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Committee stays true to mandate

PREGAME SPEECH

If you've read this column over the years, you know the BMOC would rather chug a raw sewage smoothie than endure one more nanosecond of the Bowl Championship Series. So when the College Football Playoff arrived, I was tossing confetti and planning parade routes.

And even though I disagree with the selection committee on its choice of Ohio State as the final selection in the bracket of four (along with No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Florida State), I don't question the committee's integrity, diligence or transparency. For the first time in years, we actually had a living, breathing person (committee chair Jeff Long) telling us what happened, why it happened and when it happened. We never got that with the BCS.

So if you're asking me whether the CFP selection process was a success, it was. Fabulously so. Historically so. Long may it live.

Of course, I don't have to agree with all of the results. And I'm sure I'm not alone. Right, Baylor and TCU?

We've heard time and time again that there are no wrong answers when choosing between Ohio State, Baylor and TCU for that precious fourth spot in the national semifinals. This is true. But some answers are more right than others.

Had I been one of the 12 committee members, I would have fought for Baylor at No. 4, followed by TCU and then Ohio State. Doesn't make me a bad person. Doesn't make me anti-Buckeyes. Just makes me pro-Baylor.

I think Baylor played in a more difficult conference, and beat teams in its conference that are better than the teams that Ohio State beat in its league. And Baylor's one loss -- a 14-point loss at West Virginia -- isn't anywhere as bad as Ohio State's 14-point loss at home against a dreadful Virginia Tech team. Simple as that.

That said, I don't think anyone can throw a hissy fit about the Buckeyes moving ahead of Baylor and TCU. Well, you can, but you'll look silly.

Ohio State did play a better nonconference schedule than Baylor. It also lost one of those nonconference games, but the defeat wasn't fatal to the selection committee. And the Buckeyes had the benefit of an extra game -- a conference championship game, no less -- and used the opportunity to humiliate Wisconsin.

So, yeah, I get it. And I understand the argument that Ohio State beat nine bowl-eligible teams. And that it continued to play at a high level -- even though the Buckeyes are on their third starting quarterback. And that the committee says it didn't penalize Baylor and TCU as much as it rewarded Ohio State. I'm all good on that.

It's all mental gymnastics at this point, but I don't think Ohio State would have won the same number of games had it played this season in the Big 12. But I give the Buckeyes all sorts of props for overcoming injury, tragedy and a Wisconsin team that began the Big Ten championship as the betting favorite. Congrats.

Nos. 3-6 on the CFP board weren't separated by much. And the danger of a four-team playoff is that there's always a fifth team that thinks it deserved to be No. 4. In this case, the sixth team (TCU) thought the same thing.

The committee chose Ohio State, and I respect the decision. Look what Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman did with third-teamer Cardale Jones in a week. Now they'll have the better part of a month to prepare him for No. 1 seed Alabama.

I'll also give the committee credit for staying true to its preseason mandate: strength of schedule counts. That, more than anything, might be why Ohio State is in, and Baylor and TCU are out.

To me, Baylor is the fourth-best team in the country. TCU is No. 5 and Ohio State is No. 6. But the truth is, they are basically the same make and model. The committee chose the car that it deemed had driven across the hardest roads. So they picked the Buckeyemobile.

In the end, Ohio State made the most attractive case to the committee. Fair enough. And in the end, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby didn't do himself or his league any favors by declaring Baylor and TCU co-champions. It was a weenie-ish thing to do.

The committee is now off the clock, but on record when it comes to what matters and what doesn't. Strength of schedule matters. Nonconference opponents matter. Conference championship games matter. An unbeaten record matters, but up to only a point.

I can live with that. I can live with Ohio State getting in over Baylor.

We wanted a playoff system, right? No pain, no gain.

FIRST QUARTER

COACH OF THE SEASON

The finalists: Alabama's Nick Saban, Florida State's Jimbo Fisher, Ohio State's Urban Meyer, UAB's Bill Clark, Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson, TCU's Gary Patterson, Oregon's Mark Helfrich, Minnesota's Jerry Kill, Wisconsin-Whitewater's Lance Leipold, Harvard's Tim Murphy, Arizona's Rich Rodriguez.

And the award goes to: Well, first, give me a moment to explain.

The finalists among the finalists are Saban, Fisher, Meyer and Patterson. And after that, good luck figuring out who did the best job of those four.

I'm choosing Saban (pause for screams from the masses, accusing ESPN of -- wait for it -- SEC bias!), but only by a sliver over Fisher, Meyer and Patterson.

Florida State didn't face the toughest schedule, but it did face the toughest stretch of obstacles: preseason expectations, the weight of being the defending national champion, the ongoing Jameis Winston off-field drama and on-field inconsistency, everybody's best shot, the pressure of an unbeaten streak, the absence of a rushing attack for much of the season, and late-game deficits. Through it all, Fisher somehow kept his team together and his staff's adjustments during second halves of games belongs in a coaching seminar. Yes, FSU has a roster chock full of talent, but Fisher is the guy who steered them to a 13-0 record.

