The College Football Playoff committee got it right

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The College Football Playoff committee had a relatively easy job this season. 

Even before last weekend’s conference championships games, three teams had already played their way in. Ohio State, LSU and Clemson had already locked up spots, win or lose. 

The toughest choice the committee might have had to make — potentially deciding between a one-loss Pac-12 champ, Utah, or a one-loss Big 12 champ, Oklahoma — was decided when the Utes came up surprisingly empty in a 37-15 loss to Oregon on Friday and the Sooners got by Baylor 30-23 in overtime on Saturday. 

The final bit of intrigue came down to Ohio State vs. LSU for the top seed. 

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The committee, evidently, decided that the Tigers’ 37-10 demolition of Georgia was more impressive than the Buckeyes 27-0 second half that rescued them from a 14-point halftime deficit in a 34-21 win over Wisconsin. 

So, on Dec. 28, it’s No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson. 

The merits of the committee’s decision — clearly taking on Oklahoma in the first round is preferable to facing Clemson; the Buckeyes are 2-point underdogs — can be debated. But at least the teams will sort it out on the field. 

With 10 days to go before bowl season kicks off, let’s look at a couple of Pac-12 teams’ 2019 campaigns — one, a program seemingly stuck in neutral, the other which is showing definite signs of life.  

UCLA — The Bruins had to be college football’s most schizophrenic team in 2019. After an 0-3 start in which they scored 14 points in each game, they went up to Washington State, piled up 657 total yards, including 507 through the air, and beat the Cougars 67-63. 

So, Chip Kelly’s offense was finally humming, right? 

Not yet. The Bruins went to Arizona — the Wildcats had allowed a combined 86 points against Hawaii and Northern Arizona earlier in the season — and lost 20-17. The next week UCLA lost to Oregon State at home to drop 1-5. 

But then: three straight double-digit wins — over Stanford, Arizona State and Colorado. 

Ultimately, the Bruins finished 4-8 by dropping their final three games, which included blowout losses on the road against Utah and USC and a 28-18 loss to California at the Rose Bowl. Kelly has committed to returning to UCLA but has not announced any changes, namely on defense, where the Bruins ranked in the bottom 20 in scoring defense, passing defense and total defense. 

Defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro’s $650,000-a-year contract expires in February, according to the Los Angeles Times. Hard to believe he’ll be back.  

“You’ve got to look at everything that goes on and we always assess everything after the season — scheme, personnel, everything,” Kelly told the Times. “We’ll look at everything. We’re always trying to improve and trying to make ourselves better. This isn’t the time to talk about anything like that.” 

Oregon State — While UCLA made just a one-game improvement in 2019, the Beavers jumped from 2-10 in 2018 to 5-7 this season, head coach Jonathan Smith’s second in Corvallis. 

Certainly, Oregon State had some duds: a 52-7 home loss to Utah chief among them. While the Beavers missed out on a bowl game this season, it seems a good chance that Smith’s team can see further improvement in 2020. In their 24-10 loss to Oregon in the “Civil War,” the Beavers provided a glimpse of the future, starting sophomore quarterback Tristan Gebbia. The Nebraska transfer and former four-star recruit was 26-of-40 for 243 yards and adds mobility at the position. 

“Tristan has been getting a ton of reps with the first group,” Smith said, according to the (Salem, Ore.) Statesman-Journal. “I thought he played valiantly today. That’s a tough environment to make your first start. I thought he played well.” 

With no bowl game to plan for, Smith was out on the recruiting trail hoping to get a leg up on schools planning another game.  

Saturday 

Army +11 vs. Navy, Total 40: After 15 straight losses to the Midshipmen, the Black Knights had a renaissance the past three years, winning 29 games and beating Navy each season. 

But early chatter about another 10-win season — maybe even an undefeated run — soured with a five-game losing streak that included losses to Georgia State and San Jose State. 

Navy, meanwhile, has quietly gone 10-2 with its only losses coming against Memphis and Notre Dame. This game should not resemble the past three in the series — Army wins of 21-17, 14-13 and 17-10. NAVY and OVER 

Last week: 3-1

Season: 27-29-1

About the Author

Ched Whitney

Ched Whitney has been a journalist in Las Vegas since 1994. He worked for the Las Vegas Review-Journal for 18 years, where he was the paper’s art director for 12. Since becoming a freelancer in 2012, his work has appeared at ESPN.com, AOL, The Seattle Times and UNLV Magazine, among others. ​

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