Texas could be a major snub when College Football Playoff field is announced

If you had told anyone at Texas back in August they would beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa, lose just once in a close game to a top-15 team and have the opportunity to win the Big 12 championship with a 12-1 record, they would have taken it with no questions asked.

Not only would that have been considered one of the great seasons for any Texas team in the last 30 years, it would have easily been good enough to get the Longhorns into every previous edition of the College Football Playoff.

Instead, because it happened this season, it might get them left out in the cold.

As college football playoff’s championship weekend unfolds with plenty of possibilities still on the table, this much seems clear: If all the favorites win their conference title games, Texas is likely to end up in fifth place. Nice season, Longhorns. Have a good time at the Cotton Bowl.

After nine controversy-free years of the four-team playoff, the 10th and final edition could give us a true outrage that not only justifies expansion to 12 teams next year but also explains Texas’ urgency to leave the Big 12 behind.

Texas beat Alabama earlier this season, but it might not be enough to get the Longhorns in the College Football Playoff.
Texas beat Alabama earlier this season, but it might not be enough to get the Longhorns in the College Football Playoff.

When the Longhorns move to the SEC next year, life will undoubtedly be more difficult. Knocking heads with Florida, Georgia and Texas A&M is going to be a much different experience than Kansas, Iowa State and Baylor.

But if Texas gets left out of the playoff this year, the blame won’t just go to the 75-yard drive they allowed to Oklahoma in the final 77 seconds of the Red River Rivalry. It will be the overall weakness of the Big 12 that keeps them out.

As things stand, the Longhorns have just two victories over teams ranked in the CFP’s top-25. One of them was the aforementioned 34-24 win at Alabama, which is arguably the best win anyone has had all year. The other, a 33-30 overtime win over No. 25 Kansas State, isn’t helping all that much.

Still, it would historically be good enough to get into the CFP if the Longhorns take care of business Saturday against No. 18 Oklahoma State. So far this year, it’s only gotten Texas to No. 7 — one spot behind even Ohio State, which lost to Michigan last weekend. Quite simply, that tells us Texas is absolutely going to need some help.

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian is saying the right things. Publicly, he’s focusing on the opportunity to win the Big 12, which the Longhorns have only done three times in the 27-year history of the conference. He also knows his team is fully capable of losing to Oklahoma State, so it would be counterproductive to engage in some preemptive lobbying.

“There is no College Football Playoff talk if we don't play really good Saturday and find a way to win that game, he said this week. “If that happens, then there’s another discussion to be had. A lot of teams have to play and the dust is going to settle where it's supposed to so we’ll see what happens.”

Complaining wouldn’t do much good anyway. If Georgia, Michigan, Washington and Florida State all win to make a quartet of 13-0 teams, the committee’s job will be very easy and Texas will have to accept its rotten luck.

But if any of the results go a different way, the Longhorns will rightfully be kicking and screaming if they get left out.

If Alabama beats Georgia, Texas absolutely has an argument to say: “Hey, didn’t we beat this team on their home field? And it wasn’t even particularly close in the end. Why should they jump over us?”

Let’s say Oregon beats Washington on Friday night. Based on the eye test, the Ducks have arguably looked better than anyone in the country for the last several weeks. But would a 12-1 Oregon team with just two top-25 wins (Washington, Oregon State) really have a better Playoff résumé than Texas with three top-25 wins and the Alabama trump card?

Though Michigan losing to Iowa is probably the most far-fetched possibility, how safe are the Wolverines really? They played nobody in the non-conference schedule, and the Big Ten was just as terrible as the Big 12 in the middle and bottom of the standings.

Then there’s Florida State, a team that will once and for all expose the lie that the CFP committee picks the four “best” teams if it beats Louisville in the ACC championship game.

The Seminoles were very much on track to be a national title contender until quarterback Jordan Travis’ awful leg injury a couple weeks ago against North Alabama. But once that happened, they become a different team that almost certainly isn’t going to win a national championship and would project to be around a two-touchdown underdog to Georgia in the semifinals.

Downgrading Florida State’s chances with Tate Rodemaker at quarterback isn’t a criticism of the team or the awesome job coach Mike Norvell has done to rebuild the program into a national power. It’s merely a reflection of how good Travis was and how much they’re going to miss him in a Playoff scenario. If the committee truly saw its job as picking the four best teams, it’s pretty easy to make the argument that Texas is a better team than this version of Florida State.

But when the committee gets down to it, are they really going to leave out a 13-0 team — even if all of them would pick Texas, Alabama, Ohio State or whoever to beat the Seminoles if they played on a neutral field tomorrow?

No, they're almost certainly not going to do that because taking a power conference team with a loss over a power conference team without a loss would be too controversial. For all the conspiracy theories about this committee and what metrics they care about, the end result is always quite simple: Unbeaten teams get in, even if it’s at the expense of someone with a better shot to win the national championship.

That’s why Playoff expansion had to happen. The only upset is that it took this long to potentially have a year where a truly deserving team gets left out.

Unless something unexpected happens Saturday, that team is going to be Texas. Not that it was a close call for the Longhorns to seek membership in the SEC, but a playoff snub of this magnitude will be all the proof they needed that leaving the Big 12 behind was the only move to make.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College Football Playoff could leave Texas out in the cold