Meanwhile, Meyer lost not one, but two Heisman-quality quarterbacks in the same season. And he did his best to comfort a family and a team through the tragedy of a player's death.

Patterson's program was 4-8 a season ago. This year, 11-1. With the exception of Kansas State's Bill Snyder and maybe a few others, no coach squeezes more out of his roster than Patterson.

But I'm going with Saban because he did more than just win 12 games and finish atop the CFP rankings. He did something that I'm not sure a four-time national championship coach would often do: Saban adapted to the college football of 2014, rather than try to bend today's game to his own football sensibilities. Saban didn't change how he coaches, or what he demands of his players and staff, or ignore the need for attention to detail. But he did essentially admit that he needed to reconfigure his offense and defense to better compete with the fast-twitch attacks of other programs -- and he had to do it with a new quarterback and a new offensive coordinator whose coaching reputation had bruise marks. In addition, Saban had to tough-love the Crimson Tide through the embarrassment of last year's confidence-crushing bowl loss to Oklahoma, to say nothing of the last-play loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl. There are those who argue this might be Saban's finest coaching job. Let's wait and see how the playoffs shake out before we go there.

TEAM OF THE SEASON

The finalists: Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, TCU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Marshall, Georgia Tech, Arizona.

And the award goes to: FSU.

Undefeated and never fell off the tightrope it walked the entire regular season.

SECOND QUARTER

More awards:

UPSET OF THE SEASON

The finalists: Indiana over Missouri, Boston College over USC, Florida State over Clemson, Illinois over Minnesota, SMU over Connecticut, Virginia Tech over Ohio State, Northern Iowa over North Dakota State.

And the award goes to: FSU.

The Seminoles won in overtime, and did so without their quarterback, Winston (suspension), and after trailing at halftime and late into the fourth quarter. At the FSU awards banquet, backup QB Sean Maguire deserves a standing O.

FLOP OF THE SEASON

The finalists: Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Stanford, Florida, North Carolina, Northwestern.

And the award goes to: Oklahoma.

It's hard to put a smiley face on an OU season that began with the Sooners being ranked No. 3 in the USA Today coaches preseason poll and No. 4 in the AP. Oklahoma finished 8-4 overall and 5-4 in the Big 12, including home losses against Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State. There were key injuries and quarterback Trevor Knight (who missed the past three games because of injury) didn't develop as expected.

INJURY OF THE SEASON

The finalists: Texas quarterback David Ash (concussion), Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller (shoulder), Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett (ankle), Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (broken leg and dislocated ankle).

And the award goes to: All of these were heartbreaking, but none more than the multiple concussions that forced Texas' Ash to give up football.

HIRE OF THE SEASON

The finalists: Louisville's Bobby Petrino, UAB's Bill Clark, Boise State's Bryan Harsin, Washington's Chris Petersen, USC's Steve Sarkisian, Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

And the award goes to: Kiffin. Brilliant move by Saban to offer Kiffin the job. Smart move by Kiffin to take it. He has helped transform the Bama offense, and his work with quarterback Blake Sims has been a gas to watch.

HIRE OF THE NEXT SEASON

The finalists: Nebraska's Mike Riley, Buffalo's Leipold, Florida's Jim McElwain, and whomever Michigan eventually hires.

And the award goes to: Riley.

An inspired selection. I love everything about it.

RECOVERY OF THE SEASON

The finalist: The Big Ten. Left for dead in September, the Big Ten gets a team in the playoff -- the same number of teams as the SEC, Pac-12 and ACC.

NEWCOMERS OF THE SEASON

The finalists: Ohio State's Barrett, FSU's Dalvin Cook, the CFP.

And the award goes to: the CFP.

HALFTIME SPEECH

Awards that didn't make the cut:

RUMOR OF THE SEASON

The finalists would have been Chip Kelly to Florida. Or Charlie Strong to Florida. Or Hugh Freeze to Florida (which was much more than a rumor, by the way). Or Jon Gruden to Florida.

AUTOGRAPH OF THE SEASON

The finalists would have been Georgia's Todd Gurley or FSU's Winston.

MEANINGLESS PROMISE OF THE SEASON

Winston's dad saying Jameis will return for the FSU 2015 season.

BUYOUT OF THE SEASON

Florida wins this one going away.

THIRD QUARTER

And the Heisman Trophy goes to ... Oregon's Marcus Mariota.

Did you see Oregon coach Mark Helfrich in the Pac-12 championship postgame presser? He delivered a heartfelt Heisman endorsement of Mariota.

