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Your Small College Is Never Getting Invited To The College Football Playoff

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Only 72 hours ago, college football fans of TCU and Baylor were looking at hotel prices in New Orleans and Pasadena. The Horned Frogs were ranked third in the college football playoff standings and the Bears were ranked sixth, but had one last chance to impress the college football community by beating a highly ranked Kansas State team.

Then Ohio State beat the middling Wisconsin Badgers into the ground and the college football playoff committee saw dollar signs and an escape route.

It’s hard to argue that Ohio State, 12-1, had a better season than TCU or Baylor. The fourth-ranked Buckeyes lost to a putrid Virginia Tech team by double digits at home on Sept. 6, which was by far the worst loss of all three teams. The same Virginia Tech team, later in the season, provided us with this:

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Plus, Ohio State competes in the Big Ten–the second weakest football power-five conference. Baylor and TCU play in the Big 12, a conference ESPN ranked in its Power Index as the strongest in the country, ahead of the SEC. The Buckeyes played consistently better throughout the year, but that Virginia Tech loss doesn’t disappear. It can’t. It’s terrible.

TCU, which sported a one-loss record like the Buckeyes and the Bears, had one common opponent with Ohio State. The Horned Frogs slaughtered a top 25 Minnesota team by 23. The Buckeyes beat the same Gophers team by seven. TCU had the best loss of any of the three schools on the road against a top five opponent–and only lost that game by three.

Baylor’s strength of schedule doomed the Bears from the start, but was it that much worse than Ohio State’s? Baylor’s non-conference games included a road contest against Buffalo and two decisive home wins against SMU and Northwestern State. Ohio State didn’t play a true road non-conference game, facing Navy on a neutral field, losing to Virginia Tech at home, and beating down Kent State and Cincinnati. In fact, the adjusted strength of schedule rankings have TCU and Baylor ahead of the Buckeyes.

So why did Ohio State get the four-spot? Money. (Image via Barking Carnival):

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TCU and Baylor are small, private schools, and those schools don’t drive ratings. Small schools don’t sell tickets. Small schools don’t sell advertisements. It’s why bowl committees start sweating when pundits predict “Duke” or “Vanderbilt” to their venues.

If your school represents a minuscule segment on this map, chances are, it would’ve gotten jumped, too.

If TCU or Baylor’s name was replaced with “Texas” and Ohio State’s with “Northwestern,” this wouldn’t have happened. Ohio State is a national brand that drives ratings. What do fans in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles want to watch? Alabama versus TCU or Alabama versus Ohio State? The answer is easy. Is it justified? No, but college football is a business, and this was a business decision.

A conference championship game is an excuse the committee will bring up, but having one wouldn’t have bumped either private school ahead of the Buckeyes. Ohio State was always going to trump the small school with a Big Ten championship.

This game also renders the week-by-week college football playoff rankings meaningless. TCU beat Iowa State, a team whose only power-five win came on the road against a bowl-eligible Big Ten team, by 52 and dropped three spots. Ohio State beat an unproven Wisconsin team and jumped into the playoff.

If the four-team college football playoff is a placeholder for something bigger, then maybe small schools have nothing to worry about. But if this is the most “playoff” that college football is going to see, then small schools will never have a chance to compete.

So, if you’re a college football fan at a small school who wants to see his team play for a national championship, transfer. The college football playoff is just a repackaged version of the Bowl Championship Series, and it isn’t going to get better.

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