Did Alabama Belong In The College Football Playoff?

It didn’t take long for the “TCU made a statement” and “TCU proved they belonged in the College Football Playoff” rhetoric to ratchet up after the Horned Frogs demolished Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve. TCU’s backers in the national media were ready to pounce.

All that was required was for the presumptive demolition of Ohio State at the hands of Alabama to take place the following night in the Sugar Bowl. Only that didn’t turn out as expected and the crusade never caught fire. Why? How about subjecting Alabama to the same kind of post-bowl scrutiny that Ohio State surely would have?
Let me begin by saying that I think the College Football Playoff committee got the right four teams and felt that way as soon as the matchups were unveiled. I’m not a believer in the notion that teams prove their worthiness after the fact. TCU lost head-to-head to Baylor, and as far as I’m concerned that settles who the Big 12 candidate is.
Baylor played a lousy non-conference schedule, while Ohio State at least went out and played bowl teams in Navy and Virginia Tech. I would have been fine with either the Bears or Buckeyes going, but ask me to pick who the fourth team should be and I would have voted for Ohio State.
College Football HistoryBut with that said, if I was ready to pounce on Ohio State if they lost, I’d certainly have been ready to shift gears and question whether Alabama ever belonged in the playoff field to begin with. Why do the Tide get a pass? The bowl season established that the SEC West, far from being on a level just below the NFC West, was in fact incredibly overrated.
This side of the SEC went 2-5 in bowl play. They did not match up with the rest of the country. Yet Alabama was unable to go undefeated against this group of teams. Say what you will about Florida State’s schedule, but at least they won them all. And in any case, if a playoff can’t include a defending national champion that hasn’t lost in two years, then what is exactly the point of having a bracket?
If we’re going to do some second-guessing, it’s Alabama whose inclusion is now debatable. They played in what we now know to be a subpar division, didn’t go undefeated and were quickly exposed on the national stage.
Of course no one could have known this prior to the bowl season. That’s why we should look at starting the playoffs after the bowls, when there’s a much better read on what conferences are really the strongest. But that’s a subject for another day.