The School Soccer Playoff committee obtained the highest 4 proper, no query about it

That is the house the place a scorching take was alleged to dwell.

Because the School Soccer Playoff committee launched its first rankings on Nov. 2, we have been sharpening our knives, ready to climb atop a soapbox and defend the newest aggrieved celebration — Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, heck, even Notre Dame managed to earn some sympathy from the plenty aligned in opposition to the playoff establishment. Sunday was to be the tipping level, when all that outrage, frustration and second-guessing reached its apex.

As a substitute, we’re left with however one actual grievance: The entire thing was sort of uninteresting.

The committee, as soon as once more, obtained it proper. Alabama, Michigan, Georgia and Cincinnati will play for the nationwide championship, and that is precisely accurately.

Maybe there is a shred of controversy surrounding the Bulldogs, who had been demolished by Alabama within the SEC championship recreation. There’s little clamoring for a postseason rematch — even Georgia followers could also be reluctant to wade again into these fraught waters — and maybe the nation can be higher served by giving a shot to a workforce corresponding to Baylor or Utah, simply to make issues attention-grabbing. However to take action can be probably the most egregious deviation from the committee’s core tenets in its historical past. Georgia, irrespective of how its SEC season ended, earned its place.

We might have fun Cincinnati’s inclusion, a watershed second for the Group of 5. Certainly, it is a outstanding flip after the Bearcats had been relegated to eighth in final yr’s ultimate committee rankings, a couple of years after the 2017 UCF Knights made the argument for a Cinderella related on the nationwide stage.

However it’s not as if the committee took a daring stand. No voter stood atop a desk in a convention room in Texas and demanded the Bearcats’ inclusion. As a substitute, Cincinnati merely outlasted its competitors, beating its ultimate three opponents — all bowl eligible — by a mixed 71 factors, whereas others stumbled to the end line. The committee did not must weigh the Bearcats’ schedule in opposition to a two-loss Alabama or a one-loss Oklahoma State. The Bearcats are in by default, in some ways including extra gas to the hearth for individuals who assume their AAC schedule was the last word benefit. If Cincinnati desires to really change the dynamic and land a blow for the little man, it might want to occur within the Cotton Bowl in opposition to the defending nationwide champs.

That Alabama stays the playoff’s brightest star isn’t any shock. For all of the hand-wringing after the Iron Bowl that this Tide workforce would possibly sneak into the playoff based mostly extra on status than outcomes, there have been no such issues Sunday. Alabama unquestionably belongs. What’s maybe a extra worthy caveat is that the Tide’s commonest cohorts within the playoff over the previous few years — Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma — are all absent from this season’s festivities. The most important frustration with the present format was at all times much less concerning the variety of groups concerned and extra about seeing the identical 4 groups time and again.

And relating to surprises, this yr’s playoff actually delivered. No, we’re not shocked to see Michigan right here, not after a season of success, a triumphant second wherein Jim Harbaugh slayed the Ohio State dragon, and a dominant efficiency in opposition to Iowa within the Massive Ten championship recreation. Michigan has a real shot to win all of it — although that is nonetheless an astounding sentence to sort. A yr in the past, this season’s different three playoff members had been a mixed 28-1 in opposition to all different competitors. Their exceptionalism was established. However the Wolverines had been completely different. They entered 2021 having misplaced six of their final eight, their coach’s job hanging by a thread. Heck, Michigan wanted additional time to beat Rutgers final yr! Now the Wolverines are title contenders. That is one thing distinctly new in a system that had delivered seven years of establishment.



Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh reacts to his workforce making the School Soccer Playoff and appears forward to the matchup with Georgia.

Wanting again, there have been numerous methods the committee’s ultimate assembly might have gone haywire. What if Oklahoma State does not fold on the objective line many times Saturday? What if Baylor does not inexplicably lose to TCU final month, the identical week the Horned Frogs fired their longtime coach and put in a brand new beginning QB? What if Pitt does not undergo arguably probably the most head-scratching lack of the season to Western Michigan again in September or if Tank Bigsby does not step out of bounds as Auburn works to expire the clock in opposition to Alabama within the Iron Bowl or if Utah goes with Cam Rising at quarterback to open the season or if Tulsa does not fizzle out on 4 straight performs on the 1-yard line in opposition to Cincinnati?

What if, what if, what if.

In any of these eventualities, the committee may need been pressured to parse related information, to guage Notre Dame’s function as an unbiased, to find out the true worth of a Group of 5 schedule, to resolve whether or not Georgia had earned an opportunity at postseason redemption, to make genuinely troublesome decisions that had been assured to anger some massive swath of the faculty soccer world. They’re all enjoyable hypotheticals that might have added some actual drama to Sunday’s proceedings. As a substitute, the result was all however rubber-stamped from the second Michigan scored its first landing in opposition to Iowa within the Massive Ten championship recreation.

For all of the nationwide outcry about Cincinnati’s preliminary rating main to a different snub or Notre Dame’s weak schedule and lack of a convention recreation including as much as a playoff bid or a possible excellent storm of two-loss contenders on the finish, none of these prospects grew to become realities, and the committee can step apart after one more yr of giving the folks precisely what they wished.

The 4 finest information? The 4 finest groups? The 4 most deserving? The Venn diagram was a close to excellent circle.

It is wonderful, actually, how nicely the present course of has resolved itself via eight years. There was the doubtless fraught Massive 12 tiebreaker miasma of 2014, which the committee skillfully sidestepped by handing the No. four seed to Ohio State over each Baylor and TCU. The Buckeyes went on to win the nationwide championship, an after-the-fact endorsement of the committee’s knowledge. There was Alabama’s backdoor playoff berth in 2017 after shedding within the Iron Bowl and lacking out on an SEC West title. The Tide, too, received all of it, as Tua Tagovailoa led a outstanding second-half comeback within the championship recreation. (Sorry for an additional reminder, Georgia followers.) Other than that, the street map to the playoff has been a funnel for decent takes — beginning off with a large berth, complaints from all sides, and ending on the narrowest level, the result totally clear.

If there’s an actual push towards a change to the system — enlargement to eight or 12 groups or another twist — it will not be because of some egregious oversight. For all of the November outrage, December has at all times had a sublime resolution.

And but, enlargement nonetheless appears inevitable, and this yr’s subject would possibly provide the most effective clarification. The SEC has two groups within the combine. The Group of 5 cracked the code. Even when one member of the ultimate 4 had fallen brief, it was Notre Dame, an unbiased, ready within the wings.

In different phrases, three of the Energy 5 leagues had been not noted altogether. The Massive 12, the ACC and (it is a copy/paste state of affairs) the Pac-12 will watch the playoff from their respective couches, and in some unspecified time in the future, that will probably be all of the motivation they should approve some new plan. Growth actually would have made for a bit extra intrigue Sunday.

The fact at present, nonetheless, is the committee obtained it proper. Once more. It is simple when the solutions are already crammed in earlier than the take a look at is handed out.

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