ROSEMONT, Ill. — It’s an old beef for Sandy Barbour. But it still isn’t with the Ohio State Buckeyes.
“You just said it — we’re the [Big Ten] champions and didn’t go,” Barbour, the athletic director at Penn State, told reporters this week at the Big Ten’s spring joint group meetings when asked about the 2016-17 College Football Playoff bracket.
“I think Ohio State should’ve gone. I have no problem with the fact Ohio State went.
“In fact, you know, we were arguably the best league in the country and we didn’t go. So let’s try to figure out why and what is there. [Whether] it’s we, Penn State, or we, as a conference … how do we address that in the future?”
The Nittany Lions (11-3) finished No. 5 in the final CFP rankings, just outside the bracket, despite beating the third-ranked Buckeyes, 24-21, on Oct. 22 in State College. Ohio State finished the regular season with only that one loss, however, while the Lions had suffered September setbacks at then-No. 23 Pitt (42-39) and at then-No. 6 Michigan (49-10).
Barbour had during the last week of December expressed concern about the selection of the Pac-12 champion Washington Huskies over Penn State in the No. 4 slot, citing the strength of schedule comparison inherent to the official selection process. As of Dec. 2, the Huskies’ SOS ranked No. 60 nationally, while Penn State’s was 39th.
“Well, I think it’s a very real discussion.”
— Penn State AD Sandy Barbour, on whether fellow administrators were discussing the CFP’s snubbing of the Big Ten champions
The Buckeyes compounded doubts in some Big Ten circles over their selection by being pounded by No. 2 and eventual national champion Clemson, 31-0, in the CFP semifinals on Dec. 31. On Jan. 2, the Lions (11-3) fell at the Rose Bowl to then-No. 9 USC, 52-49. On Dec. 30, the Wolverines (10-3) lost to then-No. 11 Florida State in Orange Bowl, 33-32.
The Buckeyes (11-2) were still the highest-ranked Big Ten program in the final Massey composite ratings (No. 3 overall) but were second to Michigan in both the final Sagarin ratings (No. 5 to the Wolverines’ No. 3) and the final S&P+ ratings (also fifth to the Wolverines’ third). The Lions finished No. 10 in Massey, No. 13 in Sagarin and No. 8 in S&P+.
“First of all, after we celebrate in the moment: We’re the conference champions, and guess what? We’re going to go to the Rose Bowl and we’re going to play in one of — we didn’t know it at the time — we’re going to play in one of the most exciting games in decades,” Barbour continued. “OK, then. All right, you know, as the Big Ten Conference champions, what were the elements that led to us not being selected for the CFP and how do we change that, moving forward?”
When asked if those elements were a Big Ten administrators’ discussion, she replied: “Well, I think it’s a very real discussion.”
The first CFP rankings for 2017 are scheduled to be released this Halloween — Tuesday, Oct. 31. Will the Big Ten accuse the selection committee of further tricks, or find the outcome to be a treat?