three heavyweights vying for a spot in the national title. Back in 2008, the Big 12 South ruled the roost when it came to divisional dominance. Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech all finished with 11-1 overall records and 7-1 in conference. Additionally, Texas beat Oklahoma, Oklahoma beat Texas Tech, and Texas Tech beat Texas, which meant that the division winner was decided by who was highest in the final BCS standings.
Furthermore, Utah finished undefeated and Alabama, USC and Penn State all had just one loss with compelling arguments as to why they should be in the title game. In the end, OU won the Big 12 title and narrowly lost against God's second favorite QB and the one-loss Florida Gators in the national championship. Everyone except Gators fans felt especially curmudgeony after that season; no one was happy.
In essence, this is what the playoff was supposed to solve. To give the best teams a chance to prove themselves against each other and to claim college football dominance for a given season. In reality, with 128 FBS football programs in the mix, a power five vs. group-of-five controversy, parity and objectivity running wild, and an insatiable thirst to constantly solve the debate of who's No. 1, the playoff both solves the problem and exacerbates it even more. It's like the old Pringles slogan, "Once you pop, you can't stop." (What up Brad Pitt) Except, you know...if you keep eating all those Pringles your belly will pop, and you'll have to stop or start wearing pants with elastic in the waist.
Washington's reward for only losing to the ninth-ranked team in the country this season? They get to face the team who was ranked first for every single week of the season, the Alabama Crimson Tide. A strong showing from UDub would be best for those who want validation for their decisions, for those who feel overlooked, and for the greater good of college football fans across the land. If the Huskies get destroyed by Alabama, that's fine too, as it would leave more questions than answers on who was more deserving, or there should be further discussion on how to decide a true national champion.
In reality, we know the truth. college football is synonymous with chaos, calamity and catastrophe. It is the beautiful struggle that we emotionally wrap our provincialism around, and only the select few who
buy claw themselves out the barrel to become king crab ultimately means that everyone else will be out to eat you alive the following year. Enjoy your time out the barrel Washington, as your time to shine will give us plenty to talk about, no matter how your savage journey ends.
Eddie Maisonet is the founder and editor emeritus of The Sports Fan Journal. Currently, he serves as an associate editor for ESPN.com. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 fitteds and snapbacks, and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”