The College Football Playoff Committee faces its most high-profile decision since the format started in 2014. After Alabama shocked Georgia 27-24 in the SEC Championship Game, the Tide, Bulldogs and Texas Longhorns find themselves tied at 12-1
If projections go to plan, three College Football Playoff spots will be all but set. Michigan, Florida State and Washington could be undefeated conference champions with unimpeachable CFP cases. That leaves the three superpowers all stumping for inclusion the final spot in the College Football Playoff.
But while the decision will be controversial, it shouldn't be difficult. Texas should be in. Alabama and Georgia should be out.
If we need a refresher, let's look at the College Football Playoff's own criteria.
From the bylaws: "The CFP Committee will consider four criteria when teams are deemed comparable: championships won, strength of schedule, head-to-head competition and comparative outcomes of common opponents."
First, let's look at championships. Alabama and Texas have one. Georgia does not.
Second, strength of schedule. Texas ranks No. 11 in FPI strength of schedule. Alabama ranks No. 31. Georgia sits at No. 61.
From a head-to-head perspective, Georgia is 0-1 against the field. Alabama is 1-1. Texas is 1-0. The Longhorns' win against Alabama came by 10 points on the road. The Tide's win came by three at a neutral site.
Finally, there's comparative matchups of common opponents. Georgia was slightly more impressive against Ole Miss and Tennessee than Alabama. Texas did not have any common opponents with Alabama or Georgia, other than Alabama itself… which Texas beat, and Georgia lost.
By three of the four criteria, Georgia doesn't stand a chance. The Bulldogs have ranked No. 1 for nearly the entire season, but it's hard to make a serious case that the committee should just ignore a game that happened hours ago.
Then the argument shifts to Alabama vs. Texas. Luckily, there's a useful data point: the head-to-head. The Longhorns went on the road and handed Alabama its first home nonconference loss since Louisiana-Monroe in 2007. The 34-24 victory was decisive, and still remains perhaps the best win in all of college football this season. Add a better strength-of-schedule and case only grows.
Granted, the committee could argue that Alabama has grown since the loss. But just this week, NC State athletic director and CFP chair Boo Corrigan put that to rest during the media teleconference.
"Head-to-head is head-to-head, no matter when the game is played," Corrigan said. "That's how we look at it."
Look, it's no secret, seeing the SEC left out will be bizarre. The league is the only one to never miss the field. The SEC is also the best conference in college football by almost every conceivable metric over the last 15 years. It has produced 12 of the last 16 national champions, including the last four straight. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey stumped for his conference during an appearance on ESPN.
"That's not the real world of college football," Sankey said. "Let's go back to, like, 'Sesame Street' so we're really basic – one of these things is not like the other, and that's the Southeastern Conference… the reality is there's been no one that has experienced the success in the postseason that we have."
An argument about the generalities of the SEC is fine. It's also a cop out. This is a specific argument about a specific University of Texas team against specific Georgia and Alabama teams. Bert having a good year in 2022 doesn't mean that Cookie Monster deserves to play for a title in 2023.
Texas has not been playoff caliber in recent years, but Steve Sarkisian has pulled the Longhorns back to national relevance. The Longhorns have three wins over ranked opponents and won their last two games by a combined 106-28. The Longhorns defense ranks among the best in the nation and their offense is stacked with playmakers. There's a good argument that Alabama has gotten better since Week 2. Texas has too. The 'Horns are fully capable of winning the national title.
In most years, all three of these teams would be no-brainer selections to a four-team College Football Playoff. There has never been a year where all five power conference champions have all finished 12-1 or better. Just last year, two non-champions -- TCU and Ohio State -- made the field. The Frogs even won a game.
The 2023 season is different. There are five deserving conference champions, yet only four spots. By every piece of criteria, it's obvious which ones belong in the field. Texas is one of them.