Michigan was done no favors with brutal Alabama draw in CFP


Florida State was the big loser of Sunday’s College Football Playoff announcement – the first undefeated Power Five program to go unselected.

The top seed was next in line.

Michigan’s reward for being No. 1? Alabama. This feels like more of a punishment for Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines than a reward.

Alabama just snapped Georgia’s 29-game winning streak Saturday in the SEC championship game, ending the Bulldogs’ hopes of a historic three-peat. Jalen Milroe is playing as well as any quarterback in the country. The defense held Georgia to a season-low-tying 24 points. Oh, and the Crimson Tide is coached by some guy named Nick Saban. You may have heard of him. He’s only won seven national championships, 11 SEC titles and there is an argument to be made that he has done his best work this season after how poorly his team started the season.

Alabama has begun to feel like a team of destiny, winning four times by six points or less, and has either trailed or been tied at halftime in six different games. It needed a remarkable 31-yard touchdown pass from Milroe to Isaiah Bond with 32 seconds left to get past six-loss Auburn in the Iron Bowl last weekend. Then, it outplayed Georgia on Saturday, an eye-opening performance that speaks to the confidence the Crimson Tide now have.

Nick Saban and Jalen Milroe celebrate after defeating the Georgia Bulldogs 27-24 in the SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Getty Images

Michigan has to deal with all of that, Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif., at the Rose Bowl. After going undefeated, beating archrival Ohio State and winning its third straight Big Ten crown, it was rightfully given the No. 1 seed. But then, after Pac-12 champion Washington was revealed at No. 2 and Texas was seeded third, Alabama was announced as the final playoff team over Florida State.

A video of the Michigan watch party told it all. There was a gasp, an audible “oh,” mostly silence and a few faint claps. The Wolverines seem to understand they were done no favors by the committee. Facing Florida State, which had struggled offensively since losing star quarterback Jordan Travis to a severe leg injury Nov. 18, would’ve clearly been a much easier draw on paper.

Michigan is only a two-point favorite over Alabama, per DraftKings. Because the committee couldn’t punish the Wolverines for the sign-stealing scandal that led to a three-game suspension for Harbaugh, maybe it opted to give the Big Ten champion the hardest possible road. Coincidence or not, that’s what happened.

It’s eerily similar to the matchup given to Georgia at No. 1 last year, when it had to face Ohio State, arguably the most talented team in the playoff. The Bulldogs had to rally from 14 points down early in the fourth quarter to advance. Michigan will likely have a similar battle on its hands from Alabama.

This isn’t necessarily criticism of the committee. Texas beat Alabama head-to-head by 10 points in Tuscaloosa back in early September, so I understand why the Longhorns were seeded ahead of the Crimson Time. But the No. 1 seed is supposed to get rewarded as the best team. That didn’t happen here. If anything, Michigan received the worst draw, certainly less favorable than Washington, which will face Texas in New Orleans in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.

Regular season will lose some luster.

This weekend belonged to college football, particularly from the time the Oregon-Washington Pac-12 championship game kicked off Friday night until the playoff matchups were announced Sunday. It was the dominant topic on social media. NFL pregame shows even discussed it. It overshadowed an upset-filled college basketball Saturday.

Personally, I’m going to miss the drama of the four-team playoff because of how important it made every week during the regular season. It turned Michigan-Ohio State on Thanksgiving weekend and the Pac-12 and SEC titles games into virtual elimination games.

J.J. McCarthy throws a pass during the second half in the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the Big Ten Championship. Getty Images
Jim Harbaugh celebrates with defensive back Mike Sainristil (0) after winning the Big Ten Championship game against the Iowa Hawkeyes. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Moving forward, forget about that. The expanded 12-team playoff lessens the significance of conference championship games and the importance of fall Saturdays. It will be merely about getting in. Stars could get rested since most of the top teams will merely be playing for seeding.

Now, in the long run, adding teams to the playoff was the right thing to do. More inclusion the better. More teams with a chance to win it all is a good thing. We won’t have to wonder about whether Georgia’s loss to Alabama was merely a blip, if Florida State belonged or what a highly-ranked Group of Five program could do against top competition.

Still, big regular-season games won’t matter nearly as much. Arguing about which team is No. 4 is very different from debating No. 12. Personally, I’ll miss the excitement of this weekend and the debates it created.

Hurting ‘Noles have plenty to prove

For everyone ripping the committee for passing on Florida State, for taking two one-loss teams over the undefeated Seminoles, pay attention to the Orange Bowl. Florida State will meet Georgia in Miami on Dec. 30, a game that will have extra interest based on this controversial decision. I assume we won’t hear those complaints if the Bulldogs, a 13.5-point favorite, take care of business, as most experts expect.

Look, Florida State obviously got dealt a bad hand. No argument. It won all 13 of its games. It played two power-conference teams, LSU and Florida, away from home. But it wasn’t the same team without Travis — the unimpressive wins over Florida and No. 15 Louisville were evidence of that — and the committee had to take that into account. I’ll be the first to apologize if the Seminoles can hang with Georgia, or even beat the Bulldogs. This is their chance to prove they were truly wronged.

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