We've heard equally heartfelt campaign speeches from other coaches about other players in the past. But what I loved about this one was Mariota's body language during it all: head down, humbled and almost embarrassed by the kind words, but appreciative -- always appreciative. It was a quintessential Mariota moment, as was his performance during the Pac-12 title game.

I've heard his skeptics wonder out loud about a "Heisman Moment" -- that Mariota lacked a defining, singular play this season. First of all, the Heisman is about a season's worth of moments, not just one. Second, if you insist on a moment, how about his Tom Brady-ish pocket dance he did against Arizona, followed by a scramble escape and then off-balance throw for a long completion. That work for you?

Mariota's numbers are Heisman-worthy. His record is Heisman-worthy. The quality of his character is Heisman-worthy. He gets my vote.

Also in attendance for the presentation: Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon, Ohio State's Barrett, TCU's Trevone Boykin, Alabama's Amari Cooper, Arizona's Scooby Wright III.

FOURTH QUARTER

Top 10

1. Alabama

The Tide won the SEC West (which might be tougher than the NFC South these days), won the SEC championship, are coached by one of the best in the business, can slowly grind you into submission by ground or air, have the best wide receiver in the country and, unlike last season, don't act as if it's a done deal they're going to win it all. Are they flawed? Absolutely. But they need less makeup than any other team.

2. Oregon

In the time it took you to read the Alabama capsule, Oregon's offensive line committed three illegal procedure infractions. Against Arizona in the Pac-12 championship, the Ducks were penalized 13 times, wasted assorted touchdown chances and scored just six points in the first quarter -- and still crushed the Wildcats 51-13. Yes, Oregon scores lots and lots of points. The Ducks can score 40 points while brushing their teeth. But maybe you haven't noticed that they can stop teams from scoring points, too. Arizona's Rich Rod can provide the details.

3. Florida State

The Seminoles are a weekly football soap opera and the most entertaining team in the country. Act 1: Something happens off the field. Act 2: They fall behind in a game. Act 3: They stage a late comeback to win the game. Every week it's nearly the same episode. And yet, here they are, the only undefeated team in the FBS. Impressive.

4. Baylor

Did Baylor and TCU play in the same conference? Yes. Did Baylor and TCU end up with the same record in that conference? Yes. Did Baylor overcome a 21-point deficit against TCU in the final 11 minutes of their game? Yes. Is Baylor, by all reasonable and traditional tiebreaker thinking, the Big 12 champion? Yes. Then I'm putting the Bears ahead of the Horned Frogs. You can argue that TCU is the better team until you're purple in the face, but I'll respectfully refer you to the events of Oct. 11.

5. TCU

I wouldn't want to play the Horned Frogs. Nobody does. They're that good, and coached that well. But somebody has to be No. 5 in this final regular-season ranking, and it's TCU. Still friends?

6. Ohio State

In case you were wondering how good of a coach Urban Meyer is, simply glance at the box score of the Buckeyes' blowout of Wisconsin. The man is a quarterback whisperer. Braxton and J.T. who? Meyer's team dismantled Wiscy like it was a clogged carburetor. But I reluctantly rank them behind the two Big 12 teams based on two things: the relative strength of the Big 12 vs. the Big Ten, and that pesky loss to Virginia Tech way back when.

7. Mississippi State

A 10-2, cowbell-ringing, feel-good season with victories over the likes of LSU and Auburn should get you something, right? No. 7 in the final ranking is going to have to do for now.

8. Michigan State

Sparty coach Mark Dantonio is a pragmatist. He understands that Michigan State's regular season came down to two games: Oregon and Ohio State. And the Spartans lost both of those games. You don't hear him whining about it, or playing the what-if scenario. Here's a money-back guarantee: Dantonio's team won't suffer any sort of bowl-disappointment letdown.

9. Ole Miss

Well, look at it this way, Rebels fans: Your team flamed out in the national championship hunt, but it did win the Egg Bowl and kept its head coach. So you're still up 2-1.

10. Kansas State

Bill Snyder does more with less than any coach in the country. And he does it on a regular basis. Is K-State better than the teams on the Waiting List? Maybe/probably not. But I'm not apologizing for putting the Wildcats at No. 10.

Waiting List: Georgia Tech, Georgia, Auburn, Arizona, Missouri.

POSTGAME LOBBYING

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Baylor

This is what it should have been. But did the CFP selection committee contact the home office in Wheaton, Illinois, for advice? No, but at least they didn't bump TCU over Baylor. And it's hard to argue with the brand power of the real No. 1 vs. No. 4 matchup: Bama vs. Ohio State.

No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State

This is what it actually will be. To those concerned about FSU's chances against Oregon (The Ducks are a scoring machine! ... The Seminoles will have to travel all the way to Pasadena!), can I remind you that the Noles beat a scoring machine (Auburn) in Pasadena for the national championship last season?